James Horner, the consummate film composer known for his heart-tugging scores for Field of Dreams, Braveheart and Titanic, for which he won two Academy Awards, died Monday in a plane crash near Santa Barbara. He was 61.
His death was confirmed by Sylvia Patrycja, who is identified on Horner’s film music page as his assistant.
“We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent,” Patrycja wrote on Facebook on Monday. “He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road.”
Horner was piloting the small aircraft when it crashed into a remote area about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara, officials said. An earlier report noted that the plane, which was registered to the composer, had gone down, but the pilot had not been identified.
For his work on the 1997 best picture winner Titanic, directed by James Cameron, Horner captured the Oscar for original dramatic score, and he nabbed another Academy Award for original song (shared with lyricist Will Jennings) for “My Heart Will Go On,” performed by Celine Dion.
“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,” Horner said in a 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “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 score for Titanic sold a whopping 27 million copies worldwide.
“Rene and I are deeply saddened by the tragic death of James Horner. He will always remain a great composer in our hearts,” says Dion in a statement. “James played an important part in my career. We will miss him. We offer his family and friends our deepest sympathy.”
His fruitful partnership with Cameron also netted him Oscar noms for original score for the blockbusters Aliens (1986) and Avatar (2009). The pair reportedly were also at work on Avatar sequels.
The Los Angeles native earned 10 Oscar noms in all, also being recognized for his work on two other best picture winners: Braveheart (1995) and A Beautiful Mind (2001). He also received noms for An American Tail (1986), Field of Dreams (1989), Apollo 13 (1995) and House of Sand and Fog (2003).
Always busy, Horner has three films coming out soon: Southpaw, the boxing drama that stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams and is due in theaters in July; Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Wolf Totem, out in September; and The 33, a drama based on the 2010 mining disaster in Chile that’s set for November.
His lengthy film résumé includes The Lady in Red (1979), Wolfen (1981), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1983), Red Heat (1988), Glory (1989), The Rocketeer (1991), Patriot Games (1992), Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993), Jumanji (1995), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Troy (2004) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).
His father was two-time Oscar-winning art director/set designer Harry Horner (The Heiress, The Hustler).
Horner spoke about the state of his career in a December interview with David Hocquet.
“I’m much choosier,” he said.’ “I don’t want to be doing these movies that now 85 or 90 composers want, as opposed to six. And now all these movies, action movies. I don’t get offered all the movies obviously, but I see a lot of them and I do get asked to do a lot of them, and I just know they’re not asking me to do something that I can do something original, they’re asking me to do a formula and I’m too rebellious.”
This article originally appeared in THR.com.