From Variety, sad news that Wes Craven has died. Here is the story by Pat Saperstein along with a reprint of an interview the Post-Gazette did with Craven and our look at the "Scream" franchise.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) -- Legendary horror director Wes Craven, known for the “Scream” films and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” died Sunday in his Los Angeles home of brain cancer. He was 76.
The versatile director also wrote and produced features, directed for television and wrote novels.
Craven’s first feature was the controversial shocker “The Last House on the Left,” which he wrote, directed an edited in 1972. He wrote and directed “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” with Johnny Depp, in 1984, as well as “Elm Street II.”
Craven tried his hand at non-horror fare between “Scream 2” and “Scream 3” with “Music of the Heart” in 1993, for which Meryl Streep was Oscar-nommed for best actress. He also wrote a novel “The Fountain Society” that year.
He mixed it up again with 2005 psychological thriller “Red Eye” and with a romantic comedy segment in “Paris Je t’aime,” then produced remakes of his earlier films “The Hills Have Eyes” and “The Last House on the Left.”
His most recent film was 2010’s “My Soul to Take,” starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettierre.
In the 1990s he pioneered the meta horror movie with film-within-a-film “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” then followed with “Scream” in 1996. The film sparked a trilogy and grossed more than $100 million domestically.
He had recently signed an overall television deal with Universal Cable Productions and television projects in development including “The People Under the Stairs” with Syfy Networks, “Disciples” with UCP, “We Are All Completely Fine” with Syfy/UCP, and “Sleepers” with Federation Entertainment. He was also executive producing the new “Scream” series for MTV.
Craven had recently written and was to direct the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” segment for the Weinstein Company/WGN’s “Ten Commandments” television miniseries. He had also been working on a graphic novel series based on his original idea “Coming of Rage” for Liquid Comics, in collaboration with Steve Niles. He was exec producer of “The Girl in the Photographs” which will premiere in Toronto.
Born Aug. 2 in Cleveland, Ohio, he served as a longtime member of the Audubon California Board of Directors.
Craven is survived by his wife, producer and former Disney Studios VP Iya Labunka, sister Carol Buhrow, son Jonathan Craven; daughter Jessica Craven stepdaughter Nina Tarnawksy and three grandchildren.
An interview colleague John Hayes did with Craven in advance of a Pitt speaking engagement in April 2005 and my look at the "Scream" franchise from April 2011.
By John Hayes Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Sorry kid," said Freddy Krueger. "I don't believe in fairy tales."
Despite his most infamous character's classic line, horror director and producer Wes Craven's career has been a real-life fairy tale, or at least a dark fantasy.
The former cab driver and creator of "The Hills Have Eyes," "Last House on the Left," and the "Scream" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" film series will discuss his history, creepy body of work and the film industry, and answer questions tonight in Oakland at a lecture sponsored by the Pitt Program Council.
Craven's pre-career bio is boilerplate: Born 1939, raised in Cleveland, undergraduate degree from a Midwest college, M.A. from Johns Hopkins, entered the movie business as a sound engineer, directed his first feature-length film in 1972. But the way Craven tells it, his success has been all about capitalizing on opportunities.
"I didn't study scary movies," he said. "I didn't intend to make scary things. The way to get into show business is not to say, 'I want to write this kind of script,' and to stick with your goal. You have to be flexible. It's tricky to know exactly where you'll be in the industry."
Craven's first lucky break came after he spent two summer vacations trying to land a job in the New York City film industry. The second break sent him on a horrific path.
"I was trying to get a job as an assistant editor," he said. "But it wasn't easy, and I was beginning to put myself and my family in real financial jeopardy. I was in an office applying for a job and I saw a kid get fired. I said, 'I'll take his job.' The guy thought I was crazy, but I got it. Ten months later, I was the post-production manager."
Craven's directorial debut was a barely soft-core documentary in which lots of naked people on a commune, including a young Marilyn Chambers, talk about but don't engage in sex. Controversial in 1971 but easily forgettable, "Together" was important only because it enabled Craven and collaborator Sean S. Cunningham to raise money to make their next movie.
"The first time anyone asked me to make a [scripted] movie, they wanted a scary movie," he said. "So I said OK."
But instead of resorting to monsters, the occult or outer space, Craven turned his cameras on the monstrous evils of human inner space. In 1972's "The Last House on the Left," two partying teens are raped and murdered by four psychopaths who inadvertently take shelter in the home of one of their victims. When the girl's parents learn what happened to her, their wrath grows more gruesome and violent than anything the bad guys could have imagined. The film helped to launch the "teen slasher" genre, which continues to kill, metaphorically, at the box office.
Craven's Freddy Krueger, a personification of evil who lives in the violent dreams of suburban teens, remains one of the most branded and lucrative film monsters. With Craven as a writer, Krueger last appeared two years ago in a battle of monster franchises, "Freddy vs. Jason."
In his next film, Craven returns to the idea that the most frightening monsters are the ones inside. "Red-Eye," slated to be released in September by DreamWorks, is a psychological thriller by new screenwriter Carl Ellsworth about a woman kidnapped on a routine flight and threatened with the murder of her father if she doesn't help the kidnapper to kill a business executive.
"Horror fans think I'm trying to get away from horror, but that's not true," says Craven. "I think this film asks a scary question: Can you fight the devil without selling yourself to the devil, too?"
By Barbara Vancheri Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Like a reluctant prom date, it took some wooing to get Wes Craven to make “Scream” (originally called “Scary Movie,” a title later used for a spoof).
The director considered the script ironic but initially thought it was “so violent and so much back where I had started, that I felt I’d screw up my karma if I did it,” Mr. Craven said in “The Directors - Take Three.”
When Miramax persisted, he relented and decided “to do one more to-the-wall horror film” with an opening scene scary and violent, reports “The Man and His Nightmares” book by John Wooley (John Wiley & Sons Inc., $16.95).
Thus the introduction and diabolical demise of Drew Barrymore’s character in what proved to be the launch of a franchise that has made more than half a billion dollars worldwide.
Kevin Williamson wrote “Scream” although Mr. Craven told Mr. Wooley, “This was not shot to be a slasher movie, really. Our approach was to do a thriller-whodunit, set among kids who were completely immersed in the world of slasher films.”
So when a stranger on the phone asks Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott if she likes scary movies, she scoffs and asks, “What’s the point?” They’re all the same, with a stupid killer stalking a big-breasted girl (who can’t even act) always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door.
In “Scream 4,” self-help author Sidney returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. She reconnects with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who are now married, as well as her cousin (played by Emma Roberts) and aunt (Mary McDonnell).
Her appearance triggers the return of Ghostface, putting everyone in Woodsboro in danger in the installment also written by Mr. Williamson and directed by Mr. Craven.
“Scream 4” was not screened for Pittsburgh critics for review, but here’s a look at the movie that opened the same day as “Beavis and Butt-head Do America,” the romcom “One Fine Day” starring George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer, and “My Fellow Americans” with James Garner and the late Jack Lemmon, and its sequels.
Release date: Dec. 20, 1996.
The verdict: Three stars out of four. “Wes Craven’s new movie is a satisfying thriller and a mean, witty spoof. ‘Scream’ straddles both sides of that fence until it leaps off for a twisty double-flip at the end.”
Notable for: Drew Barrymore plays a high school senior who is alone in the house when the phone rings (the sound is juiced to jangle our nerves) and a killer comes calling.
By late February 1997, “Scream” had become the top-grossing horror draw since “The Exorcist,” capitalizing on good word of mouth and the appeal of Ms. Barrymore, Ms. Campbell, Ms. Cox and Skeet Ulrich. It spawned three sequels not to mention countless Halloween costumes along with movie spoofs.
Fun fright: Ms. Barrymore’s character is making Jiffy Pop that blows its silver top while the killer watches and whacks her.
By the numbers: Budget was a reported $14 million and the final worldwide gross, according to Box Office Mojo, $173,046,663. That would be nearly $243 million in today’s dollars.
Release date: Dec. 12, 1997.
The verdict: Three stars. “The only thing that runs thicker than blood here is irony. ... Wes Craven, director of the first ‘Scream’ and the original ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ knows how to make fun of himself while he hacks at the limits of what a scary movie should be. One of the scariest scenes happens in broad daylight. The only thing that could use more slashing in this movie is the final bloodbath - it’s a couple of cliches too long.”
Notable for: Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps are in line to see “Stab,” a movie that opens with a murder much like the one with Ms. Barrymore. Ms. Pinkett Smith does a riff on how African-Americans never appear in horror movies and then the couple’s screen time proves short-lived.
Fun fright: Audience members watching “Stab” are dressed like the killer in “Scream,” complete with fake knives. Film students debate the pertinent topic of whether sequels are better than originals, and former WPXI newsman Dave Clark turns up as a reporter.
By the numbers: $24 million budget and $172,363,301 worldwide gross.
Release date: Feb. 4, 2000
The verdict: Three stars. No one saw a fourth movie coming, prompting this sign-off, “If ‘Scream’ was groundbreaking and ‘Scream 2’ took the genre to a new level, ‘Scream 3’ brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. It won’t keep you awake at night, but it won’t send you screaming into the night, either. You and the film franchise can finally rest in peace.”
Notable for: A video primer on “Scary Movies 101” left behind by a murdered film buff (Jamie Kennedy) reminds us of the finale rules, including how the past will come back to haunt everyone.
The filming of yet another movie about the Woodsboro murders is under way at a Hollywood studio where actors have been cast in all of the key roles, allowing Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey and Matt Keeslar to play the Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette characters of Sidney, Gale and Deputy Dewey.
Fun fright: Long before he put on his doctor duds, Patrick Dempsey turned up as a homicide detective with a film fascination, and some of the best scenes feature Gale and her on-screen counterpart trying to top the other.
By the numbers: Reported budget of $40 million and worldwide gross of $161,834,276.