British-born composer JOHN POWELL’s (Composer) list of film credits exemplifies his ability to transcend genre. Since moving to the United States less than ten years ago, he has demonstrated his unique talent by scoring over 38 feature films. His versatile talent can be heard in animated films, comedies, action films and drama.
Powell’s ability to compose in a variety of genres stems from the wide array of styles present in his early musical studies. By the time he reached his late-teens, he had already been exposed to soul, jazz, rock and world music, as well as having a deep classical music background from the age of seven courtesy of his father, a musician in Sir Thomas Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. In 1986, he began studies in composition at London’s Trinity College of Music. During his time there, his skill was recognized with both the John Halford and the Boosey and Hawkes Bursary Music College Prizes.
While at Trinity, Powell studied composition, percussion and electronic music, and experimented within the new medium of performance art. He joined the group Media Arts and, with longtime collaborator Gavin Greenaway, composed music and sound for the group’s performances. Although the group disbanded, Powell and Greenway continued to create many mixed-media installation pieces with artist Michael Petry in the following years.
Powell’s first foray into professional composing came soon thereafter, when he landed a job writing music for commercials and television at London’s Air-Edel Music. There, he met other composers including other Air-Edel alumni, Hans Zimmer and Patrick Doyle.
Later, with Greenaway, the two co-founded London-based commercial music house Independently Thinking Music (ITM), where they collaborated on more than 100 scores for commercials and independent films.
Powell shifted his focus away from commercials to longer form composition with the opera “An Englishman, Irishman and Frenchman,” also co-created with Greenaway and Petry. After a series of successful performances at the Germany state-funded art gallery, Powell moved to Los Angeles to take on more film projects.
Arriving in the States in 1997, he immediately scored two DreamWorks TV projects: the second season of Steven Spielberg’s “High Incident” and the pilot “For the People.” He also arranged songs composed by Stephen Schwartz for DreamWorks’ animated feature “Prince of Egypt” (1998).
It was Powell’s hair-raising score for John Woo’s Nicolas Cage/John Travolta blockbuster “Face/Off” that garnered critical acclaim. He composed one hour and forty-five minutes of riveting music, which utilized unresolved harmonies, tragic melodies and thundering percussion to build a heightened state of tension.
He has since scored a wide variety of films in different genres, including animated hits “Antz,” “Chicken Run,” “Robots,” “Shrek,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “Happy Feet,” in addition to the actioners “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “The Italian Job,” “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.” His interest in musical diversity continued in the creation of scores for “Drumline,” “I am Sam” and “Alfie” (with Dave Stewart and Mick Jagger). He also scored the superhero blockbuster “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “United 93.”
Last year he completed the final segment in the Bourne trilogy, “The Bourne Ultimatum.” He also scored “Stop Loss,” “P.S. I Love You” and “Jumper,” directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity.”) This year he scored the animated “Horton Hears a Who!,” starring the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.
Powell is the recipient of two Ivor Novello Awards for “Best Original Film Score” from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters for “Shrek” in 2001 and “Ice Age: The Meltdown” in 2006. He was nominated for a Grammy in 2008 for his work on “Happy Feet.”
John Powell lives with his wife Melinda and son in Los Angeles, CA.