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Directors Who Matter - Wes Craven

By ANTHONY C. FERRANTE     January 08, 2006

Age: 66

Most Recent Film: Red-Eye

Best Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Most Underrated Film: The Serpent and the Rainbow

Highest Grossing Film: Scream

Did You Know: He is an avid birdwatcher.

Why He Matters: He's truly a master of suspense but also takes major risks with his career, whether it's helming the drama Music from the Heart or trying horror comedy with A Vampire in Brooklyn. Craven has also had a knack for mixing things up and reinventing the genre every decade or so (and without him and his financial homerun Scream series, horror wouldn't be back in the big way that it is now).

Wes Craven has tackled all manners of the horror genre, so was surprising that he's never helmed a psychological thriller -- which is why he jumped at the chance when DreamWorks offered him Red-Eye.

"I've spoken to the press for years of wanting to expand a bit, and a thriller was the most likely avenue that would be afforded to me," says Craven. "And Red-Eye was extremely well written, it had interesting characters, and it was ready to go. So I virtually said yes, and we started pre-production."

"It's very tension filled, and a quite remarkable progression of the characters," says Craven. "She ultimately has to make a decision where she's dealing with the devil and a lot of her naiveté and idealism have to be put aside."

According to Craven, the trick in marketing Red-Eye was letting the public know this is not a horror movie, although the initial trailers made it seem more along the horror vein of Craven's earlier work.

Working on Red-Eye was a refreshing change of pace for Craven, who previously worked for two years plus on the Dimension werewolf pic Cursed, which proved to be just that (the movie was nearly reshot and the ending reworked several times before it was released earlier this spring to very little fanfare).

"So much of what happened seemed arbitrary and without any justification to the extent it hurt the studio as much as it hurt me," says Craven. "I certainly feel I wasted two years of my life. It robbed them of a really good ghost story -- which would have been Pulse that they pulled the plug on the last week before shooting -- and put us on Cursed which had all sorts of script problems and ended up costing them an arm and a leg to make. At the very end, they changed it again, cutting it to a PG-13 and essentially gutting it before it went out to the public. It was completely baffling to me."

Nonetheless, Craven has seen the genre's highs and lows over the years and feels that horror has come full circle since its last big heyday in the mid '80s.

"It's cyclical," says Craven. "Right before we got the money to make A Nightmare on Elm Street, everyone thought horror was dead. Horror had run its course, and people didn't want any more of it. It's one of the reasons it took three years to get funding for it. Nightmare came out and it took off like a bat out of hell, followed by a lot of other pictures. I wasn't able to find any societal correlation there, but certainly times like these are a time of great anxiety, and in times like these certainly young people need that outlet from things like horror movies." One thing Craven has always been grateful for is that he's never had to worry about a lag between projects.

"Knocking on wood, I could be working all the time if I wanted to," says Craven. "Whether I would be working at things I felt were steps in the certain direction is another matter. I think I can always be doing horror, until I have two or three clunkers in a row."

For now, Craven is hoping to have his own career come full circle by returning to writing and directing, something he hasn't done in years.

"I'm tired of directing other people's scripts," he admits, adding that while Red-Eye was a great script, great scripts don't come along too often. "It's very difficult to have your own particular voice if you're dealing with a script that a studio has a vested interest in. They have the ultimate say of what goes into it. I would like to do one more kick ass horror film that completely changes the genre for another ten years or so, but it would require me to go off and write." He points out, however, that finding the time to go off and write is difficult while running a company.

"I think some day, I'll have done enough and have enough money in the bank to go off and make some mistakes -- which is making small films that don't necessarily make a lot of money," Craven adds.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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rveguilla 1/8/2006 10:39:32 PM
Ultrazilla, you really want to argue that Wes Craven is a better director than John Carpenter, based on the fact that he helped create Freddy Krugger? I don't mean to say that Craven is a bad director, but quite frankly, I don't think he is in the same league as Carpenter. Anyway, it is me or this "Directors Who Matter" serie is just a joke? Spielberg clearly belongs in that category and Burton seems to be moving in that direction, but George Lucas? Michael Bay, Wes Craven? Why do they matter? Because they made several successful films? Because they are famous as their movies? Why not change the name of the article to "Famouse Directors Who Made Several Blockbuster Movies"? The last time George Lucas mattered as a director was 1977. At least I would have expected a list of significant contributions to the art of filmmaking and to cinema in general. Instead we get one paragraph arguing why Wes Craven is a director that matter (Because he "is truly a master of suspense but also takes major risks with his career"... WOW?!?) and the rest is just marketing for his latest movie. The same with all the other articles in this serie. Sorry for the rant, but I expected much more from Cinescape, and even more considering this was "written" by an "Editor-in-Chief".
coldhardtruth 1/8/2006 11:26:10 PM
George Lucas directed the Star Wars prequels, which combined together made almost $2.5 BILLION worldwide. I'd say he matters now. Combine that with the $800 million that Star Wars: A New Hope made, and I think its safe to say George Lucas definately matters. How many other directors can even compete with the sheer amount of money just four of his movies have made?!? Oh, yeah, none. And if stellar box office reciepts don't matter, George Lucas completely revolutionalized special effects and filmmaking in a way few have. rveguilla, you are full of crap.
coldhardtruth 1/9/2006 7:35:58 PM
A Simple Plan is a great movie everyone should see! Who cares about Carpenter? I don't, because I like watching movies that were made in the last decade, and the Halloween movies are just silly.
lracors 1/10/2006 8:41:23 AM
This is one director that I totally disagree with. I don't sit around going... man I feel like a Wes Craven film... sorry but I don't. Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, and Stanley Kubrick are some of the directors that when I see their name attached to a project or film I immediately say, "Oh... that is probably good then." Between Craven and Carpenter. I would rather watch Carpenter's older films like just about everything daforce3 mentioned except for "The Fog" just plain awful that film was. The rest solid horror.
domino4 1/12/2006 7:09:35 PM
Being a Wes Craven fan, it is good to see that he is making a good thriller like "Red Eye". I also wonder when he will adapt his novel "Fountain Society." Craven has a unique visual eye for thrillers. I like John Carpenter and Tim Burton too, but honestly don't you think that if you list their films side by side there are at least five or six that really stand out. Because he created the "Nighmare" series and because Carpenter brought "Halloween" to life, they will continue working. Each director has his own strong point. I will continue to see a Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and Tim Burton movie. One is not better than the other. They are all good directors. Even Spielberg has made crappy films (see "Hook" or Jurassic Park 2"), the point I am trying to make is that I'm glad there was an article written on Craven and after seeing "Red Eye", I hope he gets to write and direct a great thriller and I hope Rachel McAdams plays the female lead- she's HOT!!
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