Basil Poledouris, 1945-2006
Vassilis Konstantinos Poledouris was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in August 1945, to a family of Greek immigrants. A piano player from an early age, Basil moved to Los Angeles in 1964 to study filmmaking and music at the University of Southern California, where he was a contemporary of soon-to-be-directors George Lucas, John Milius and Randal Kleiser, who would go on to be lifelong friends and collaborators. Poledouris dabbled in acting – he had a non-speaking role as a crewmember on the original series of Star Trek – but concentrated on music following his graduation with a BA in film studies.
Poledouris composed music for over 100 educational films before getting his break in feature films, which came in 1978 following the release of the popular cult surfing movie Big Wednesday (directed by Kleiser), and which he followed by writing music for hit teen romance The Blue Lagoon in 1980, and the action fantasy epic Conan the Barbarian in 1982. The film launched the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is considered one of the finest fantasy scores ever written.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Poledouris became a reliable composer of large scale orchestral scores for over-achieving B-movies, especially in the action, science fiction and fantasy genres. Among his most popular and successful works are Conan the Destroyer (1984), Red Dawn (1984), Robocop (1987), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Free Willy (1993) and Starship Troopers (1997), as well as the epic western TV series Lonesome Dove, for which he won his only major career award, an Emmy in 1989. In addition to his film music, Poledouris also wrote a piece for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics entitled “The Tradition of the Games”, as well as several TV themes, music for IMAX presentations, and for the Conan the Barbarian stage show The Adventures of Conan at the Universal Studios theme park.
Poledouris effectively retired from scoring in 2002, and moved to Vashon Island in Washington to explore his passion for his second love, sailing. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, and died just weeks after conducting his own music live in concert at the Úbeda Film Music Festival in Spain. His daughter, Zoë, is a singer, composer and actress. His final score, for The Legend of Butch & Sundance in 2006, will be released posthumously.