BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., May 3 (UPI) -- Alan Silvestri, who has composed the music scores for some of the biggest hit movies of the past 20 years, has been given one of the highest honors in his profession -- the American Society of Composers and Publishers Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement.
At ceremonies in Beverly Hills this week, Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis presented the award to Silvestri -- who composed the music for every one of Zemeckis' movies since "Romancing the Stone" (1984).
"Alan is not only a brilliant composer, but a fearless collaborator," said Zemeckis. "I can't imagine making a movie without Alan being part of my film. He is a friend and a creative soul mate."
Silvestri accepted the lavish praise with modesty.
"How grateful I am for his support and his friendship," said Silvestri in an interview with UPI, "and for him to continuously over the years give me the opportunity to rise to his occasion -- it's just mind-boggling.
Zemeckis and Silvestri worked together on "Cast Away," "What Lies Beneath," "Contact," "Forrest Gump," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and the "Back to the Future" trilogy. Their collaborations have collected 11 Academy Awards, but Silvestri's only Oscar nomination came in 1994 for "Forrest Gump." The Oscar went to Hans Zimmer for "The Lion King."
Awards notwithstanding, Silvestri is one the busiest composer in the movie business.
This year alone, his music is coming to the screen -- or has already arrived -- in the upcoming Jennifer Lopez movie "The Chambermaid," "Stuart Little 2," the upcoming Disney animated feature "Lilo & Stitch" and the Robert De Niro-Eddie Murphy action-comedy "Showtime."
He wrote the music for the blockbusters "The Mummy Returns," "What Women Want" and "The Bodyguard." His resume also includes "The Abyss," "Predator" and "The Delta Force." Seventies TV fans heard his music each week on "CHiPs" and "Starsky and Hutch."
He said the scoring business has changed radically since he broke in, largely because composers own their own home studios, producing music without the need to use studio-controlled facilities.
"It is much easier today to display your wares, to be able to put together music in a home studio, even if it's a very modest facility," he said. "Years ago you had to go out and hire an orchestra and it was cost prohibitive."
One thing that doesn't change is the key role that music plays in making a film work.
Silvestri said that one of the most important lessons he ever learned came from Henry Mancini, who won the original score Oscar for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and original song Oscars for "Moon River" and "The Days of Wine and Roses."
"Hank Mancini could essentialize the spirit of a film in a theme," said Silvestri. "You would hear a theme -- let's take 'The Pink Panther' -- and you can know everything about the sensibility of that film."
Silvestri said he sees himself not as a composer, but as a filmmaker who writes music.
He's currently at work with Zemeckis and Tom Hanks on a screen adaptation of the best-selling children's Christmas book "The Polar Express." He called the project "every bit as exciting" as any other the two have worked on.
"We're like two little kids with this thing," he said. "We're back to square one on the enthusiasm quotient."
ASCAP also presented veteran composer-arranger Van Alexander with its ASCAP Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.
Alexander -- probably best known for his arrangement on Ella Fitzgerald's hit "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" -- has also arranged for Dinah Shore, Doris Day and Peggy Lee. He composed music for such TV classics as "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeanie" and "Dennis the Menace." His film score credits include "Baby Face Nelson" and "The Atomic Kid."
Alexander also arranged and conducted music for TV specials starring Jimmy Stewart, Mickey Rooney, Dean Martin and Gordon McRae, and worked with big band leaders including Chick Webb, Paul Whiteman and Benny Goodman.
He joins a list of Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award winners that includes Rufus Thomas, Dave Van Ronk, Red Norvo and Marian McPartland.