One of the surprise stars in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is a musical one: Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted the opening and end titles music by composer John Williams.
Dudamel recalled his disbelief when Williams called to ask for the conductor's help.
"I remember thinking, 'He's joking,'" Dudamel said in a statement released to the Los Angeles Times on Monday. "John has such a wonderful sense of humor, and I somehow thought that there must be a catch. It turns out there was: I couldn't tell anyone!"
Not until Monday that is.
Dudamel recorded the bookend pieces at the Sony scoring stage on Oct. 12. He said his arrival surprised "everyone" -- the musicians, Disney's lawyers and others assembled for the session. He conducted contract players, including some members of the L.A. Phil, whom Williams employed on the rest of the score.
"The Force Awakens," which premieres in Hollywood on Monday night and opens in theaters on Thursday night, is the seventh release in the "Star Wars" saga. All have been scored by Williams. The composer himself conducted most of the rest of the score, which was recorded over an unusually lengthy period of about six months.
"John Williams is the Mozart of our day," said Dudamel, who has been friends with the composer for years and often performs Williams' music at Disney Hall. "I cannot tell you how inspired I felt when I held his score in my hands for the first time, stunned by the beauty of his writing. He's a genius."
When Dudamel composed his first film score in 2013 ("Libertador"), he called Williams for advice.
"He's like family to us," Dudamel said. "Even my 4-year-old son, Martin, sat in the sound booth cheering. You cannot imagine ... utter joy for his father."