Oscar-winning composer James Horner dies aged 61

American film composer was well-known for writing scores to films such as Titanic and Braveheart
James Horner attends the world premiere of 'Avatar' in 2009.
James Horner attends the world premiere of 'Avatar' in 2009.

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James Horner, the Oscar-winning film composer known for writing the scores to movies such as Braveheart, Avatar and Titanic (for which he won two Academy Awards) died yesterday in a plane crash near Santa Barbara.

61-year-old Horner's death was confirmed by his assistant, Sylvia Patrycja. She wrote on Facebook: "We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent. He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road."

Officials have said that Horner - a trained pilot who owned a number of small aircraft - was flying a small aircraft when it crashed into a remote area about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara. An earlier report stated that the plane, which was registered to the composer, had crashed but the pilot had not yet been identified.

Highly respected his peers in the industry, Horner has had an influence on some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters in recent times, writing scores that many have remembered for years since the film's release. For his work on 1997's Titanic, directed by James Cameron, Horner received the Oscar for original dramatic score, and original song (shared with lyricist Will Jennings) for “My Heart Will Go On” performed by Celine Dion. His score for Titanic sold 27 million copies worldwide.

In a 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Horner said: “My job — and it’s something I discuss with Jim all the time — is to make sure at every turn of the film it’s something the audience can feel with their heart. When we lose a character, when somebody wins, when somebody loses, when someone disappears — at all times I’m keeping track, constantly, of what the heart is supposed to be feeling. That is my primary role.”

His partnership with Cameron also saw Horner nominated for a slew of other Oscars throughout his career including original score for Aliens (1986) and Avatar (2009), as well as for his work on Braveheart (1995) A Beautiful Mind (2001), An American Tail (1986), Field of Dreams (1989), Apollo 13 (1995) and House of Sand and Fog (2003).

James Horner is survived by his wife Sarah and their two daughters.

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