JAMES NEWTON HOWARD is one of the most versatile and respected composers currently working in films.
To date, Howard has received eight Oscar® nominations, including six for Best Original Score for his work on Defiance, Michael Clayton, The Village, The Fugitive, The Prince of Tides, and My Best Friend’s Wedding. He was also nominated for Best Original Song for the films Junior and One Fine Day.
Howard, along with Hans Zimmer, won the 2009 Grammy Award for the score for The Dark Knight. He has also received Grammy Award nominations for music from Blood Diamond, Dinosaur, Signs and the song from One Fine Day. In addition, he won an Emmy Award for the theme to the Andre Braugher series Gideon’s Crossing, and received two additional Emmy nominations for the themes to the long-running Warner Bros. series ER and the Ving Rhames series Men. Howard has also been nominated four times for Golden Globe Awards for his massive orchestral score for Peter Jackson’s blockbuster remake of King Kong, for the songs from Junior and One Fine Day, and for his provocative symphonic score for Defiance.
He received the 2008 World Soundtrack Award for Film Composer of the Year for his work on the films Charlie Wilson’s War, Michael Clayton and I Am Legend. He has received the Soundtrack of the Year award from the Classical BRIT Awards for The Dark Knight (2009) and Blood Diamond (2008). In 2009 he received the Special 5th Anniversary GoldSpirit Award for Best Composer of the Last 5 years (2004-2008) from the Úbeda Film Music Conference in Spain. In February 2009, Howard had his first concert piece, entitled “I Would Plant a Tree,” performed by the Pacific Symphony as part of their American Composers Festival.
Howard, who has been honored with ASCAP’s prestigious Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement, now has more than 100 films to his credit. Among them are all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth), six films for director Lawrence Kasdan (Darling Companion, Grand Canyon, Wyatt Earp, French Kiss, Mumford and Dreamcatcher), seven Julia Roberts films (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, My Best Friend’s Wedding, America’s Sweethearts, Duplicity, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Larry Crowne) and three animated films for Walt Disney Studios (Dinosaur, Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire).
His other wide-ranging credits include The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Bourne Legacy, Salt, Water For Elephants, Gnomeo & Juliet, Green Lantern, The Green Hornet, Love and Other Drugs, The Great Debaters (with Peter Golub), Batman Begins, Collateral, Snow Falling on Cedars, Outbreak, Hidalgo, Peter Pan, Freedomland, Falling Down, Primal Fear, Glengarry Glen Ross, Waterworld, The Devil’s Advocate and Dave, among others.
Howard’s success reflects the experiences of a rich musical past. Inspired by his grandmother, a classical violinist who played in the Pittsburgh Symphony in the ’30s and ’40s, he began his studies on the piano at age four. After studying at the Music Academy of the West, in Santa Barbara, and at the USC Thornton School of Music, as a piano major, he completed his formal education with orchestration study under legendary arranger Marty Paich.
Though his training was classical, he maintained an interest in rock and pop music, and it was his early work in the pop arena that allowed him to hone his talents as a musician, arranger, songwriter and producer. He racked up a string of collaborations in the studio with some of pop’s biggest names, including Barbra Streisand; Earth, Wind and Fire; Bob Seger; Rod Stewart; Toto; Glenn Frey; Diana Ross; Carly Simon; Olivia Newton-John; Randy Newman; Rickie Lee Jones; Cher; and Chaka Khan. In 1975, he joined pop superstar Elton John’s band on the road and in the studio.
Howard left the band in 1976 to do more record production. He would rejoin the band in 1980 for another tour and again in 1986 to conduct the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for John’s “Live in Australia” tour, which later became a platinum-selling album.
When he was offered his first film in 1985, he never looked back. As a change of pace, Howard reunited with Elton John for a multi-city tour in the summer of 2004, which included sold-out concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London and Radio City Music Hall in New York.
His most recent projects include Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawlers, and Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice.