How James Horner Created the Unforgettable 'Titanic' Theme Song, 'My Heart Will Go On'

by Raphael Chestang 12:47 PM PDT, June 24, 2015
Playing How James Horner Created the Unforgettable 'Titanic' Theme Song, 'My Heart Will Go On'

In light of James Horner's passing on Monday, ET is taking a look back at the Titanic composer's life and work, including the iconic love theme "My Heart Will Go On."

"In writing the song there was only one person technically that I felt could sing it and I've known Celine [Dion] so long," Horner told ET at the time. "I flew to see her and I played the song for her in a room and she loved it."

After learning of Horner's passing, Dion tweeted that she was "shaken by the tragic death."

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"We send our prayers and deepest condolences to his family and friends," she continued.

Titanic director James Cameron also paid tribute to Horner, telling People, "There's so much music he could have done. We were looking forward to our next gig."

Horner was reportedly committed to composing for the next three Avatar films.

Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau released a joint statement honoring their colleague, saying, "James's music affected the heart because his heart was so big, it infused every cue with deep emotional resonance, whether soaring in majesty through the floating mountains, or crying for the loss of nature's innocence under bulldozer treads."

The statement continued, "The beauty and power of Avatar lay not just in the superb performances and the visual splendour, but in the music that made us cry and exult along with our characters."

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In a career that covered three decades, Horner took home two Oscars for his work on Titanic, and was nominated a total of 10 times for his work on such films as Avatar, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Braveheart, Aliens, House of Sand and Fog and Field of Dreams.

"I am basically shy and I stand on the podium. I'm watching the back of the room where there's this large screen and I'm conducting to the screen and they're watching me," Horner told ET. "What's hard is I want to make sure I just nail it perfectly emotionally. That's the most elusive thing, because you can talk about it, you can get a stunning performance, but if it's not happening in your heart in a way, you've missed the boat. And that's the hardest part."

Horner, never one to rest on his laurels, remained busy, having worked on three films coming out soon, including Jake Gyllenhaal's boxing drama, Southpaw.

"I always maintain that the music by itself is less interesting and the film is less interesting," Horner said. "When they're married together is when the magic sort of happens."

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Horner died while piloting a single-engine aircraft that crashed in a remote area of northern Ventura County, California. He was 61 years old.

The Gorfaine/Schwarts Agency, which represented Horner, gave ET this statement: "Our thoughts and prayers are with James' family at this difficult time, and also with the millions of people around the world who loved his music. A shining light has been extinguished, which can never be replaced. It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with James since the inception of our agency. For more than three decades, his unique creative genius made an indelible imprint on each of our lives and on those of the entire Hollywood community. There is not a person in our GSA family who wasn't touched by the power and reach of his music, and who isn't diminished by his loss."