Director Wes Craven died this afternoon in Los Angeles. Craven was 76 and passed away at home surrounded by his family after battling brain cancer.
From his first feature film The Last House On The Left as writer, director and editor in 1972, Craven made his mark as a genre-bending, bracingly innovative horror director with a biting sense of humor. Craven also consistently demonstrated that he was a filmmaker with heart. Among the films that followed The Last House On The Left were The Hills Have Eyes and a sequel, Deadly Blessing (featuring Sharon Stone in her first starring role) and Swamp Thing (based on the comic book).
Craven reinvented the youth horror genre again in 1984 with the classic and very scary A Nightmare On Elm Street, which also introduced a then-unknown Johnny Depp. The movie spawned several sequels, none of them directed by Craven. He deconstructed the genre a decade after the original, writing and directing the audacious Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which was nominated for Best Feature at the 1995 Independent Spirit Awards.
In 1996 Craven experienced yet another rebirth in horror with the release of Scream, which he directed from a script by Kevin Williamson. Scream sparked multiple sequels and spoofs.
One of the last projects Craven worked on was MTV’s series adaptation of Scream, on which he served as executive producer. The series was recently renewed for a second season. “Wes Craven was a tremendous visionary whose sensibility for scares has connected with generations of MTV fans,” MTV said in a statement. “We are honored to have worked with him and proud to carry on his legacy with Scream. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”
Craven took a breather from horror between Scream 2 and Scream 3, when he seized an opportunity to direct a non-genre film for Miramax, Music Of The Heart (1999), which earned star Meryl Streep an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. That same year he completed his first novel, The Fountain Society, published by Simon & Shuster.
Bob Weinstein, who with brother Harvey Weinstein worked with Craven on the Scream and other movies and supported his decision to make Music Of The Heart, said Sunday “I am heartbroken at the news of Wes Craven’s passing. We enjoyed a 20-year professional relationship and more importantly a warm and close friendship. He was a consummate filmmaker and his body of work will live on forever. My brother and I are eternally grateful for all his collaborations with us. Our deepest sympathy to his family.”
Craven continued to stretch his creative boundaries with the 2005 thriller Red Eye, starring Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy and Brian Cox. The following year he switched gears again to write and direct a romantic comedy homage to Oscar Wilde featuring Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell as a segment in the popular French ensemble anthology Paris Je T’aime.
He then returned to horror as producer of remakes of two of his earlier films, The Hills Have Eyes (2006) and The Last House On The Left (2009). Craven’s most recent written and directed film, My Soul To Take (2010), once again brought together a cast of up-and-coming actors. It marked Craven’s first collaboration with wife and producer Iya Labunka, who also produced Scream 4, which reunited Craven with screenwriter Williamson, as well as with stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, joined by newcomers Emma Roberts and Hayden Pannetierre.
Remaining creatively engaged and active until his death, Craven had signed an overall TV deal with Universal Cable Productions. He had a number of projects in development including The People Under The Stairs and We Are All Completely Fine with Syfy, Disciples with UCP, and Sleepers with Federation Entertainment. UCP today called Cravens “a master artist” and said that it intends “to bring to life” all of his projects at the studio.
Craven also recently wrote and was scheduled to direct the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” segment for The Weinstein Company/WGN’s Ten Commandments miniseries. Additionally he was working on a graphic novel series based on his original idea “Coming Of Rage” for Liquid Comics in collaboration with Steve Niles.
Craven was an executive producer of the upcoming feature The Girl In The Photographs, which will premiere next month the 2015 Toronto Film Festival.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Craven was a nature lover and committed bird conservationist, serving as a long-time member of the Audubon California Board of Directors. A longtime summer resident of Martha’s Vineyard, he had moved there permanently three years ago before returning to Los Angeles for work and health reasons.