Watch James Horner reveal the secret story behind 'My Heart Will Go On'

james horner
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Monday, legendary Hollywood composer James Horner — whose decades of credits include the scores for Braveheart, Apollo 13, Titanic, and Avatardied in a plane crash in California. He was 61.

Both of James Horner's Oscars came for his work on Titanic: He was responsible for both the film's score and the music for its smash-hit single, "My Heart Will Go On." As recorded by Celine Dion, the song was so popular that it sold a whopping 15 million copies worldwide — so Titanic fans might be surprised to learn that "My Heart Will Go On" barely made it into Titanic at all.

In a 2012 feature on Horner, CNN explained that Titanic director James Cameron insisted that Titanic shouldn't have any songs in it — just an orchestral score. Horner disagreed, and teamed up with lyricist Will Jennings and singer Celine Dion to come up with a song that might change Cameron's mind.

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"I played it for [Celine Dion] in her room. Her hotel room at Caesar's Palace," explained Horner. "Myself, I sang it. I played it on this sort of out-of-tune hotel piano, and I sang it, and she really liked it, and wanted to be involved."

Once Dion had actually recorded "My Heart Will Go On," Horner set himself to the difficult task of convincing Cameron to use the song in Titanic. He carried the tape in his pocket for four weeks, waiting for the moment when he caught Cameron in an unusually good mood. "I played him the song, and he said, 'Those are our themes, right? And that's Celine's voice?'" explained Horner. "I said 'Yeah,' and he said, 'Well, when did you do all this?' I said, 'We just did it. And I know you don't want a song in the movie, but I think this would be an appropriate thing to do because it distils everything about the film."

Even then, it took several positive test screenings before Cameron was convinced — adding "My Heart Will Go On" to Titanic just three weeks before its premiere.

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