Composer John Williams to Receive 44th AFI Life Achievement Award

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 Composer John Williams to Receive 44th AFI Life Achievement Award

America's Highest Honor for a Career in Film
Goes to a Composer For the First Time in the History of the Award

Gala Event Will be Held June 9, 2016
Tribute will Air on TNT and Turner Classic Movies in June 2016

October 8, 2015 – The American Film Institute (AFI) Board of Trustees announced today that esteemed composer John Williams will be the recipient of the 44th AFI Life Achievement Award, America's highest honor for a career in film. For the first time in AFI history, the award will be bestowed upon a composer. Williams will be honored at a gala Tribute on June 9, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA. The AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute special will return for its fourth year with Turner Broadcasting to air on TNT in late June 2016, followed by an encore presentation on its sister network, Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

"John Williams has written the soundtrack to our lives," said Sir Howard Stringer, Chair, AFI Board of Trustees. "Note by note, through chord and chorus, his genius for marrying music with movies has elevated the art form to symphonic levels and inspired generations of audiences to be enriched by the magic of the movies. AFI is proud to present him with its 44th Life Achievement Award."

John Williams' storied career as the composer behind many of the greatest American films and television series of all time boasts over 150 credits across seven decades. Perhaps best known for his enduring collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, his scores are among the most iconic and recognizable in film history, from the edge-of-your-seat JAWS (1975) motif to the emotional swell of E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and the haunting elegies of SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993). Always epic in scale, his music has helped define over half a century of the motion picture medium. Three of Williams' scores landed on AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores — a list of the 25 greatest American film scores of all time — including the unforgettable STAR WARS (1977) soundtrack, at number one. With five Academy Award® wins and 49 nominations in total, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar® nominations of any living person.

Other career touchstones include CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and the INDIANA JONES series (1984–2008), JURASSIC PARK (1993), SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), the first three films of the HARRY POTTER series (2001–2004), MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005), THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (2011), LINCOLN (2012) and THE BOOK THIEF (2013). He will soon transport audiences back to a galaxy far, far away with STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS, opening December 2015, and he is set to reteam with Spielberg for THE BFG in 2016.

More About John Williams
Born and raised in New York, Williams moved to Los Angeles in 1948, where he studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. After service in the Air Force, he returned to New York and studied piano with Madame Rosina Lhévinne at The Juilliard School, and also worked as a jazz pianist both in nightclubs and on recordings. He returned to Los Angeles and began his career in the film industry, working with many accomplished film composers including Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein and Franz Waxman. He went on to write music for more than 200 television films for the groundbreaking anthology series ALCOA THEATRE and KRAFT TELEVISION THEATRE. His more recent contributions to television music include the well-known theme for NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ("The Mission"), the theme for what has become network television's longest-running series, NBC's MEET THE PRESS and the theme for the prestigious PBS arts showcase GREAT PERFORMANCES.

Williams went on to compose the music and serve as music director for more than 150 films, including some of the most successful films of all time. His 40-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg began in 1972 with the film THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS. The five Academy Awards® Williams has received are for: his adaptation of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971), STAR WARS (1977) and hree of his scores with Spielberg: JAWS (1975), E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993). He is also the recipient of 22 Grammy Awards®.

Williams served as Music Director of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 14 seasons and remains their Conductor Laureate. He has composed numerous works for the concert hall, and maintains vibrant relationships with many of the world's leading symphony orchestras. He has composed music for many important cultural and commemorative events, including the theme for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986 and themes for four Olympic Games. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order, the International Olympic Committee's highest honor, for his contributions to the Olympic movement. He was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in December of 2004 and the National Medal of Arts in 2009. Williams was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009 and in January of that same year, he composed and arranged "Air and Simple Gifts" especially for the first inaugural ceremony of President Barack Obama.

About the AFI Life Achievement Award
The highest honor given for a career in film, the AFI Life Achievement Award was established by the AFI Board of Trustees in 1973. It is presented to a single honoree each year based on the following criteria as mandated through a resolution passed by the AFI Board of Trustees:

"The recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time."

Most recently, the 43rd AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute brought together the film community to honor Steve Martin. AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Mel Brooks (2013) presented the award, while Dan Aykroyd, Jack Black, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Queen Latifah, Conan O'Brien, Amy Poehler, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman and Lily Tomlin and many others, including past honorees Tom Hanks (2002) and Meryl Streep (2004), paid tribute to Martin in an evening filled with laughter, music and cheer.

AFI Life Achievement Award Recipients
John Williams joins an esteemed group of individuals who have been chosen for this distinguished honor since its inception.

1973   John Ford

1974   James Cagney

1975   Orson Welles

1976   William Wyler

1977   Bette Davis

1978   Henry Fonda

1979   Alfred Hitchcock

1980   James Stewart

1981   Fred Astaire

1982   Frank Capra

1983   John Huston

1984   Lillian Gish

1985   Gene Kelly

1986   Billy Wilder

1987   Barbara Stanwyck

1988   Jack Lemmon

1989   Gregory Peck

1990   David Lean

1991   Kirk Douglas

1992   Sidney Poitier

1993   Elizabeth Taylor

1994   Jack Nicholson

1995   Steven Spielberg

1996   Clint Eastwood

1997   Martin Scorsese

1998   Robert Wise

1999   Dustin Hoffman

2000   Harrison Ford

2001   Barbra Streisand

2002   Tom Hanks

2003   Robert De Niro

2004   Meryl Streep

2005   George Lucas

2006   Sean Connery

2007   Al Pacino

2008   Warren Beatty

2009   Michael Douglas

2010   Mike Nichols

2011   Morgan Freeman

2012   Shirley MacLaine

2013   Mel Brooks

2014   Jane Fonda

2015   Steve Martin

About the American Film Institute
AFI is America's promise to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI programs also include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding motion pictures and television programs of the year; AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world-renowned AFI Conservatory. For more information about AFI, visit or connect with AFI at, and

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Media Contacts:
American Film Institute: Liza deVilla Ameen, 323.856.7885,
Turner Broadcasting, Eileen Quast, 818.729.7353,