Rome (AFP) – Ennio Morricone, one of the world’s best-known and most prolific composers of film scores notably for spaghetti westerns, died in Rome on Monday at the age of 91.
Tributes poured in for the man who composed the music for about 500 films, including his old childhood friend Sergio Leone’s 1966 epic “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” for which he finally won an Oscar in 2016.
Morricone died in hospital where he was being treated for a fractured femur following a fall, according to a statement from lawyer and family friend Giorgio Assuma.
Morricone “passed away in the early hours of July 6 with the comfort of his faith”, the statement said.
He remained “fully lucid and with great dignity right until the end,” it added.
– ‘He made us dream’ –
Tributes began pouring in for the maestro soon after his death was announced.
“We will remember forever and with infinite gratitude the artistic genius of maestro Ennio Morricone,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.
“He made us dream, he moved us and made us think, writing unforgettable notes that will remain forever in the history of music and cinema,” he said on Twitter.
Italian film actress Monica Bellucci said of Morricone that “there are people who have the ability to make the world better because they know how to create beauty,” while Gilles Jacob, the former head of the Cannes film festival, described him as the “emperor” of film music.
Famed Italian conductor Riccardo Muti called Morricone “a master for whom I nurtured friendship and admiration,” describing him as an “extraordinary musician” who could jump with ease from film scores to classical music.
– Elusive Oscar –
Born on November 10, 1928, Morricone began composing at the tender age of six, and at just 10 he enrolled in trumpet school at the prestigious Saint-Cecilia conservatory in Rome.
He played in jazz bands throughout the 1940s before beginning to ghost write for film and theatre.
In 1961, at the age of 33, he collaborated with director Luciano Salce in “Mission Ultra-secrete” before going on to gain fame with the score for “A Fistful of Dollars” starring Clint Eastwood in 1964.
Before winning the elusive Oscar for best film score at age 87 in 2016, the Rome-born son of a trumpeter had been nominated no fewer than five times. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — embarrassed that such a talent had not been recognised sooner — presented him with a lifetime achievement award in 2007.
Morricone’s previous nominations were for “Days of Heaven” (1978), “The Mission” (1986), “The Untouchables” (1987), “Bugsy” (1991) and “Malena” (2000).
Although he is most closely associated in the public mind with Leone’s westerns starring Eastwood, Morricone’s composition for Roland Joffe’s Jesuit drama “The Mission” is considered by many critics to be his cinematic masterpiece, an epic and eclectic reflection of South America’s musical melting pot.
Throughout his career, Morricone worked with some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed filmmakers as well as arthouse directors. After his collaboration with Leone, he worked with Italian screen legends Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini and later with the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Bernardo Bertolucci, Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone.
Lawyer Assuma read a final statement from Morricone outside the Rome hospital where he died, La Repubblica reported.
“There’s only one reason why I want to say goodbye like this and have a private funeral — I don’t want to bother anyone,” read the statement, which went on to express his love for his friends and family.