Nightmare on Elm Street
“Horror films don’t create fear. They release it.” Wes Craven
Moviemaker Wes Craven is famous as a horror specialist whose landmark project A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) won the Critics Choice Award from the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival and the French Science Fiction and Horror Film Festival. The movie also introduced the notorious villain Freddy Krueger. First catching critics’ attention with The Hills Have Eyes (1977, netted a Sitges Catalonian International Film Festival’s Prize of the International Critics’ Jury), Craven was praised for his horror movies Shocker (1989, earned an International Fantasy Film nomination), The People Under the Stairs (1991, won a Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film’s Pegasus Audience Award) and New Nightmare (1994, collected a Fantasporto International Fantasy Film Award and an International Fantasy Film nomination). Among younger audiences, Craven was known for his teen horror trilogy Scream (1996, nabbed a Gérardmer Film Festival’s Grand Prize), Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000).
Despite the commercial success from the Freddy Krueger movies, Craven ironically agreed to give up the rights to all sequels and merchandising of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) to secure the director's chair for the first film. In 2002, the co-owner of production company Craven/Maddalena Films donated several properties and merchandise from his movies, including Scream (1996), to the Planned Parenthood/Dream Catchers Foundation charity auction.
As for his romantic life, the filmmaker was previously married to Bonnie Broecker (1964-1969) and Mimi Craven (1984-1987). Presently, he lives with partner Iya Labunka (November 27, 2004 - present) in Los Angeles. He has two children (a daughter and a son) from his first marriage.
First Movie at College
Childhood and Family:
On August 2, 1939, Wesley Earl Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Paul Craven (died in 1943) and Caroline Craven. Growing up in a devout Baptist family, Wesley was forbidden to watch movies with the belief that they were tools of the Devil.
Eventually, Wesley watched his first movie while studying at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he took English and Psychology classed. Right after graduation, he taught at the Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. He then earned a Masters degree in writing and philosophy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, before working as a Humanities and Modern Drama professor at the Clarkson College in Potsdam, New York.
In 1964, Wes married Bonnie Broecker, with whom he has two children, Jonathan and Jessica. Five years later, they were divorced and the children stayed with Bonnie. Wes then married flight attendant/actress Mimi Craven in 1984, but they separated in 1987. He now lives with producer Iya Labunka.
At age 27, Wes Craven decided to quit teaching and work as a messenger for a film post-production company in New York City. Craven, who became interested in experimental, art and documentary cinema, was employed as an editor and assistant producer by exploitation filmmaker Sean Cunningham. In 1971, he became the associate producer for Cunningham’s adult film titled Together.
Craven advanced and made his filmmaking debut as a writer and director with the modestly budgeted horror feature Last House on the Left (1972), a tale of rape, murder, and revenge. In the next five years, he served as a film editor and screenwriter, although his scripts never went to production. Among his screen credits were It Happened in Hollywood (1973) and Sweet Cakes (1976).
Craven fared better with his second attempt at screenwriting and directing in the horror film The Hills Have Eyes (1977, also edited), in which he was handed a Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival’s Prize of the International Critics’ Jury. Centering on a family’s attempt to survive a cannibalistic clan, The Hills Have Eyes is considered to be one of Craven’s best directorial works.
A year later, the new filmmaker was credited as a gaffer for the comedy Here Come the Tigers (1978) and the cinematographer of the self-written documentary The Evolution of Snuff (1978). He also helmed the made-for-TV horror Stranger in Our House (1978), an adaptation of Lois Duncan’s novel that starred actress Linda Blair. Craven’s next movies included Deadly Blessing (1981, starring Sharon Stone), Swamp Thing (1982) and Invitation to Hell (1984, TV).
Still working in the horror genre, Craven scored huge success with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which later became an influential feature for its signature character, Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund). Before long, he harvested the Critics Choice awards from the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival and the French Science Fiction and Horror Film Festival. The movie, which also launched the career of actors Johnny Depp and Jsu Garcia, was developed into sequels: A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) and A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989), as well as the TV series “Freddy’s Nightmares” (1988-1990). However, the spin-off projects did not perform as well as the predecessor.
Additionally, Craven’s horror movie Shocker (1989, also appeared as a neighbor) was nominated for International Fantasy Film’s Best Film. Following the flopped sitcom “The People Next Door” (1989) and the cop movie Night Visions (1990, TV), the moviemaker won a Pegasus Audience award from the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film for his horror comedy, The People Under the Stairs (1991). Craven also continued with the short-lived horror series “Nightmare Café” (1992) before reviving Freddy Krueger’s notoriety in New Nightmare (1994, won a Fantasporto International Fantasy Film award for Best Screenplay and earned an International Fantasy Film Best Film nomination). A year later, he helmed the mediocre Vampire in Brooklyn (1995).
Craven marked his next success after working with screenwriter Kevin Williamson in the self-helmed teen horror Scream (1996), which was about a group of teens dealing with a serial murderer. He soon was given a Grand Prize from the Gérardmer Film Festival and a Saturn nomination for Best Director. Later, Craven completed the trilogy by making the sequels Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000). In the trilogy, the director also made unaccredited cameo appearances.
Amid his horror pictures, Craven detoured to the drama genre and directed Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, and Gloria Estefan in the biopic about a violin teacher, Music of the Heart (1999). He then worked with actress Christina Ricci in the horror Cursed (2005), helmed the action thriller Red Eye (2005), co-wrote the screenplay of Pulse (2006, with Kiyoshi Kurosawa) and made the “Père-Lachaise” segment of the collage movie Paris, je t’aime (2006).
Craven, who in 2000 was granted a Cinequest San Jose Film Festival Maverick Tribute award and an Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival Lifetime Achievement award, will release his self-directed/written thriller Bug, in 2007. He will also team up with son Jonathan Craven and Alexandre Aja to remake his classic movie, The Hills Have Eyes II (2007). Additionally, Craven is set to executive produce the forthcoming thrillers Home (2007) and The Waiting (2007).