John Debney – Film Composer


John Debney

Academy award nominated John Debney is one of the most prolific and successful composers in Hollywood. His unique ability to create memorable music across a variety of genres, along with his reputation for being remarkably collaborative, have made him the first choice of top level producers and directors.

Debney combines his classical training and a strong knowledge of contemporary sounds to easily adapt to any assignment. Debney was recently the profile of an 11-page feature in Daily Variety entitled “The Billion Dollar Composer” because his movies have grossed nearly four billion dollars.

Debney seemed destined for a career in Hollywood. The son of Disney Studios producer Louis Debney (Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club), Debney grew up in nearby Glendale, Calif., where he began guitar lessons at age six and played in rock bands in college. Debney earned his B.A. in Music Composition from the California Institute of Arts. After college, Debney entered into the business with the help of television composing legend Mike Post (The Rockford Files, Law and Order). Debney furthered his hands-on training by working with Hanna-Barbera composer Hoyt Curtin. He began scoring television projects as diverse as Star Trek: The Next Generation, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Sea Quest DSV, for which he won an Emmy for Best Main Title. In 1993 he secured his first studio feature film, the Disney comedy Hocus Pocus starring Bette Midler.

Debney quickly established himself as a formidable film composer across a wide range of genres, working repeatedly with several noted directors, including Garry Marshall on The Princess Diaries, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and Raising Helen; Robert Rodriguez on Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Sin City and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D; Jon Favreau on Elf and Zathura; and Tom Shadyac on Liar Liar, Dragonfly and Bruce Almighty. Debney further displayed his ability in the dramatic genre with the film The Passion of the Christ. The executive producer of The Passion, Stephen McEveety, reunited with Debney for the dramatic film based on the New York Times bestseller, The Stoning of Soraya M.

Although Debney had built an industry reputation as a talented film composer, it was in 2004 that the rest of the world discovered him. Blending symphonic orchestra, a wide range of world instruments and the beauty of the human voice, Debney’s landmark score for The Passion of the Christ became a world-wide success. The score earned him an Academy Award nomination, a Gold record and a Dove award. The following spring, Debney premiered “The Passion of the Christ Symphony” in Rome, Italy. The performance featured an 83-person choir and a 96-piece orchestra, and included special guest vocalist Lisbeth Scott and woodwind soloist Pedro Eustache. The premiere concert received a 15-minute standing ovation as well as Debney receiving a personal blessing by the Archbishop of the Vatican. This led to a internationally televised broadcast of his concert. In 2010, Debney’s score to Passion of the Christ will be performed in Saint Peter’s Square (the Vatican), with a 500 voice choir and a full orchestra.

John Debney continues to receive accolades for his outstanding work. In 2005, he became the youngest recipient of ASCAP’s prestigious Henry Mancini Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, he was presented with a Career Achievement Award from the Turks and Caicos Film Festival. In 2007 Debney was named president of the International Film Music Festival in Ubeda, Spain and asked to perform a special concert of his work following his 2006 performance in the same city. In addition to a busy film composing career and live concert performances, Debney again broke new ground scoring his first videogame, Lair, in 2007. His Lair music was nominated for a BAFTA and he was awarded Best Videogame Score by The International Film Music Critics Association.Last year Debney was honored with a Career Achievement Award at the Burbank International Film Festival.

In the tradition of classical composers, John Debney enjoys conducting his own work and he has conducted the world’s greatest orchestras. Debney also conducted the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on a series of classic film scores for Varese Sarabande Records. He has been celebrated for incorporating a myriad of musical styles and techniques into his work, from contemporary beats to ancient instrumentation. In addition, Debney has enlisted world-renowned musicians, including violin virtuoso Joshua Bell on his score for Dreamworks’ Dreamer and trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval on the OutKast musical Idlewild and guitarist Tom Morello for Ironman 2.

John Debney recent accomplishments include scoring Hanna Montana:The Movie, Valentine’s Day (reuniting with director Garry Marshall) and The Stoning of Soraya M. Debney recently reunited for a third time with director Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura) by scoring the highly anticipated Marvel action film Iron Man 2. Debney is currently in the studio writing the score to Predators produced by Robert Rodriguez.


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