John Williams on Scoring Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Aside from George Lucas, perhaps no one has shaped the Star Wars saga like John Williams has over the course of all six — and soon to be seven — films. His compositions are instant classics right from the first note, almost as if the music was already written for the movies a long time ago.

And now, as Williams settles in on his next project, a small independent film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he’s revealed that he’ll be returning to the same well that birthed his iconic, Oscar-winning scores for the original trilogy.

Speaking to Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair, the 83-year-old musician talked about his approach to putting together the seventh film’s score, which will be recorded in Los Angeles, and how many ties it will have to its predecessors. He also was asked about working with J.J. Abrams and whether he has a favorite Star Wars score.

Williams actually came up with an inspired analogy to how he’s handling his latest assignment, after such a long hiatus since his last Star Wars film:

"“It’s a bit like adding paragraphs to a letter that’s been going on for a number of years. Starting with a completely new film, a story that I don’t know, characters that I haven’t met, my whole approach to writing music is completely different—trying to find an identity, trying to find melodic identifications if that’s needed for the characters, and so on.”"

This idea becomes even more interesting after what Williams says next. Apparently, he did not go back and listen to his previous scores for the original trilogy, claiming that he’s plenty familiar with the territory. It seems like he’s become so attached to the music over the years that he knows the material better than he ever has.

Williams also had plenty of positive things to say about J.J. Abrams:

"“His latest instruction to me was, “Just do your thing.” Which is giving me a good sense of freedom, a good free swing at the ball. I don’t know how much you know of him, but he is a delightful person. Enormously bright. I’ve been very impressed with him in meetings with a great variety of people.”"

As for the most interesting part of the interview, the composer reveals that they will be bringing back certain aspects of the original Star Wars themes in some places where “it will seem very natural and right in the moments.”

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This despite Williams playing coy about which one of the film scores he loves the most: He says he doesn’t have a favorite (we know it’s Empire Strikes Back.)

This piece brings up an intriguing question: Which themes will make an appearance in The Force Awakens? So far, the trailer have really only featured the main fanfares, which will obviously show up in the final product.

But might there be strains of the “Imperial March” in a potential new theme for The First Order? Will The Resistance gets its own signature musical calling card? And could the new planet, Jakku, receive its own musical identity?

I find it unlikely that Williams will include any musical ideas from the prequel trilogy, as the filmmakers are clearly emphasizing this new trilogy’s connection to Episodes IV, V and VI. Still, I’ll take “Duel of the Fates” any day.

And let’s just hope we won’t need “Parade of the Ewoks.”