Composer John Williams to Receive AFI Life Achievement Award

This marks the first time a composer has been honored by the American Film Institute

john williams

Esteemed composer John Williams will receive the 44th AFI Life Achievement Award, America’s highest honor for a career in film, the American Film Institute Board of Trustees announced Thursday.

This will mark the first time the award will be bestowed on a composer. Williams will be honored at a gala Tribute on June 9, 2016 in Los Angeles.

“John Williams has written the soundtrack to our lives,” said Sir Howard Stringer, Chair, AFI Board of Trustees.  “Note by note, through chord and chorus, his genius for marrying music with movies has elevated the art form to symphonic levels and inspired generations of audiences to be enriched by the magic of the movies.  AFI is proud to present him with its 44th Life Achievement Award.”

Williams’ credits include more than 150 titles over the course of seven decades. He is perhaps best known for his collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, his scores including those for “Jaws” (1975), “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) and “Schindler’s List” (1993).

Three of Williams’ scores landed on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores, including the “Star Wars” (1977) soundtrack. Moreover, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar nominations of any living person, with five wins and 49 nominations in total. He also received 22 Grammy Awards.

Other career touchstones include “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Jurassic Park” (1993), the first three films of the “Harry Potter” series (2001-2014), “Tin Tin” (2011) and “The Book Thief” (2013).

Williams will also compose for the upcoming “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” opening December 2015, and is set to reteam with Spielberg for “The BFG” in 2016.

He was born and raised in New York, but moved to Los Angeles in 1948, where he studied composition. After returning to New York to study piano with Madame Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School, he went back to Los Angeles where he began his career in the film industry.

Williams also composed music for many important cultural events, such as the theme for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, as well as themes for four Olympic Games. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order, the International Olympic Committee’s highest honor, for his contributions to the Olympic movement. Williams was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009.

The AFI Life Achievement Award dates back to 1973 and is presented to a single honoree each year “whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time.”

The 43rd AFI Life Achievement Award honored Steve Martin, and other recipients include Mel Brooks (2013), Tom Hanks (2002) and Meryl Streep (2004).

The Tribute will air on TNT and Turner Classic Movies in late June 2016.