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John Williams makes Oscars history as oldest nominee

Jan. 24, 2023 Updated Tue., Jan. 24, 2023 at 12:11 p.m.

John Williams attends the Star Wars Celebration Day 1 on April 13, 2017, in Orlando, Florida. At 90 years old, Williams is the oldest person to be nominated for a competitive Oscar.    (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images North America/TNS)
John Williams attends the Star Wars Celebration Day 1 on April 13, 2017, in Orlando, Florida. At 90 years old, Williams is the oldest person to be nominated for a competitive Oscar.   (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Ashley Lee Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Decorated composer John Williams made Academy Awards history yet again Tuesday when he received a nomination for the score of Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans.”

At 90 years old, Williams is now the oldest person to be nominated for a competitive Oscar, a record previously held by three people who were nominated at 89 years old: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” costume designer Ann Roth, “Call Me by Your Name” screenwriter James Ivory and “Faces Places” director Agnès Varda.

If Williams wins, he will become the oldest winner in any Oscar category. Ivory, who won the adapted screenplay Oscar for “Call Me by Your Name” in 2018, currently holds that record at 89; Williams will have turned 91 by March 12, the date of this year’s ceremony.

Williams, receiving his 53rd Oscar nomination on Tuesday, bested himself as the living person with the most Oscar nominations. He is also the second-most-nominated person in Oscars history — after Walt Disney, with 59 nods — and the only person to ever be nominated for an Oscar in seven different decades.

Plus, he’s still the person with the most Oscar nominations in the scoring category, as “The Fabelmans” marks his 48th. His film scores have previously won the Oscar five times: “Fiddler on the Roof” (1971), “Jaws” (1975), “Star Wars” (1977), “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) and “Schindler’s List” (1993).

Williams and Spielberg, who met over a blind lunch date in 1972, have worked together on projects for over 50 years. They told the Los Angeles Times in 2012 that they have a shorthand and a shared aural aesthetic for their collaborations.

“We discuss where to put the music and what its function will be in the scenes. I’ll play Steven a few little half-developed themes on the piano,” Williams explained. “He’s never said to me, ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘That’s not good.’ He offers just by his body language and his eyes and his face a sense of encouragement in this direction or that direction.”

“Johnny and I have been very Luddite about including full orchestras and full choirs in most of our films,” added Spielberg. “I love orchestras. I never leave the scoring sessions. It’s my vacation from the movie I just made.”

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