The Maestro has had enough with that galaxy far, far away.
No other living person on the planet has as many Academy Award nominations as composer, John Williams. 51! And Star Wars: The Last Jedi is that 51st nomination. That’s astounding, and a whole lotta trips to the Dolby Theater. Seriously, can you wrap your brain around that number? Meryl Streep has nothing on John. The only other human to surpass him was Walt Disney with 59 nominations, and there’s no sign of stopping for Williams. However, his 52nd nomination will probably not be for Star Wars: Episode X, or whatever spin-off story LucasFilm has planned next. His time with the Skywalkers is over.
The man is a legend. Even amongst other legends, the maestro sticks out. He scored his first film (Daddy-O) in 1958. He made his rounds through a series of television productions, bouncing from M Squad to Checkmate to Wagon Train. He reached mythological status when he first partnered up with Steven Spielberg for his debut feature, The Sugarland Express. Then came Jaws, Midway, and Star Wars: A New Hope. Williams pretty much became a household name after that.
Talking to the Southern California classical radio station, KUSC, Williams expressed his original surprise at the success of Star Wars:
“I had no idea that there would be a second film…to be able to be working on a subject and a theme for over forty years. It’s probably a unique experience, certainly in film.”
Fact. Listening to The Last Jedi score is a surreal occurrence for a fanboy like myself, and I can’t imagine how it must feel for Williams. Here are decades of themes mingling with each other. It’s a patchwork masterpiece, weaving his classical galactic rifts with new character strands. It’s a fusion of the ambition of the past with the possibility of the future. Listing to that score on its own is as cinematic as watching the film itself. It takes you there, dropping you on the deck of an Imperial Dreadnaught or abandoning you to the horrors of Canto Bight.
The original 1977 production altered the course of Hollywood in a myriad of ways, but that big, swelling, blockbuster sound was as radical as anything else. Williams returned the symphony orchestra to cinema with Star Wars. He told the studios to go big or go home. We’re making movies, dammit.
Towards the end of his conversation with KUSC, Williams laments that his time with Star Wars is coming to an end:
“We know J.J. Abrams is preparing [Star Wars: Episode IX] now, that I will hopefully do that next year for him. I look forward to it. It will round out a series of nine [films]. That will be quite enough for me. Disney Studios probably will take it further. As you know, Disney has acquired the rights to LucasFilm, and they will probably continue on through…decades, possibly, doing Star Wars-related attractions.”
It’s hard to imagine Star Wars without Williams…even though we already had the opportunity on Rogue One. With that one, Michael Giacchino did a little jazz with Williams’s themes and found a sound similar to the original vibe without offending our nerd sensibilities. I dug it, but it took some getting used to.
If The Last Jedi taught us anything, we’re going to have to put away our intense concepts of what is and is not Star Wars to bed. At least if we ever want to enjoy those Rebel Scumbags again. It’s easy to be precious about what we love. I get it. But if John Williams can let go, so can we. Besides, the man is still scheduled to compose the score for Spielberg’s next Indiana Jones sequel. We can take comfort in that, right?