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Missouri-born, California-raised Basil Poledouris had intended to become a concert pianist until his USC classmates sidetracked him into a career writing film music. Two of them became talented directors who hired Poledouris again and again. For John Milius, there were five films including the surfing movie BIG WEDNESDAY (1978), the sword-and-sorcery epic CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) and the Soviet-invasion fantasy RED DAWN (1984); for Randal Kleiser, Poledouris scored four movies including the castaway love story THE BLUE LAGOON (1980) and the AIDS drama IT'S MY PARTY (1996).
Among the most lyrical of contemporary composers, he wrote a warm theme for the trapped-orca tale FREE WILLY (1993) and a powerful score for the Liam Neeson remake of LES MISERABLES (1998). But because of the commercial success of the films of Paul Verhoeven – for whom he scored ROBOCOP (1987) and STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) – Poledouris was often considered an "action-adventure" composer.
In fact, he was a versatile craftsman who incorporated a choir singing Russian lyrics in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990); draw on folk inspirations for his Emmy-winning Western, the TV miniseries LONESOME DOVE (1989); and gave voice to his love of sailing in the score for Carroll Ballard's WIND (1992). He died of cancer in 2006 but is remembered as a smart, sensitive and generous artist. His CONAN score (a stunning orchestral and choral evocation of the world of 10,000 years ago) is today acclaimed as a landmark in the genre.