Solo performance: who should score Star Wars once John Williams quits?

The composer has suggested that Episode IX will be his last film in a faraway galaxy, opening the door for familiar and lesser-known names to take his place

Artists spend their lives working to attain the kind of supremacy over their field currently enjoyed by John Williams. If someone only knows one composer of film scores, they know him. Thats not a comment on his status as a perennial Oscar fixture this year he collected his 51st nod, making him the most-nominated person alive but rather a testament to the staggering volume and ubiquity of the work hes chosen to do. From the militaristic pomp of the Star Wars marches to the mounting tension of Jaws lurking theme, from the majesty of the lilting Jurassic Park melody to the bounding energy of Indiana Joness title music, Williams has carved out a legacy that will loom over his corner of film culture forever. Costuming has Edith Head; music has him.

Though the question of for how much longer has reared its ugly head as of late. Williams said in a radio interview earlier this week that his days with Star Wars will soon be behind him, as he readies his Episode IX score as his final contribution to the rapidly expanding franchise. This development has created a power vacuum that can only be filled with the right replacement; not to put too fine a point on it, film music must crown its new king. Below, weve floated a handful of suggestions for the heir to Williamss throne. And admit it, youve been humming the Jurassic Park theme since the first paragraph.

Alexandre Desplat

Photograph: John Milne/Silverhub/Rex/Shutterstock

A tidy bit of real-world symbolism could cue up the coming transfer of power: at this years Academy Awards, John Williams and his score for The Last Jedi fell to this French favorite for his work on The Shape of Water. Desplat has garnered nine nominations since 2006 for delivering precisely the sort of opulent, stately music that Oscar voting bodies love and the Star Wars universe needs. Orchestral pomp is the name of the game, providing a fitting counterpoint to epic imagery, and Lucasfilm already knows it they tried to tap Desplat for the Rogue One music, but ultimately replaced him when reshoots started fighting the tone Desplat was trying to set. Let him do his thing this time around, and the results will speak for themselves.

Mark Mothersbaugh

Photograph: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for BMI
Hell probably spend the rest of his life under the shadow of Whip It, but the former Devo member has built himself a respectable second career as American comedy cinemas go-to guy for incidental music. The past decade has seen Mothersbaugh alternating between undoubtedly well-paid studio gigs and more impassioned compositions for indie jobs for every Hotel Transylvania 2, theres a Brads Status. Split the difference between them, and Mothersbaugh would deliver. He knows how to write with a broad appeal, but also how to do so with individualistic flavor setting his work apart from itself. (Nobody would ever mistake the upbeat background of 22 Jump Street with the ominous post-industrial gurgling punctuating scenes on the Fox TV series The Last Man on Earth.)

Jon Brion

Photograph: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
Maybe after decades of the same titanically scaled symphonic sound, the Star Wars universe could use a dose of the new-and-now. Ever since he worked his magic on Kanye Wests instrumentally diverse Late Registration, Jon Brion has been like a hipster Midas turning everything he touches cool, from the lovably creepy accompaniment to off-beat kiddie flick Paranorman to the warming wind ensemble of last years Lady Bird. Brion could revitalize the Star Wars universe with a little eccentricity, giving us more colorful selections like the Mos Eisley Cantina Band song and fewer indistinguishable variations on the buttoned-up title music and its thundering da-da-da-DAAAAH.

Jonny Greenwood

Photograph: David Fisher/Rex/Shutterstock

Be forewarned, were now entering the realm of never gonna happen, but wouldnt it be nice? Either way, consider another of Williamss most recent Oscar competitors, the Radiohead guitarist and Paul Thomas Andersons repeat collaborator Greenwood. Hes a virtuoso in his field, and hes got range to match his skills; compare the sparse, tribal percussion of There Will Be Blood to the ravishing, swooning violins of Phantom Thread. The primary excitement of tapping Greenwood would be the sheer unpredictability of his output, a complete remolding of what it means to be Star Wars music. Whatever he delivers, audiences can trust itll be meticulously crafted and engineered to perfection Greenwood earned a reputation as an obsessive studio tinkerer from his earliest Radiohead days.

Keegan DeWitt

Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP

If the producers decide to dig a little deeper into the indie back channels, theyd do well to keep an eye out for this relatively under-the-radar talent. DeWitt lands a magnificent one-two punch in 2018, adding tone-perfect ambient-noir sax to the thriller Gemini and a full orchestra arrangement for the dramedy Golden Exits that sounds more expensive than the film containing it looks. Lucasfilm seems to enjoy plucking creative personnel from semi-obscurity and bumping them right up to the big leagues. Why not draw on the same spirit of risk-taking that compelled studio executives to give some weirdo kid named George Lucas a shot and go with someone whos got less experience but ability to spare?

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