Television & Film

Director Wes Craven Dead at 76

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Director Wes Craven, known for Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream in addition to several other entries into horror film, has passed away at his home at age 76. The filmmaker had been fighting brain cancer.

Making his theatrical debut with The Last House on the Left in 1972, Craven went on to be considered a master at writing and directing horror. A Nightmare on Elm Street re-defined the horror genre, with the iconic villain Freddie Krueger inspiring several copycat nightmarish monsters. After passing up the sequel, thinking it wouldn’t be very successful, Craven came back to the franchise with the third installment. He even went so far as to get “meta” with the franchise by putting a film within a film in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994.

Craven had recently inked a deal with Universal Cable Productions to develop several television projects based on his film work: The People Under the Stairs at Syfy, Disciples with UCP, We Are All Completely Fine at Syfy/UCP, Sleepers with Federation Entertainment, and he was executive producer on the new Scream series for MTV.

SciFi4Chicks producer Heather French spent time in the film industry, and worked as a DGA Trainee on Scream.

In March 1996, I started working on pre-production of Scream. It was great to come on early because I really got a chance to get to know the crew, actors, and writer Kevin WIlliamson, but the biggest surprise was Wes Craven. I had preconceived notions of what he was like based on Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, and Last House on the Left, but that was so far from the man I met.

Tall and lanky, he turned around to introduce himself and gave me a big warm smile. That smile rarely left his face for the rest of the shoot. He would almost get giddy as we planned and plotted how the movie would unfold. A favorite moment was when we picked the mask. He gave such thought to our two finalists, rationalizing which would be more effective before smiling and going with his gut reaction. (Wasn’t my pick, but I quickly realized he was so right!)

For such a master of horror, he was one of the kindest humans I have ever met! He cared for EVERYONE on the crew. He was like a papa bear to the young cast who all adored him. [Rose McGowan tweeted out a really nice tweet about this] And everyone on the crew mattered to him. My last time seeing him was at a party Kevin had for everyone well after the shoot. We didn’t talk long, but before we said goodbye he gave me a hug so comforting and warm that I can still remember it… and I’ll always remember the man!

 

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Besides his film work, Craven was also a novelist, writing The Fountain Society in 1999, the same year he directed Meryl Streep in her Oscar-nominated performance in Music of the Heart. Being a non-genre picture, Craven said, made it difficult to get an audience to the theater. In an interview with Mick Garris last October, he said, “…we moved toward downplaying my name a lot on Music of the Heart. The more famous you are for making kinds of outrageous scary films, the crossover audience will say, ‘I don’t think so.’”

Craven was also working on a graphic novel with Liquid Comics, collaborating with Steve Niles on a series based on his original idea Coming of Rage.

Craven is survived by his wife, former Disney Studios VP Iya Labunka, his sister Carol Buhrow, son Jonathan Craven;  daughter Jessica Craven step-daughter Nina Tarnawksy and three grandchildren.

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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