The Last Emperor
“Open the Door” (the theme from The Last Emperor) was the first of my collaborations with the brilliant young Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Sakamoto and I have sort-of met, and under the most unlikely circumstances. It is a story worth telling. We did not need to meet for the songs themselves. That was merely a matter of my finding appropriate lyrics for his beautiful melodies. But the executive producer of the film’s soundtrack recording, Ray Williams, thought it would be a nice idea for us to meet while everyone was in L. A. for the Academy Awards, and unbelievably and deservedly The Last Emperor won all nine of the Oscars for which it was nominated - including naturally, Best Score for Mr. Sakamoto. Our meeting was to be at the Bel-Age Hotel the following afternoon at 5 p.m. I arrived at the appointed hour and went up to the suite. The manager let me in and we chatted courteously as he led me into the sitting room. There, laid out on the dining table, still in full evening dress and apparently dead, though with a very slight smile on his face, was Mr. Sakamoto. The manager went on chatting as though nothing was the matter. And indeed, nothing was. I stayed for an hour, the corpse never moved. We decided not to wake him. It had apparently been a kamikaze kind of party. Very few survivors. I felt happy for all of them. There are few feelings as great as winning an Oscar. I left as quietly as I had come. I still haven’t really met Mr. Sakamoto, but I love his music and I will never forget him. I suppose I should call him my silent partner. I later wrote a second song with him - the theme from Bertolucci’s next film, The Sheltering Sky. I wonder if he knows.