James Cameron, the ace Hollywood director behind many successful films, has paid a touching tribute to late composer James Horner, who died in a plane crash Monday near Santa Barbara, California. Horner, a two-time Academy Award winner who was 61 years old, worked on three films with Cameron: “Aliens,” “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

Cameron recalled when Horner worked on "Aliens." “He recorded the whole score in a day and a half in London, and then he was gone. We wound up editing the score ourselves,” Cameron told the Hollywood Reporter. Horner later received an Academy Award nomination for his work and thanked Cameron for it -- but they agreed that their collaboration on "Aliens" was “not the best way to do things.”

Nevertheless, Cameron chose Horner to do the music for “Titanic.” “We had this very cautious meeting where we were falling all over ourselves to be polite. We laughed about it so much in subsequent years,” Cameron said.

One again, the collaboration proved successful. “He totally committed himself to the movie. He blocked out his schedule and sat down and watched maybe 30 hours of raw dailies to absorb the feeling of the film,” Cameron said, adding that he drove to Horner's house to listen to the themes. Horner started playing the piano and Cameron could not control his tears, listening to the “bittersweet and emotionally resonant” pieces.

Cameron said he quickly knew that Horner's music for "Titanic" was going to be “one of cinema’s great scores.” “No matter how the movie turned out, and no one knew at that point -- it could have been a dog -- I knew it would be a great score,” Cameron said.