James Horner's final Classic FM interview: turning down Lord of the Rings and the trouble with directors

23 June 2015, 12:39 | Updated: 13 June 2016, 12:40

Six months before his tragic death in a plane crash, the movie master exclusively revealed to Classic FM how he turned down an offer to write the music for The Lord of the Rings.

In an interview with Classic FM in January 2015, the Oscar-winning composer of Titanic and Braveheart, who died on 22 June 2015 at the age of 61, said that he rejected an offer to compose the scores for Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

The approach came from the director at a time when Horner's daughter had recently undergone surgery and he did not feel able to go away for a year to work in New Zealand. In the end, the task fell to Canadian composer Howard Shore, who went on to win three Academy Awards for his work on the trilogy.

"I don't regret it," said Horner. But the composer acknowledged that he would have taken a different approach to Shore's.

"I would have treated things probably quite differently than Howard did," he told Tommy Pearson. "But who's to say that anyone would have noticed? It's such a successful soundtrack, does it matter aesthetically what I think? What matters is... does it help the film ultimately, which it brilliantly does.

"And that's the most important thing about composing for film for me - and a lot of composers don't have that gift and some do."

Horner also spoke frankly about the new generation of film directors and how difficult it is to find ones he felt he could work with. 

"The kind of filmmakers I used to work for, or who look for what I'm looking for in a film, don't work in cinema anymore," he said. "It's a younger group - they aren't perhaps as steeped in cinematic history as other people.

"It's very different dealing with sensibilities that are more interested in the surface. They don't understand that 'surface' versus 'just under the surface' thing that goes on as well as I do. "

Horner said it had become increasingly important to him to 'click' with a director before he agreed to embark on a new score.

"I've seen a lot of films where I've been asked to do them and I just know I'll never get along with the director. I just know he's not into the same aesthetic I am. It's never going to work."