Oscars: Why the Familiar 'Star Wars' Tune Could Hurt 'The Force Awakens'

Star Wars Music - H 2015
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

John Williams may have nabbed three Academy Award noms in years prior for scoring the popular franchise, but excess faithfulness to the original music could threaten awards consideration for 'Episode VII.'

This story first appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Will the Force be with John Williams once again come Oscar time? Should the maestro's score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens land an Academy Award nomination, it will be his 50th overall and his fourth go-round in the category for Star Wars material. But some early speculation about the film's music centers on how heavily it relies on Williams' original Star Wars score (for which he won his third of five Oscars): Audiences likely will love a recognizable sound for Episode VII, but the Academy's music branch could frown on too much of a good, overly familiar thing — possibly disqualifying the score for relying on preexisting music.

In another interesting plot twist, potentially spoiling Williams' trip to the winner's circle is Thomas Newman, who stepped in to score Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies when Williams, 83, had to bow out for since-resolved medical issues. With 11 previous best score noms, Newman has the dubious distinction of most nominations in the category without a win, but his elegant, somber score for the Cold War-set drama could remedy that.

Incredibly, renowned composer Ennio Morricone also is looking for his first Oscar in the category (he received an honorary award in 2007) for his work on Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, his first full Western score in 40 years.

The reigning champ, prolific Alexandre Desplat (he won last year for scoring The Grand Budapest Hotel), again is a strong contender for The Danish Girl and Suffragette, with his delicate work for the former more likely to get him a nomination.

Though totally worthy on their own merits, both Harry Gregson-Williams' wide-ranging score for The Martian and Howard Shore's subtle, tension-filled work for Spotlight also could benefit from their films' front-runner status.

Among the other contenders are Johann Johannsson for his often pulsating, dark score for Sicario, the previously un-nominated Carter Burwell for his lush work on Carol, Ryuichi Sakamoto for The Revenant (potentially along with Alva Noto) and — although he may be hurt by the movie's poor performance at the box office and its uneven reception among critics — Daniel Pemberton, who pulled off an admirable hat trick on Steve Jobs by giving each of the film's three acts its own distinct score. The late James Horner, who earned eight best score nominations and one win (for Titanic), also could receive his final nomination for his work on The 33.