Wes Craven

Wesley Earl Craven (August 2, 1939 – August 30, 2015) was an American film director, writer, producer, and actor. He was known for his pioneering work[1][2][3] in the genre of horror films, particularly slasher films, where he mixed horror cliches with humor and satire. His impact on the genre was considered prolific and influential.[4][5] Due to the success and cultural impact[6] of his works in the horror film genre, Craven has been called a "Master of Horror".[3][7][8][9][10]

Wes Craven
Craven on set of Scream 4 in 2010
Wesley Earl Craven

(1939-08-02)August 2, 1939
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
DiedAugust 30, 2015(2015-08-30) (aged 76)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma materWheaton College
Johns Hopkins University
  • Director
  • writer
  • producer
  • actor
  • novelist
Years active1971–2015
Known forA Nightmare on Elm Street
The Hills Have Eyes
Bonnie Broecker
(m. 1964; div. 1969)

Mimi Craven
(m. 1984; div. 1987)

Iya Labunka
(m. 2004; his death 2015)
Children2, including Jonathan

He is best known for creating A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996), featuring the characters of Freddy Krueger, Nancy Thompson, Ghostface, and Sidney Prescott. His other notable films include The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Swamp Thing (1982), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Music of the Heart (1999), and Red Eye (2005).

Early life

Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Caroline (née Miller) and Paul Eugene Craven.[11][12] He was raised in a strict Baptist family.[13] Craven earned an undergraduate degree in English and psychology from Wheaton College in Illinois and a master's degree in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins University.[14]

Craven briefly taught English at Westminster College and was a humanities professor at Clarkson College of Technology (later named Clarkson University) in Potsdam, New York.[15] He additionally taught at Madrid-Waddington High School in Madrid, New York.[16] During this time, he purchased a used 16 mm film camera and began making short movies. When his friend Steve Chapin informed him of a messenger position at a New York City film production co, where his brother, future folk-rock star Harry Chapin worked. Craven moved into the building where his friend Steve Chapin lived at 136 Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights.[16] His first creative job in the film industry was as a sound editor.[15]

Recalling his early training, Craven said in 1994, "Harry was a fantastic film editor and producer of industrials. He taught me the Chapin method [of editing]: 'Nuts and bolts! Nuts and bolts! Get rid of the shit!'" Craven afterward became the firm's assistant manager, and broke into film editing with You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat (1971).[16]

Directing and writing career

Craven left the academic world for the more lucrative role of pornographic film director.[17] In the documentary Inside Deep Throat, Craven says on camera he made "many hardcore X-rated films" under pseudonyms. While his role in Deep Throat is undisclosed, most of his early known work involved writing, film editing, or both.[17] Craven's first feature film as director was The Last House on the Left, which was released in 1972.[15] Craven expected the film to be shown at only a few theaters, which according to him "gave me a freedom to be outrageous, and to go into areas that normally I wouldn't have gone into, and not worry about my family hearing about it, or being crushed."[18] Ultimately the movie was screened much more widely than he assumed, leaving him ostracized due to the content of the film.[18]

After the negative experience of Last House, Craven attempted to move out of the horror genre, and began writing non-horror films with his partner Sean S. Cunningham, none of which attracted any financial backing.[19] Finally, based on advice from a friend about the ease of filming in the Nevada deserts, Craven began to write a new horror film based on that locale.[19] The resulting film, The Hills Have Eyes, cemented Craven as a "horror film director" with Craven noting "It soon became clear that I wasn't going to do anything else unless it was scary".[19]

Craven frequently collaborated with Sean S. Cunningham. In Craven's debut feature, The Last House on the Left, Cunningham served as producer. They pooled all of their resources and came up with $90,000. Later, in Craven's best-known film, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Cunningham directed one of the chase scenes, although he was not credited.[15] Their characters, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, appeared together in the slasher film Freddy vs. Jason (2003) with Cunningham acting as producer, while screenwriter Victor Miller is credited as "Character Creator". Later, in The Last House on the Left remake (2009), Cunningham and Craven share production credits.[20]

Craven had a hand in launching actor Johnny Depp's career by casting him in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Depp's first major film role.[21]

Although known for directing horror/thriller films, he had worked on two films which are outside this genre: Music of the Heart (1999), and as one of the 22 directors responsible for Paris, je t'aime (2006).[17]

Craven created Coming of Rage, a five-issue comic book series, with 30 Days of Night writer Steve Niles.[22] The series was released in digital form in 2014 by Liquid Comics with a print edition scheduled for an October 2015 debut.[22]

Film style

Craven's works tend to share a common exploration of the nature of reality. A Nightmare on Elm Street, for example, dealt with the consequences of dreams in real life.[23] New Nightmare has actress Heather Langenkamp play herself as she is haunted by the villain of the film in which she once starred.[24] At one point in the film, the audience sees on Wes Craven's word processor a script he has written, which includes the conversation he just had with Heather—as if the script were being written as the action unfolds. The Serpent and the Rainbow portrays a man who cannot distinguish between nightmarish visions and reality.[24]

In Scream, the characters frequently reference horror films similar to their situations, and at one point, Billy Loomis tells his girlfriend that life is just a big movie. This concept was emphasized in the sequels, as copycat stalkers re-enact the events of a new film about the Woodsboro killings (Woodsboro being the fictional town where Scream is set) occurring in Scream.[15] Scream included a scene mentioning an urban legend about Richard Gere and a sex act involving a hamster.[25] Craven stated in interviews that he received calls from agents telling him that if he left that scene in, he would never work again.[26][27] The last film that he directed before his death was Scream 4.[17]

Awards and nominations

During his career, Wes Craven was nominated for and won several awards, including the Saturn Award.[28]

In 1977, he won the critics award at the Sitges Film Festival for his film The Hills Have Eyes.[29] The Gérardmer Film Festival granted him the Grand Prize in 1997 for Scream.[30] In 2012, the New York City Horror Film Festival awarded Craven the Lifetime Achievement Award.[31]

Other work

Craven designed the Halloween 2008 logo for Google[32] and was the second celebrity personality to take over the YouTube homepage on Halloween.[33]

Craven had a letter published in the July 19, 1968, edition of Life, praising that periodical's coverage of contemporary rock music, in particular Frank Zappa's.[34]

Personal life

Craven's first marriage, to Bonnie Broecker, produced two children: Jonathan Craven (born 1965) and Jessica Craven (born 1968). Jonathan is a writer and director.[15] Jessica was a singer-songwriter in the group the Chapin Sisters. The marriage ended in 1970. In 1982, Craven married a woman who became known professionally as actress Mimi Craven. The two later divorced, with Wes Craven stating in interviews that the marriage dissolved after he discovered it "was no longer anything but a sham".[35] In 2004, Craven married Iya Labunka; she frequently worked as a producer on Craven's films.[36]

Craven was a birder; in 2010, he joined Audubon California's Board of Directors.[36] His favorite films included Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Virgin Spring (1960) and Red River (1948).[37]

Craven was an atheist, once telling FANGORIA magazine that "Formally, I don't believe in God" and that "I believe religions have done much more harm than they've done good." [38]

Death and legacy

On August 30, 2015, 4 weeks after his 76th birthday, Craven died of brain cancer at his Los Angeles home.[24][39] Many actors paid tribute to him, including David Arquette, Johnny Depp, Adrienne Barbeau, Angela Bassett, Courteney Cox, Scott Foley, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kadeem Hardison, Jamie Kennedy, Shane Dawson, Heather Langenkamp, Rose McGowan, Cillian Murphy, Mitch Pileggi, Kristy Swanson and Amanda Wyss.[40][41][42][43][44][45] Depp stated, "Wes Craven was the guy who gave me my start, from my perspective, for almost no reason in particular. I read scenes with his daughter when I auditioned for the part. At the time, I was a musician. I wasn't really acting. It was not anything very near to my brain or my heart, which is pretty much how it remains to this day. But Wes Craven was brave enough to give me the gig based on his daughter's opinion, I guess she had read with a bunch of actors, and after the casting sessions, she said, 'No, that's the guy.' I always think of her for putting me in this mess, and certainly Wes Craven for being very brave to give me this gig. But he was a good man — so rest in peace, old Wes."[40] Robert Englund, one of Craven's most frequent acting collaborators said Craven was "a brilliant, kind, gentle and very funny man."[43] Neve Campbell, who starred in Scream's franchise, said, "We lost a great deal of magic yesterday. I'm devastated to hear of Wes's passing. My life wouldn't be what it is without him. I will be forever grateful for his brilliant direction, his wicked sense of humour and his consummate kindness and friendship. He has entertained us all for decades and inspired so many to follow in his path. I loved Wes dearly and will miss him always. Thank you Wes!!!".[44]

The 10th episode of Scream was dedicated in his memory.[46]


1999Fountain Society[47]
2013Coming of Rage[48]



Year Film Director Producer Writer Notes
1972 The Last House on the Left Yes No Yes Also editor
1975 The Fireworks Woman Yes No Yes Credited as Abe Snake;
Also editor
1977 The Hills Have Eyes Yes No Yes Also editor
1981 Deadly Blessing Yes No Yes
1982 Swamp Thing Yes No Yes
1984 The Hills Have Eyes Part II Yes No Yes
1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street Yes No Yes
1986 Deadly Friend Yes No No
1987 A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors No executive Yes
1988 The Serpent and the Rainbow Yes No No
1989 Shocker Yes Yes Yes
1991 The People Under the Stairs Yes executive Yes
1994 Wes Craven's New Nightmare Yes executive Yes
1995 Vampire in Brooklyn Yes No No
1996 Scream Yes No No
1997 Scream 2 Yes Yes No
1999 Music of the Heart Yes No No
2000 Scream 3 Yes No No Uncredited co-writer
2005 Cursed Yes No No
Red Eye Yes No No
2006 Pulse No No Yes Remake
Paris, je t'aime Yes No Yes Segment Père-Lachaise
2007 The Hills Have Eyes 2 No Yes Yes Remake
2010 My Soul to Take Yes Yes Yes
2011 Scream 4 Yes Yes No Final film / Uncredited co-writer

Producer Only

Year Film Notes
1971 Together
1993 Laurel Canyon
1995 Mind Ripper aka The Hills Have Eyes III
1997 Wishmaster Executive producer
2000 Dracula 2000
2002 They
2003 Dracula II: Ascension
2005 Dracula III: Legacy
Feast Executive producer
2006 The Hills Have Eyes Remake
The Breed Executive producer
2009 The Last House on the Left Remake
2015 The Girl in the Photographs


Year Film Role
1978 The Evolution of Snuff Cinematographer
Here Come the Tigers Gaffer

Acting roles

Year Film Role Notes
1989 Shocker The neighbor
1994 Wes Craven's New Nightmare Himself
1995 The Fear Dr. Arnold
1996 Scream "Fred" (school janitor) Cameo
1997 Scream 2 Doctor
2000 Scream 3 Tourist
2001 Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Himself
2004 Tales from the Crapper
The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing
2005 Inside Deep Throat
2006 Paris, je t'aime Vampire's Victim Segment Père-Lachaise
2007 The Tripper Top hat-wearing hippy Cameo
2008 Diary of the Dead Radio voice
2011 Scream 4 Coroner at the Randalls Cameo;
Deleted scene


Year Film Director Producer Writer Notes
1978 Stranger in Our House Yes No No aka Summer of Fear;
TV movie
1984 Invitation to Hell Yes No No TV movie
1985 Chiller Yes No No
The Twilight Zone Yes No No 5 episodes
1986 Casebusters Yes No No Episode of anthology TV series Disneyland
1989 The People Next Door No Yes Yes Co-creator
1990 Night Visions Yes Yes Yes TV movie
1992 Nightmare Cafe Yes Yes No Co-creator

Executive producer only

Year Film Notes
1981 Kent State TV movie
1998 Hollyweird
Don't Look Down
Carnival of Souls
2002 They Shoot Divas, Don't They?
2015 Scream Season 1 only


Year Film Notes
1998 Don't Look Down TV movie
Carnival of Souls

Acting roles

Year Film Role Notes
1993 Body Bags Pasty faced man at gas station Cameo
2004 The 100 Scariest Movie Moments Himself TV special
2006 Boston Legal Cameo;
Episode: "Spring Fever"
2013 Castle Cameo;
Episode: "Scared to Death"


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  2. Dimelow, Gareth (September 1, 2015). "RIP Wes Craven: A Pioneer Who Tested The Limits Of Horror". Sabotage Times. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  3. "The 5 scenes that show Wes Craven will always be the Master of Horror". August 31, 2015.
  4. Leydon, Joe (August 31, 2015). "Wes Craven Remembered: A Master of Modern Horror".
  5. "Wes Craven, Horror Maestro, Dies at 76".
  6. "Wes Craven, Whose Slasher Films Terrified Millions, Dies at 76". The New York Times. September 1, 2015.
  7. Garrett, Preston. "The Top 13 MASTERS OF HORROR: Writer/Directors – The Script Lab".
  8. "Wes Craven, Hollywood's Horror Pioneer, Dies at 76".
  9. "Wes Craven, Legendary Horror Director, Dead At 76 – CINEMABLEND". August 31, 2015.
  10. Shenton, Zoe (August 31, 2015). "Horror film legend Wes Craven has passed away aged 76".
  11. Wes Craven Biography (1939–) at filmreference.com
  12. "Wesley Earl Craven (b. 1939)". mooseroots.com. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  13. "The Horror of Being Wes Craven". The New York Times. April 17, 2011.
  14. Muir, John Kenneth (1998). Wes Craven: The Art of Horror. Jefferson, South Carolina: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0576-7. pp. 8–9.
  15. "Wes Craven". Biography.com. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  16. Lovece, Frank (October 13, 1994). "The Man Who Created Freddy Krueger is Back With Renewed Respect". Newsday. New York. Archived from the original on August 31, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  17. "Wes Craven, Master Horror Movie Director, Dies At 76". NPR.org. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  18. Tobias, Scott. "Wes Craven". Avclub. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  19. Stratford, Jennifer Juniper. "WES CRAVEN: ONE LAST SCREAM". The Front. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  20. "'Scream IV' Officially Greenlit with Wes Craven Attached".
  21. Blitz, Krasniewicz. Johnny Depp: A Biography.
  22. Rich Johnston. "Wes Craven's Coming Of Rage Finally Comes To Print From Steve Niles And Francesco Biagini – Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News". Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
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  24. "Wes Craven, horror movie director, dies at age 76". CNN.com. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  25. "Snopes Urban Legend About Gerbil and Richard Gere".
  26. "Movie References in SCREAM". geocities.com. Archived from the original on October 3, 2002. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
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  28. "THE SATURN AWARDS". Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  29. "Awards". Sitges Film Festival. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  30. "Historique". Festival international du film fantastique de Gérardmer. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  31. "2012". New York City Horror Film Festival. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  32. "Wes Craven Carves Google Logo".
  33. "Wes Craven Takes Over YouTube for Halloween!". Tubefilter News. August 31, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  34. Craven, Wes (July 19, 1968). "Letters To The Editors". Life. p. 17.
  35. Emery, Robert J. (2003). The Directors: Take Three. 3. Allworth Press. ISBN 1581152450.
  36. Frost, G (May 28, 2010). "Director Wes Craven joins Audubon California's Board of Directors". Audublog. Audubon California (National Audubon Society). Retrieved April 3, 2011.
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  38. "Wes Craven - Celebrity Atheist List". Celebatheists.com. March 17, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  39. "Wes Craven, Horror Maestro, Dies at 76". The Hollywood Reporter. August 30, 2015. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
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  42. https://ew.com/article/2015/08/30/wes-craven-tributes/
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