Los Angeles-based English composer John Powell crafts scores for major motion pictures, with a focus on animated films and sci-fi/action movies. Following his first major score for Face/Off, he went on to compose for the Jason Bourne and the Ice Age series. In addition to multiple Saturn, BAFTA, and Annie Award nominations, Powell also received a Grammy nomination in 2008 for his score for the animated penguin flick Happy Feet, and an Oscar nomination in 2011 for his score for How to Train Your Dragon.
Born in East Sussex in 1963, Powell got his start with television work, writing from 1989 to 1993 on the British series Stay Lucky and later for a single season of the U.S. cop drama High Incident in 1996. He graduated to the big screen in 1997, delivering his first film score for John Woo's Nicolas Cage/John Travolta action flick Face/Off. In the early 2000s, he composed The Road to El Dorado with Hans Zimmer and Chicken Run with Harry Gregson-Williams, the first of his many collaborations with DreamWorks. Powell first met Zimmer and Gregson-Williams when he became a member of Remote Control Productions, a film score company based out of Santa Monica founded by Jay Rifkin and Zimmer. In addition to El Dorado, Powell also collaborated on a number of films with Zimmer, including their first together, 1999's Chill Factor, and the first two Kung Fu Panda films. As for his work with Gregson-Williams, the pair followed Chicken Run with Shrek in 2001.
In 2002, Powell signed on for The Bourne Identity, delivering his first contribution to the series that extended into the next decade. In the early aughts, his focus remained primarily in the high-paced action realm with The Italian Job, Agent Cody Banks, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. In 2006, he took over duties for the Ice Age series and co-composed the score for Happy Feet with Gia Farrell. Their efforts were honored with a Grammy nomination in 2008. Other late-aughts output included X-Men: The Last Stand, P.S. I Love You, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, Kung Fu Panda, and the third installment of the Ice Age series, Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Powell kicked off 2010 with How to Train Your Dragon, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011. That year, he continued his work with Kung Fu Panda and Happy Feet on their respective sequels, also starting a relationship with another animated property, Rio. Sequels to Ice Age, Rio, How to Train Your Dragon, and Bourne carried him into 2016. In 2018, Powell briefly took over the reins from John Williams with his score for Solo: A Star Wars Story. ~ Neil Z. Yeung