“I couldn’t speak to him”: Not Even Star Wars Could Prepare John Williams for Steven Spielberg’s Most Intimate Request for $322M Movie That Left Him Devastated

Not Even Star Wars Could Prepare John Williams for Steven Spielberg's Most Intimate Request for $322M Movie That Left Him Devastated
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Music composer John Williams has been director Steven Spielberg’s muse and they have worked together in almost every movie Spielberg has ever done in his career. One still remembers the iconic scores of Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park that Williams has delivered for the audiences. He gives life and soul to the structure of Spielberg’s creations and provides an emotional attachment to the story through his music.

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Despite their several successful collaborations, there was one film by Spielberg that Williams was doubtful of delivering full justice to. The ambition and connections to real life made it hard for him to believe that he could do a good job of conveying the tragedy that the subject matter presented.

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John Williams was Overwhelmed by the Magnitude of Schindler’s List

John Williams and Steven Spielberg
John Williams and Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg came out with the real-life tragic historical drama Schindler’s List in 1993. The film is based on the book by Thomas Keneally called Schindler’s Ark which recounts the real-life story of Oskar Schindler, a Polish industrialist who was a key figure in protecting and saving the life of many Polish-Jewish individuals from being deported and executed by Nazis in concentration camps. The act is remembered as Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews), where Schindler saved around 1,200 individuals.

Obviously, with such a dark and tragic subject matter, John Williams was overwhelmed and doubtful of doing justice to the real-life drama that he must have heard and known about. When he saw Spielberg’s rough cut for the film, he was very much affected by the authenticity and realism with which Spielberg presented the material and he expressed his fear of messing with the picture. In an interview with Today, he recalls,

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“Spielberg showed me the film … I couldn’t speak to him. I was so devastated. Do you remember, the end of the film was the burial scene in Israel — Schindler — it’s hard to speak about. I said to Steven, “You need a better composer than I am for this film.” He said to me, “I know. But they’re all dead!””

Spielberg convinced Williams to score the film and he collected all his thoughts and feelings after watching the rough cut with him and worked on a beautiful heart-wrenching score for the film which would pay off incredibly well for him.

Also read: Steven Spielberg Was Dumbfounded When John Williams Burst Out Laughing After Watching His 1975 Underwater Horror Classic ‘Jaws’

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John Williams Won His Fifth Oscar For his Work On Schindler’s List

A still from Schindler's List
A still from Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List went on to become a huge critical and commercial success grossing over $322 million against a 22 million budget. It was also nominated for several Oscars and the film won seven including Best Picture, Best Director for Steven Spielberg, and Best Original Score for John Williams.

Spielberg and Williams’ hard work and admiration for the source material paid off as they presented a heart-wrenching and beautifully portrayed story of tragedy and loss. The score by Williams’ added to the melancholy and the feeling of dread and hopelessness of the subject matter and Spielberg’s choice of presenting the film in black and white elevated the dark, eerie, and terrifying nature of the atrocities committed by the Nazis towards the Jews.

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Also read: “I began to laugh”: Steven Spielberg Thought John Williams Pranked Him After First Hearing the Iconic Jaws Theme Only To Admit His Mistake Later

Other Significant Collaborations of Steven Spielberg and John Williams

A still from The Fabelmans
A still from The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg and John Williams collaborated on most of Spielberg’s films. Some notable ones include Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Jurassic Park (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Munich (2005) and Lincoln (2012) to name a few. They also collaborated on Spielberg’s passion project The Fabelmans (2022) which is based on his adolescent life and his initial growing interest in filmmaking.

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Also read: John Williams, Ranking his Top 10 Remarkable Scores

Source: Today

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Written by Rahul Thokchom

Rahul Thokchom is a content writer at Fandomwire who is passionate about covering the world of pop culture and entertainment. He has a Masters Degree in English that contributes to the richness and creativity in his works.