Composer John Powell has been presented with the 2020 International Film Music Critics Association Award for Best Original Score for an Action/Adventure/Thriller film by IFMCA members Jon Broxton and Craig Lysy. Powell’s win was for his thrilling score the new adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, directed by Chris Sanders, and starring Harrision Ford.
The other nominees in the Action/Adventure/Thriller category were Enola Holmes by Daniel Pemberton, Mulan by Harry Gregson-Williams, Orígenes Secretos [Unknown Origins] by Federico Jusid, and Tenet by Ludwig Göransson.
This is Powell’s 10th IFMCA Award from 33 nominations. He has won the Score of the Year award twice, for How to Train Your Dragon in 2010 and Solo in 2018, and has also won awards for his work on Happy Feet, The Bourne Ultimatum, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
John Powell was born in London, England, in September 1963. He studied the violin as a child, and later attended Trinity College of Music, while supplementing his income playing in a soul band called The Fabulistics. Upon leaving college, Powell began writing music for commercials, which ultimately led to him being hired as an assistant to composer Patrick Doyle, with whom he worked on several film productions, including Much Ado About Nothing, Needful Things and Carlito’s Way.
Powell began writing music for television in the United Kingdom in the early 1990s, most notably on the comedy-drama series Stay Lucky, and then in 1995 Powell and his college classmate, conductor Gavin Greenaway, co-founded the commercial music house Independently Thinking Music, which subsequently produced scores for more than 100 British and French commercials. This brought Powell to the attention of composer Hans Zimmer, who encouraged Powell to relocate to Los Angeles and join his Media Ventures music house. Powell agreed, and after a stint working on the short-lived ABC action drama series High Incident, he made his film music debut in 1997 scoring the John Woo-directed action thriller Face/Off, starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. On the back of that film’s success, Powell quickly became known as one of the most dynamic young composers in Hollywood.
Powell’s subsequent works have included scores for box office hits such as Shrek (2001, co-written with Harry Gregson-Williams), The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Happy Feet (2006), Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Hancock (2008), Kung Fu Panda (2008, co-written with Hans Zimmer), and the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy (2010-2019), the first of which secured him his first Academy Award nomination. He is the go-to composer for animated films produced by the Dreamworks studio, having scored such films as Antz (1998, co-written with Harry Gregson-Williams) and Chicken Run (1999, co-written with Harry Gregson-Williams) in addition to the titles already mentioned, and has established long-running directorial collaborations with filmmakers such as Doug Liman, George Miller, Paul Greengrass, and animation specialist Carlos Saldanha. In addition to his Academy Award nomination for How to Train Your Dragon, Powell also has three BAFTA nominations and three Grammy nominations.
IFMCA member James Southall praised The Call of the Wild as being “so big-hearted, so full of warmth – as well as classic action/adventure music – all put through the composer’s trademark busy, intricate style, this time with some colorful folk touches … it just keeps offering fresh delights – it’s Powell at his very best.” IFMCA member Christian Clemmensen said that “Powell’s work for The Call of the Wild transcends the stereotypes of Western film music, merging that genre with modern fantasy and adventure sensibilities to form one of the most uniquely satisfying soundtrack experiences of its era. The composer proves once again that he stands high on the A-list of his contemporaries, and the music for The Call of the Wild will continue to gain respect long after the film is forgotten,” and named it as Filmtracks Score of the Year for 2020.
Similarly, IFMCA member Jon Broxton said that The Call of the Wild is a “perfect example of aural storytelling: the orchestrations bring a sense of time and place that is unique to the film’s setting, and the different thematic ideas and the concepts they represent combine in intelligent ways that subtly convey the complexity of shifting relationships to the audience. The emotional pull of the score is irresistible … and, from a musical enjoyment point of view, the warmth of the harmonies and the beauty of the thematic ideas are superb. … The Call of the Wild is exemplary and further proves that John Powell is one of the best composers working in film music today”.
See below for the acceptance speech and video interview conducted by Broxton and Lysy:
Click on the thumbnails for larger photo images:
With special thanks to Batu Sener, Jason Kutchma, Erik Woods, Holly Broxton and Moose.