FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 10, 2016, Los Angeles, CA — Composer John Williams was honored with the American Film Institute's (AFI) 44th Life Achievement Award on Thursday, June 9, in an evening filled with music and memories from his treasured collaborators, including J.J. Abrams, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. This marked the first time in history that America's highest honor for a career in film was bestowed upon a composer. The televised special, AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN WILLIAMS, will air on TNT June 15 at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT), followed by an encore presentation on sister network Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on September 12 during a night of programming dedicated to Williams.
Paying tribute to Williams were presenters, performers and guests including Drew Barrymore, Kobe Bryant, Chris Columbus, Gustavo Dudamel, Will Ferrell, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Mark Hamill, Tom Hanks, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cloris Leachman, Seth MacFarlane, Steve Martin, Idina Menzel, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Itzhak Perlman and Daisy Ridley.
Welcome remarks were made by Sir Howard Stringer, Chair of the AFI Board of Trustees, and Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. Acclaimed director/producer and AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women alumna Lesli Linka Glatter (HOMELAND, MAD MEN, TWIN PEAKS) was awarded the 2016 Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal for her commitment to excellence in film and television.
The Tribute launched without words as Will Ferrell conducted the ballroom in singing Williams' famous five-note motif from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977). The evening's highlights included clips spanning Williams' career; touching remarks and anecdotes from guests and presenters; and a moving performance of the SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993) theme, with Los Angeles Philharmonic Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel conducting an 11-piece ensemble comprised of violin soloist Simone Porter and musicians from the American Youth Symphony.
The evening concluded with Spielberg's presentation of the AFI Life Achievement Award to the Oscar®-winning composer. "John, you breathe belief into every film we have made," Spielberg said. "You take our movies, many of them about our most impossible dreams, and through your musical genius you make them real and everlasting for billions and billions of years."
Accepting the prestigious honor, Williams said, "Tomorrow morning, when I'm back at work, I will try to deserve all of this."
Proceeds from the Gala event support the Institute's national education programs and the preservation of American film heritage. Sponsors of the 44th AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute include American Airlines, the official airline of AFI; Audi of America; Deloitte; and VIZIO, the official home theater sponsor of AFI.
About John Williams
John Williams' storied career as the composer behind many of the greatest American films and television series of all time boasts more than 150 credits across seven decades. Whether epic in scale, jazz-infused, or intimate and personal, 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 score to STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977), which ranks at number one. With five Academy Award® wins and 50 nominations in total, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar®nominations of any living person.
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 on February 26, 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.”
About TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
TNT, a division of Turner, is one of cable's top-rated networks. Seen across multiple platforms in 94 million households, TNT is home to such original drama series as Animal Kingdom, The Last Ship, The Librarians, Major Crimes, Murder in the First, Rizzoli & Isles and the upcoming Good Behavior , Foreign Bodies and The Alienist, along with a new horror block featuring Tales from the Crypt. TNT is also the cable home to popular dramas like Castle, Bones, Supernatural and Grimm; primetime specials, such as the Screen Actors Guild Awards®, the Live Nation Music Awards and the iHeartRadio Music Awards; and championship sports coverage, including the NBA and the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.