For ‘Indiana Jones 5’, John Williams scored 90 minutes of music5 min read
“The Fableman’s” music is up for an Oscar and the score for “Indiana Jones 5” is complete, but 91-year-old John Williams is far from retired. He is contemplating new concert works for leading classical soloists and is preparing to conduct a series in the coming months that will take him from Chicago to Tokyo.
Williams celebrated his birthday quietly on Feb. 8, having dinner with only his wife and daughter, he said. diversity In a rare interview. “When you finally get to 90, you think, ‘That’s great, I made it.’ It’s nice. I tell everyone that.”
The five-time Academy Award winner, who is on her 53rd Oscar nomination for Steven Spielberg’s film about her childhood and the trauma of her parents’ divorce, hasn’t let her nonagenarian status down. It was their 29th film together, and three of his five Oscars were for Spielberg films (“Jaws,” “ET,” “Schindler’s List”).
“I felt like I was being invited into an inner-family, close-circle discussion of their lives,” Williams says of the film. Steven’s parents Leah and Arnold Spielberg, who often attended Spielberg’s score recording sessions, noted, “Steven was dealing with something so personal, with the fact that I knew them both.”
Williams recalls Leah Spielberg attending a 1975 “Jaws” session. “He used to take Steven to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts when he was a boy, and the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the time was a man named Jacob Krachmalnik.
“Krachmalnik left the orchestra and came to L.A. to do some freelance work,” Williams remembered, “and Leah Spielberg came in and there was Krachmalnik sitting in between the first violins. She saw Professor Krachmalnik playing violin in her son’s orchestra more than anything I’d ever done. Impressed,” he adds with a laugh.
Williams said he wasn’t sure how the real Spielberg’s parents might have influenced his music for the fictional antagonists of “The Fablemans.” His theme needed to be “something very gentle, very nostalgic, hopefully a bit healing”, he said, adding that the sensual music could represent the boy’s perspective.
“The scale of this film, and the intimacy of it, doesn’t seem like it would hold a full-scale orchestral score,” he added, explaining the quiet nature of much of the music. Los Angeles Philharmonic pianist Joan Pierce Martin is heard playing that theme, as well as several classical pieces by Bach, Haydn, Satie and others, played on-screen by Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a classical pianist like Leah.
Williams shared her amusement in a recent moment involving Judd Hirsch, the Oscar-nominated Uncle Boris in “The Fablemans.” Hirsch ran into Williams at an event and asked “What’s the music in my scene?” Williams explained that there was no music in those scenes, and Hirsch immediately turned to a passerby and said “Look, he thinks my scene was so good it didn’t need music!”
The composer finished recording the score for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” on February 10 and, while he suggested last summer that Harrison Ford’s final adventure would be the last of his more than 100 film scores, that’s not entirely true.
“I might have meant it in the moment,” he says with a laugh, “but you never want to say unequivocally. If something comes up with Steven or another director that’s so moving that you want to drop the phone and run to the piano and it’s Want to go all out – avoid situations where I won’t do it if it takes a decent amount of energy to do it.”
Recording for the final “Indiana Jones” film — and the previous three versions, starting with 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” were Oscar-nominated for their music — began last June 28, and has continued since then.
“It must be an hour and a half of music, maybe more,” estimates Williams. “But I’m pretty happy with it. There is a lot of new material. The old material works very well as a memory touchstone, but I had a lot of fun and I have a theme that I wrote for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the wonderful actress.” She plays Helena Shaw, reportedly Indy’s goddaughter.
Williams introduced his theme to the Hollywood Bowl last summer at the suggestion of director James Mangold. “And I enjoyed doing that last week with the San Francisco Symphony [violinist] Anne-Sophie Mutter, the concert I arranged it for. And I think I’ll be playing it in Chicago next month.
The composer praised the script and performances of both Ford and Waller-Bridge in the film, which opens on June 30. “Harrison is great at it. He looks great, he moves beautifully. The best part of it for me is the writing of the dialogue and the interplay between Harrison and Phoebe, like an old-style Hepburn-and-Tracy bickering. It’s fun and bright and sassy, like a duet that goes on for two hours.”
The “Indiana Jones” score, Williams notes, “is unified by the indie theme and the general style of the film, which is kind of an action-comedy in my mind, because you never take the action seriously. It’s definitely a swashbuckling affair from start to finish, it Made like the movies of the 30s and 40s where the orchestra is running with the action, which you don’t get to do much in contemporary films.”
He loved working with Mangold, whom he described as “inspiring” and “a lovely man”. He’s very, very expert at making very difficult films.”
Although Williams no longer has a feature on his docket, he is still writing music. He’s planning a concert for pianist Emmanuel Ax, which he plans to start “almost immediately,” and what he hopes will be a “lyrical and atmospheric piece” for cellist Yo-Yo Ma, a favorite collaborator from years past. Mutter continues to play Williams’ new violin concerto in his own concerts.
And Williams continues to conduct major orchestras around the world. In the last year and a half he has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Philharmonica della Scala in Milan. His 2023 calendar includes performances with the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, his regular summer appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Pops, and a pair of performances in Tokyo and Matsumoto, Japan.
“I never had ambitions or hopes that I would conduct the Berlin Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic, or Milano for that matter,” he says. “For me, it’s the honor of a lifetime, to go before any of these, to put on a show of my own music, and to play it beautifully and be appreciated by the audience.”