Legendary horror movie director Wes Craven, who is responsible for classics such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, passed away earlier today at the age of 76, after battling brain cancer. The filmmaker made his mark with his first film, 1972's The Last House on the Left, and continued to be a driving force in the genre ever since. The filmmaker is survived by his third wife, producer Iya Labunka, sister Carol Buhrow, son Jonathan Craven, daughter Jessica Craven, stepdaughter Nina Tarnawksy and three grandchildren.
Wesley Earl Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Caroline (Miller) and Paul Eugene Craven, raised by a strict baptist family. He earned his undergraduate degree in English and Psychology from Wheaton University in Illinois, and earned his Masters in Philosophy and Writing from Johns Hopkins University. After college, he was briefly a humanities professor at Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam, New York. His first job in the film industry was as a sound editor for a post-production company in New York City, before directing several adult films under a pseudonym, which he admitted in the 2005 documentary INSIDE Deep Throat. In 1972, he made his true directorial debut with the instant classic The Last House on the Left, which he also wrote and edited.
He went on to write and direct The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing and Swamp Thing before re-defining the genre once again with his 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. The filmmaker was inspired by a news report that chronicled a number of teenagers who died in their sleep after suffering horrific nightmares, despite having no history of mental illness. The look of his iconic Freddy Krueger character was inspired by a hobo who the director saw staring at him through his window, when he was just 10 years old. The film marked the acting debut of a 21-year-old Johnny Depp, and spawned a number of sequels, although he didn't direct any of them. He did return to the franchise in 1994 with New Nightmare, which deconstructed the entire genre, featuring franchise stars Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund as versions of themselves. The film was nominated for Best Feature at the 1995 Independent Spirit Awards, and lead to his biggest hit, 1996's Scream.
Scream earned over $100 million worldwide, and spawned the sequels Scream 2, Scream 3 and 2011's Scream 4, the last film he directed. In between directing Scream 2 and Scream 3, the filmmaker made his first non-horror film, 1999's Music of the Heart, where he directed Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination. He also directed a segment of the romance anthology, Paris, je t'aime, which centered on a couple who discovers the ghost of Oscar Wilde in the Paris cemetery Pere-Lechaise. His other directorial credits include Invitation to Hell, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Shocker, The People Under the Stairs, Cursed, Red Eye and My Soul to Take.
Along with his role as executive producer on MTV's Scream, which was just recently renewed for a second season, the filmmaker was developing a TV series based on The People Under the Stairs, and the comic book Disciples. The filmmaker's work inspired countless movies and directors who came after him. Do you have a favorite Wes Craven movie that you'll watch in the filmmaker's honor? Let us know what you think as filmmakers and fans around the world mourn the loss of a true filmmaking great, Wes Craven.