Six directors who could keep John Williams from retiring

Legendary composer quashes speculation of retirement, saying he is ready to score for the right film

Five-time Oscar-winning composer John Williams is willing to score another film if the right one comes along. AP
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At 91, John Williams is not entertaining the idea of a swansong.

The legendary American composer has said in a recent interview that if he has previously suggested he was retiring from scoring films, then he withdraws the statement. Williams said he is ready to pick up the baton again, provided the project is enticing enough.

“If a film came along that I was greatly interested in, with a schedule that I could cope with, then I wouldn’t want to rule anything out,” Williams told The Times. “Everything is possible. All is before us. Only our limitations are holding us back. Or, to put it more simply: I like to keep an open mind.”

Williams is one of Hollywood’s most celebrated composers. He has worked on films from franchises, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Jaws, with immediately recognisable melodic phrases that have permeated pop culture.

So, who has the best chances of pulling Williams back into scoring for film? We take a look at a few candidates, some more likely than others, but most of whom have worked with the composer before.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s collaborative relationship with Williams has its own avenue in Hollywood history. The two met in the early 1970s and have been working together since Spielberg’s 1974 directorial debut The Sugarland Express.

Three out of the five Academy Awards Williams has received have been due to his work on Spielberg films, including Jaws (1975), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Schindler’s List (1993).

Even his two latest films have ties to Spielberg. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, though directed by James Mangold, continues a franchise that was helmed by Spielberg for the first four films. The Fabelmans, meanwhile, is Spielberg’s latest directorial effort.

If anyone is likely to seduce Williams to score another film, it will be Spielberg, especially as Williams has previously described the director as not being “a man you can say no to”.

George Lucas

It was Spielberg who introduced Williams to George Lucas, paving the way for the musical masterpieces in the Star Wars films. The soundtrack was notable, not only for its epic, cosmic nature, but also for ushering in a revival of symphonic music in film during a time dominated by synthesisers.

Granted Lucas has long seemed to retire from the director’s chair and was even hesitant in reprising the role for the Star Wars prequels, which were released between 1999 and 2005.

However, he is still active as a writer and a producer. He served as executive producer to several Indiana Jones and Star Wars projects, as well as some offbeat titles, including Strange Magic and Red Tails, so it’s not too far-fetched to imagine him reaching out for a particular project.

Of course, if Lucas surprises us all and decides to helm a film as a director again, Williams would surely be on the shortlist of composers to score the project.

Brian De Palma

In his stellar oeuvre, Williams’s work with Brian De Palma often gets overlooked. Yet, the composer’s score for the 1978 horror film The Fury is one of his most nuanced – it is delicate and aptly creepy.

Even in De Palma’s long and illustrious line of musical collaborations, such as with Ryuichi Sakamoto on Snake Eyes and Giorgio Moroder on Scarface, the music of The Fury stands out. The theme song saw a bit of a revival when it was used in the HBO series Euphoria, just before the title screen of season two episode eight.

De Palma seems to have another horror in the works – a story revolving around a predatory film mogul that takes it cue from the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Few details about the project have been made public. For all we know, De Palma may very well be considering Williams for the score, and it would mark their first collaboration in almost half a century.

Chris Columbus

Williams’s collaboration with Chris Columbus may not have been as prolific as with Lucas and Spielberg, but the pairing has given us a few classics, most notably in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. The first film’s theme song has come to embody the character so much that even mentioning his name mentally evokes the languid melody.

Their history goes further back than Harry Potter, however, with the two having worked on Home Alone (1990), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) and Stepmom (1998). Their last collaboration was in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), on which Columbus served as a producer after having directed the first two films. With the movie marking its 20th anniversary this year, perhaps it’s time for the two to mark the occasion with a new project.

Jennifer Kent

Another terrifically terrifying score by Williams is the one he composed for John Badham’s 1979 film Dracula. The main title starts with howling wolves and a creaking string section that blooms into epic volumes and cascading melodies. The film itself has received mixed reviews, but ultimately it inspired Williams to deliver a masterclass in how to evoke horror through music.

Williams’s next project may come from his resume as a horror composer and could mark a first-time collaboration. It could be a film by The Babadook filmmaker Jennifer Kent, who has been a forerunner in the genre for the past two decades. Yes, this is speculative, but all we’re saying is that given Williams’s aptitude for horror and the fact that it’s been a while since he’s worked on the genre, a good fright flick may be the thing to convince Williams to pick up his baton.

Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone and Williams have worked together on three films, including Born on the Fourth of July (1989), JFK (1991) and Nixon (1995). The soundtracks are unmistakably Williams’s in style, with lush orchestral passages and pensive flourishes.

With plenty of dramas unfolding in the American political sphere, Stone has ample materials to draw from for his next epic, and that could be what Williams himself is on the lookout for.

Updated: January 02, 2024, 9:08 AM