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.