Pharrell Williams and Quincy Jones presented the award to the legendary composer and six-time Oscar nominee, who received a standing ovation from the crowd at the ceremony.
Speaking in his native Italian, Morricone thanked the Academy, his "esteemed" fellow nominee John Williams (who scored Star Wars: The Force Awakens), director Quentin Tarantino, producer Harvey Weinstein, the team behind The Hateful Eight and his late wife Maria.
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In addition to Williams' work, Morricone's Hateful Eight score beat out Thomas Newman's musical accompaniment to Bridge of Spies, Carter Burwell's contributions to Carol and Jóhann Jóhannsson's work on Sicario.
The 88th annual Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, are being presented live on ABC from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.