Tonight, John Williams becomes the first composer to receive the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in the 44-year history of the honor. In connection with the event, Variety asked me to interview the five-time Oscar winner about composing such iconic themes as Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman and Harry Potter — as well as what’s next for him in an already distinguished 60-year career. It was also an opportunity to inquire of conductor Gustavo Dudamel, producer Kathleen Kennedy and AFI president Bob Gazzale about their thoughts on working with a Hollywood legend — and a chance for me to outline (in a short sidebar) some key career highlights.
It was an incredible opportunity: celebrating John Williams’ 70th birthday with a big Sunday piece that would enable me to interview almost everyone important in his life: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas (on the phone from Abbey Road, where he was recording Attack of the Clones), Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn and others. In addition to the praise from friends, I tried to install something of a historical perspective — where he came from, where he was going — while giving a sense that he was in no way slowing down. I’m very proud of this piece.