Ennio Morricone, the legendary Italian composer who scored films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Mission and Cinema Paradiso, has died at the age of 91.
Morricone had broken his femur a few days ago in a fall and died during the night in hospital in Rome. His family confirmed the news on July 6 in the Italian publication Corriere Della Sera.
The two-time Oscar winner, also known as “The Maestro”, was born in Rome in 1928. Morricone started playing the trumpet at an early age – his father was a trumpet player – and wrote his first composition when he was just 6 years old. He went on to study classical music before he was hired by RCA in Italy as an arranger for theatre and radio, but also wrote for pop artists including Paul Anka, Françoise Hardy, and Demis Roussos. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that he started writing for film, at first as a ghostwriter on films credited to other well-known composers, and then with Luciano Salce, starting with 1961’s Il Federale (The Fascist).
The Rome native went on record over 400 scores for cinema and television spanning different genres, from spaghetti westerns to horror and sci-fi films. He is perhaps most remembered for his collaborations with director and former schoolmate Sergio Leone, with whom he first collaborated on 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars (for which they used the Anglicized pseudonisms Bob Robertson and Dan Savio in an effort to convince Italian moviegoers that the movie was a product of Hollywood). “Gradually over time, he as a director and me as a composer, we improved and reached our best, in my opinion, in Once Upon a Time in America,” Morricone said of the Robert DeNiro-starring 1984 gangster drama, which was also Leone’s last film.
Though most known for his work on Spaghetti westerns (a term he was not particularly fond of), the prolific composer also worked on John Carpenter’s The Thing, Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables, and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. He was a big influence on Quentin Tarantino, who hired him for his 2015 western The Hateful Eight. His score earned him his first competitive Oscar after receiving the Honorary Academy Award in 2007 “for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.”
Director Edgar Wright paid tribute to the late composer on Twitter, writing: “Where to even begin with iconic composer Ennio Morricone? He could make an average movie into a must see, a good movie into art, and a great movie into legend. He hasn’t been off my stereo my entire life. What a legacy of work he leaves behind. RIP.”