Wes Craven Biography
- Born: 02-08-1939
- Birth Place: Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Wes Craven Biography
The master of the macabre who brought cinema goers Freddy Krueger in the 80s and reinvented the slasher genre with Scream in the 90s. Does he ever get scared?
A former University lecturer turned fright-master, producer, writer, director Craven is clearly an intellectual artist trapped in a disreputable genre.
Wesley Earl Craven was born on 2 August 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Paul and Caroline. He was brought up as a strict Baptist. Before becoming a filmmaker, Craven studied English and Psychology at Wheaton College, Illinois, gaining a degree. He then achieved a Masters degree in philosophy and writing from John Hopkins University. For a short time, he worked as an English professor at Westminster College.
He entered filmmaking as an editor and assistant producer on several low-budget comedies, to exploitation producer Sean Cunningham - creator of Jason for the Friday the 13th movies.
He graduated to the position of writer-director with a modestly budgeted (£60,000) feature, 'Last House on the Left', in 1972. Still a potent shocker, this grimly realistic tale of rape, murder, and revenge was loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's 1960 classic, 'The Virgin Spring'. The intensity of the film shocked many, and Wes spent the next five years working as a film editor and screenwriter, though his scripts never went into production.
He tried his hand at numerous genres including war, romance and comedy, but there were no takers. Finally, as his savings ran out, a reluctant Craven accepted an offer to make another horror film.
His infamy grew with the extraordinary thriller 'The Hills Have Eyes' (1977), made for an impressive £155,000. This troubling tale of an All-American family marooned in the desert and plagued by cannibalistic mutants became a genre classic of the 1970s. According to Time Out, "exploitation themes are used to maximum effect.... A heady mix of ironic allegory and seat-edge tension".
For better or worse, Craven was firmly branded as a horror filmmaker.
He returned to features with 'Deadly Blessing', an uneven but frightening tale of a woman terrorised by a rural religious cult.
This project may have had a personal dimension for Wes, as he was the product of a strict fundamentalist Baptist upbringing himself. Taught that movies were a tool of the Devil, he never actually saw a film until he went to college.
Craven finally gained recognition and success with 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984), in which the horrific Freddy Krueger haunts the dreams of small-town American teens.
Five popular and increasingly camp sequels followed the hard-edged and strikingly surreal original. The franchise generated over a half a billion dollars (£346.5m) but the creator received a paltry £275,000 of proceedings, after signing away his rights so as to secure the director's chair for the first film.
Nonetheless, having his name associated with the successful series led to an expansion in his career opportunities, and his follow ups, including the hugely popular 'Scream' (1996, 1997 and 2000) series, have helped to rectify this financial imbalance.
Craven has continued to direct horror films with the likes of 'Cursed' and 'Red Eye' in 2005, which was followed by 'Paris Je'T'Aime' in 2006. This signalled a change in direction as the film is a romantic comedy.
In 2010, he returned to the genre he knows best and directed 'My Soul To Take' before making 'Scream 4' in 2011.
He has been married three times, with his first wife being Bonnie Broecker between 1964 and 1969. They had two children before divorcing. Craven then wed actress Mimi Craven in 1982 but they too divorced in 1987. Since 2004, he has been married to Iya Labunka.