Titanic composer James Horner a musical genius

James Horner in a 2013 photo.
James Horner in a 2013 photo.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Los Angeles - Hollywood composer James Horner, who scored the Oscar- winning film Titanic and its mega-hit theme song My Heart Will Go On, died in a plane crash in southern California on Monday, aged 61, United States media reported.

The aircraft came down in the Los Padres National Forest, a remote area north of Los Angeles, triggering a fire that charred more than an acre of brush, local fire authorities said.

A spokesman for the Ventura County fire service said his private plane, an S-312 Tucano MK1 turbo-prop with two seats, crashed at around 9.30am local time. No one else was on board.

Stars from Russell Crowe to Kirstie Alley took to Twitter to pay tribute to him after The Hollywood Reporter and Variety reported he had died.

Director Ron Howard wrote: "Brilliant composer James Horner, friend & collaborator on seven movies has tragically died in a plane crash. My heart aches for his loved ones."

"Incredibly saddened to hear about the loss of James Horner. I grew up loving his work. He leaves behind a spectacular musical legacy," comedy creator Seth MacFarlane tweeted.

"There is nothing that shaped my movie-going experience more than the musical genius of James Horner. He will live on through the ages," tweeted actor Rob Lowe.

Horner won two Oscars for his work on 1997's Titanic, one for the score and one shared with lyricist Will Jennings for best original song - My Heart Will Go On, performed by Celine Dion. The score has sold about 27 million copies worldwide.

He was also nominated for an Oscar six times for blockbuster movies including 1995's Apollo 13 and Braveheart as well as for Field Of Dreams (1989). His most recent Oscar nomination was for 2009's sci-fi epic Avatar, directed by James Cameron. Music for Patriot Games (1992), Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993) and Jumanji (1995) were also composed by him.

He won Best Song and Score Golden Globes for Titanic and his Globe nominations included one for A Beautiful Mind (2001). Other iconic films scored by him include Aliens (1986), House Of Sand And Fog (2004) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).

He had scored three films due to be released soon: boxing drama Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal, slated for a July release; Jean-Jacques Annaud's Wolf Totem, due out in September; and The 33, a dramatic film based on the 2010 mining disaster in Chile that is set for November.

He had said in a 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times: "My job... is to make sure at every turn of the film, it's something the audience can feel with their heart."

His attorney Jay Cooper said he had not heard from Horner since the crash, but could not confirm whether he was on board at the time. "He's an experienced pilot, but I know nothing else," he said. Horner is survived by his wife and their two daughters. Agence France-Presse, Reuters

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Titanic composer a musical genius'. Subscribe