John Williams is probably the most well-known composer and conductor of motion picture scores. With credits under his belt like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Harry Potter, and plenty more, he’s crafted some of the most famous movie themes of all time. But John Williams also has a brother with some musical talent as well, and he just so happens to have the inside track on some details about the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker score that might hint at the film’s overall length.
Last week, the Academy of Scoring Arts hosted a “score study” of Jurassic Park (via the Star Wars Leaks Reddit), and John Williams’ brother Don Williams was on-hand for the event. Don Williams is a conductor, arranger, and composer too, but he’s gotten more recognition for his work as a percussionist, having toured with the likes of Bob Hope, Tom Jones, The Supremes, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis Jr., and Burt Bacharach, not to mention working on stage shows such as Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Evita and A Chorus Line. And since John Williams needs good percussionists, Don Williams has occasionally played on film soundtracks like Jurassic Park, and now he finds himself playing in the orchestra for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
During part of the discussion, Don Williams opened up about working on the Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker score without even being asked about it. Here’s a video of the information in question being revealed:
As Don Williams explains in the video:
“John’s started up on another Star Wars. We started on it last week. He’s got 135 minutes worth of music to write, so that kind of tells how long the film is. It is top to bottom music. We’ve done four days and we just scratched the surface. I think we’ve got something like 34 minutes in the canon at this point.”
So that’s 2 hours and 15 minutes worth of music that John Williams is writing for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and it sounds like Don Williams is maybe performing with the orchestra on this one too. That makes sense since this is supposed to be the last full score that John Williams will write for a Star Wars movie. However, while this does give us some idea of how long the movie will be, it’s not necessarily representative of the movie’s length. Here’s how the Star Wars movies break down when you compare the length of the film’s soundtracks to the length of the films (rounded to the nearest minute):
- The Phantom Menace – Film length: 2 hours 13 minutes, Soundtrack length: 1 hour 14 minutes
- Attack of the Clones – Film length: 2 hours 22 minutes, Soundtrack length:1 hour 14 minutes
- Revenge of the Sith – Film length: 2 hours 20 minutes, Soundtrack length: 1 hour 12 minutes
- Star Wars – Film length: 2 hours 1 minute, Soundtrack length: 1 hour 15 minutes
- The Empire Strikes Back – Film length: 2 hours 4 minutes, Soundtrack length: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Return of the Jedi – Film length: 2 hours 12 minutes, Soundtrack length: 45 minutes
- The Force Awakens – Film length: 2 hours 15 minutes, Soundtrack length: 1 hour 17 minutes
- The Last Jedi – Film length: 2 hours 32 minutes, Soundtrack length: 1 hour 18 minutes
Looking at each of the scores compared to the length of the film, it appears that there’s usually roughly one hour less music than film footage. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be getting a Star Wars movie that’s 3 hours long, and there’s a chance that not all the music being written for the movie actually ends up being used in it. Furthermore, the score used in the film usually differs somewhat from a film’s given soundtrack release. But Don Williams did say this particular movie will have “top to bottom music,” which would make The Rise of Skywalker stand out from the rest of the Star Wars soundtracks a bit. He also added this little nugget of information:
“Every theme that you ever heard is going to be compiled into this last effort. Every one. Leia, Yoda, The Phantom, Darth, all of it’s gonna be in there. And in his usual style, he hides them. You gotta go look for them. You’ll find them, but you gotta go look for them.”
The mention of Yoda’s theme and what seems like a reference to The Phantom Menace would have been quite the reveal. But when Don Williams says he’s hiding some of these themes within the score, it may not be quite as big of a deal as we think. Plenty of motifs from John Williams’ previous Star Wars scores have been used for little musical moments here and there. We’ve heard Darth Vader’s theme (or rather The Imperial March) used several times during moments with characters from the dark side, so the presence of Yoda’s theme doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see the spirit of the Jedi Master return. But with Mark Hamill returning as the spirit of Luke Skywalker, it’s not out of the realm of possibility either.
We’ve still got a long way to go before the Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker score is finalized, so the amount of music used in the movie could change. But for now, it sounds like the final chapter of the Skywalker saga will at least be 2 hours and 15 minutes long when it hits theaters on December 20, 2019.
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