Wes Craven was an American film producer, writer, director, actor, and author who was widely known for his works in the horror films A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, and Scream. The talented film director left his footprints on the sands of time in the horror genre with terrific innovations and outstanding contributions. Even though he is no more, his legacies have continued to live on through his works in the film industry, especially in the slasher genre, which won him numerous accolades.
What Wes Craven’s Childhood Looked Like
The notable film director was born Wesley Earl Craven on the 2nd day of August 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Caroline (Miller) and Paul Eugene Craven. He was raised in a strict Baptist household. When he was five, his dad passed away. As a result, he was raised by his mother. Wes obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology from Wheaten College and also got his masters in philosophy and writing from John Hopkins University.
Before joining the film industry, Craven served as a teacher at Westminster College and Clarkson University. He was also a professor of Humanities at Clarkson College of Technology (later named Clarkson University) in Potsdam, New York. The man also taught at Madrid-Waddington High School in Madrid, New York. It was during his time at the high school that he bought a secondhand 16 mm film camera, which he used in making short films.
Details of His Career & How He Became Famous
Having had a good taste of the academic world, Wes Craven decided to try other lucrative roles. His deep love for the movie industry made him a sound editor for a post-production company. He pseudonymously directed several pornographic movies and was credited as editor and assistant director of It Happened in Hollywood (1973), a porn comedy produced by the editors of Screw magazine.
Craven directed his first feature film The Last House on the Left in 1972, and that brought him into the limelight. Initially, he thought that the horror movie would be displayed in a few theaters, which would have made his family not to hear about it and give him the freedom to venture into some unusual areas, having come from a strict Baptist family. Unfortunately, the movie was screened widely beyond his assumption, and that which he feared, befell him as the content of the film led his family to ostracize him.
Following the unpleasant experience he got from The Last House on the Left, Wes Craven shifted from writing horror films to non-horror genres along with his partner, Sean S. Cunningham, but the move was abortive because of its lack of financial support. Consequently, he returned to the horror genre and wrote the movie, The Hills Have Eyes, after being notified of the ease of making films in the Nevada deserts.
The movie eventually established him as a horror movie director. In collaboration with Cunningham, he wrote and directed the horror movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The movie won him the 1985 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Critics Award, and later in 2019, fetched him an Online Film & Television Association Film Hall of Fame honors. The five Nightmare on Elm Street film series was released from 1984-89, and it drew big crowds. Craven’s Scream series was also a box-office sensation. Aside from that, he also worked on movies outside the horror genre like Music of the Heart (1999) and Paris je t’aime (2006).
Before his demise in 2015, Wes Craven appeared as an actor in over fifteen movies and TV series. Some of these include The Twilight Zone, Shadow Zone: The Undead Express, Scream, and Castle. He also produced over twenty-five films, which include Scream: The TV Series, The Girls in the Photographs, and Scream 4. As a film director, he was credited with more than thirty-two films and TV series, including Red Eye, Vampire in Brooklyn, and Cursed. More so, Craven wrote more than forty movies, including Swamp Thing, The People Under the Stairs, and My Soul to Take.
Why Wes Craven Will Not Be Forgotten in a Hurry
Wes Craven’s 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street set the stage for the slasher genre, a subgenre of horror films. He established the character of the cult bogeymen, Freddy Krueger, and Ghostface, which has been reprised in several horror films. The filmmaker was also credited with the innovation of commercially successful movies on little budgets.
For instance, he introduced the use of rookie actors and cheap locations in making horror films cost-effective. By so doing, Craven created superstars from nothing. He helped the likes of Johnny Depp rise to stardom after casting him in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven, who had an eye for discovering talent, also discovered Sharon Stone and featured her in her first starring role in the film Deadly Blessing. He also gave Bruce Willis his first featured role in an episode of the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone.
Wes Craven was credited as an executive producer on the new Scream series for MTV. In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter in April 2015, which turned out to be Craven’s last interview, he said he let the network use his name in association with the series, but his involvement beyond that was minimal.
A Look At Some of His Best Works
During his lifetime, Wes Craven made several box office hits with little budgets. His 1984 movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street grossed $59 million worldwide from a budget of $1.8 million. It was followed by The People Under the Stairs (1991), which earned $47 million in the US box office on a production budget of $6 million. In addition to that, Scream (1996) raked in $183 million domestically in the Box Office from a budget of $14-15 million. It was the highest-grossing slasher film, until 2018 when Halloween outperformed it on the theaters.
Then its sequels Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000) brought in $178 million and $161 million to the Box Office, from budgets of $24 million and $40 million, respectively. Last but not the least, Red Eye (2005) racked up $20 million on its opening weekend, and it later grossed $96 million at the Box Office from its production budget of $26 million. Wes Craven’s other notable films include The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Last House on the Left, and Music of the Heart.
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Wes Craven’s Awards And Net Worth
Widely recognized as the Master of Horror, Wes Craven received lots of awards in the course of his career. While he was nominated for numerous awards, he won a good number of them, including the Saturn Award. He won the critic’s award at the Sitges Film Festival for his film The Hills Have Eyes, in 1977. At the Gérardmer Film Festival in 1997, he won the Grand Prize in 1997 for his work, Scream. And in 2012, the New York City Horror Film Festival awarded Craven a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The pioneer of the slash genre left behind a net worth of about $40 million. Having enriched his pocket through his works in several commercially successful films, in 1996, Craven reached a new level of success with the release of Scream. The film grossed more than $100 million domestically as did it’s sequels Scream 2 and Scream 3. His fortune was mainly through film production, then through his design works, and book sales.
Wes Craven is also a scriptwriter and author. He created a comic book series named Coming to Rage, which was released in 2015 in digital form. He also authored another book called Fountain Society back in 1999. In 2008, he designed Google’s Halloween logo. Wes was also the second famous personality to feature on the YouTube homepage.
Facts About His Failed Marriages and Children
The filmmaker first entered into matrimony with Bonnie Broecker in 1964, but things didn’t work out for the couple, and they decided to call it quits in 1970. Their union was blessed with two children, a son named Jonathan Craven, born in 1965, and a daughter Jessica Craven, born in 1968. Jonathan followed in the footsteps of his father and is now a writer and director. He served as the co-writer of The Hills Have Eyes and was equally among the producers of the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left. Jessica, on the other hand, served as the songwriter for the American folk-rock band, The Chapin Sisters.
Later in 1984, Wes Craven got hitched to Millicent Eleanor Meyer, and this second marriage lasted for only three years, ending in a divorce in the year 1987. According to the filmmaker, his marriage to Meyer was no longer anything but a sham. Hence, they decided to part ways. Craven finally found solace in the arms of Iya Labunka, whom he married in the year 2004. The couple lived together until his demise in 2015.
Just like her husband, Iya is also a film producer, as well as a former Disney Studios vice president. While he was alive, Craven and his spouse worked together on various projects, including Scream 4 and My Soul to Take (2010), among others. They didn’t have any children from their union. However, Iya is also a stepmother to Craven’s two children from his previous marriage.
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What Led to His Death?
The famed maestro of horror died at his home in Los Angeles on August 30, 2015, after a long battle with brain cancer. He passed on four weeks after celebrating his 76th birthday. At his death, he was survived by his sister Carol, son Jonathan, and daughter Jessica, as well as grandchildren – Miles, Max, and Myra-Jean and a stepdaughter, Nina. Following his contributions in the horror film genre, the tenth episode of the American anthology slasher TV series Scream was dedicated to him.