Johann Johannsson, Visionary Composer Behind 'Sicario,' Dies at 48

One of Hollywood's hottest film scorers, Johannsson earned Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations and also premiered a composition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Johann Johannsson, the visionary Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning composer behind Sicario and The Theory of Everything, died Friday in Berlin, his manager confirmed Saturday. He was 48. The cause of death is unknown.

The Icelandic composer was one of Hollywood's leading film scorers, writing themes in recent years for The Theory of Everything, for which he won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score, Nerve and Foxcatcher. He worked three times with director Denis Villeneuve, on Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival, and earned an Oscar and BAFTA award nominations for his work on Sicario and Golden Globe, Grammy and BAFTA nominations for Arrival.

The Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy called Johannsson's score in Sicario "brilliantly idiosyncratic" and "disturbing," while critic David Rooney described his work in Arrival as "an ominous drone punctuated by horn blasts that sound like otherworldly whale calls" which "underscores [the] strange majesty" of the film's alien creatures.

In a 2015 THR roundtable in which he participated, Johannsson said of his creative partnership with Villeneuve, "With Denis, we're working on our third film now, so there is an understanding. There are shared sensibilities."

Most recently, Johannsson worked with director Darren Aronofsky on the score for the 2017 film mother! and scored the upcoming Colin Firth starrer The Mercy and the Nicolas Cage horror film Mandy.

Said Aronofsky, “Johann was a gentleman. He was a brilliant collaborator with a wholly unique approach to sound and music. This is a terrible loss.”

On the question of whether music in a film should be noticeable, Johannsson said in 2015, "It depends on the approach and it depends on the film. There are some films where a more kind of invisible sound works better. And then there are some films where you need a more aggressive approach." He added, "It is amazing how music can actually improve a performance."

Outside of his work on film scores, Johannsson performed as a solo musician and also worked on compositions for theater, dance and television. He released his first solo album, Englabörn, in 2002, and followed it up with Virðulegu Forsetar (2004), Fordlândia (2008), IBM 1401 – A User’s Manual (2006), The Miners’ Hymns (2010) and Orphée (2016). His 2015 piece for electronics, string quartet and vocal ensemble, Drone Mass, saw its premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

“I’m so very sad. Today, I lost my friend, who was one of the most talented musicians and intelligent people I knew. We came a long way together,” Johannsson's manager Tim Husom said in a statement.

The Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency, which repped Johannsson, said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our client and dear friend Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose great talent, humility and kindness enriched our lives immeasurably. His music has inspired many new generations of filmmakers and composers. He will be so greatly missed by his Gorfaine/Schwartz family as well as the entire film music community.”

Johannsson is survived by his daughter, parents and sisters.

Jan. 10, 11:51 a.m. Updated with Aronofsky's statement.