He was the true master of horror, his name so synonymous with the genre that few knew he helped Meryl Streep to one of her many Oscar nominations.
Wes Craven won many battles to get his work on the silver screen, but there was one battle he couldn’t win: brain cancer, which claimed his life Sunday. He was 76.
His “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in 1984 would help redefine the horror generation. Made for a scant $1.8 million, the film would earn more than 25 times that at the box office, and make Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger a household name.
Craven reportedly got the idea for the film after reading reports in the Los Angeles Times about people in Cambodia dying in the middle of what was described as horrific nightmares, according to Internet Movie Database. He wrote the script in 1981, but no one would pick it up. New Line Cinema, which was at the brink of bankruptcy, decided to take the chance — and the film was the primary reason why the studio would live on to create later films, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Englund shared his thoughts on the passing of Craven on Monday, calling him a “brilliant, kind, gentle and very funny man.”
RIP Wes Craven, my director, my friend. A brilliant, kind, gentle and very funny man. A sad day on Elm St and everywhere. I’ll miss him.
— Robert B. Englund (@RobertBEnglund) August 31, 2015
Wesley Earl Craven was born Aug. 2, 1939 in Cleveland. He would get his first screenwriting credit in 1972 for “The Last House on the Left.” He followed it up in 1977 with “The Hills Have Eyes” and its 1984 sequel, “The Hills Have Eyes II.”
Although more Nightmare on Elm Street films would be created after the 1984 hit, Craven wouldn’t be directly involved again until 1994’s “New Nightmare,” which tried to merge alter-egos of the actors involved in the films with the Freddy Krueger storyline.
Craven would solidify himself as a horror director in 1996 when he helmed a reinvention and deconstruction of the genre in “Scream.” He would return to direct three sequels, including his last director credit, “Scream 4” in 2011.
Craven is survived by his wife of 11 years, Iya Labunka, and two children, Jonathan Craven and Jessica Craven.