He was an American film director, writer, producer, and actor known for his work on horror films, particularly slasher films.
He was best known for creating the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise featuring the Freddy Krueger character, directed the first installment and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and also co-wrote A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors with Bruce Wagner.
Craven also directed all four films in the Scream series featuring Ghostface. Some of his other films include The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The People Under the Stairs,
Vampire in Brooklyn, Cursed, Red Eye and My Soul to Take. Craven died of brain cancer on August 30, 2015.
Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Caroline (née Miller) and Paul Eugene Craven.
He was raised in a strict Baptist family. Craven earned an undergraduate degree in English and Psychology from Wheaton College in Illinois and a master’s degree in Philosophy and Writing from Johns Hopkins University.
Craven briefly taught English at Westminster College and was a humanities professor at Clarkson College of Technology (now Clarkson University) in Potsdam, New York. His first job in the film industry was as a sound editor for a post-production company in New York City.
Craven left the academic world for the more lucrative role of pornographic film director.
In the documentary Inside Deep Throat, Craven says on camera he made “many hard core X-rated films” under pseudonyms.
While his role in Deep Throat is undisclosed, most of his early known work involved writing, film editing or both. In 1972 Wes Craven directed his first feature film The Last House on the Left.
Craven frequently collaborated with Sean S. Cunningham. In Craven’s debut feature, The Last House on the Left, Cunningham served as producer.
Later, in Craven’s most famous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cunningham directed one of the chase scenes, although uncredited.
Their infamous characters, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, appeared together in the 2003 slasher film Freddy vs. Jason with Cunningham acting as producer, while screenwriter Victor Miller is credited as “Character
Creator”. Later, in The Last House on the Left remake, both Cunningham and Craven share production credits.
Craven had a major hand in launching superstar Johnny Depp’s career by casting him in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Depp’s first major film role.
Although known for directing horror/thriller films, he had worked on two that were outside this genre: the 1999 film Music of the Heart, and as one of the 22 directors in the 2006 collaboration Paris, je t’aime.
Craven created Coming of Rage, a five-issue comic book series, with 30 Days of Night comic book writer Steve Niles.
The series was released in digital form in 2014 by Liquid Comics with a print edition scheduled for an October 2015 debut.
Craven’s first marriage to Bonnie Broecker produced two children, Jonathan Craven (born 1965) and Jessica Craven (born 1968).
Jonathan is a writer and director with a few credits to his name. Jessica was a singer/songwriter in the group the Chapin Sisters.
The marriage ended in 1970. In 1982, Craven married Millicent Eleanor Meyer. However, the two divorced.
Craven stated in interviews that the marriage dissolved after he discovered it “was no longer anything but a sham.” In 2004, Craven married Iya Labunka.
She frequently worked as a producer on Craven’s films.
Craven was a birder. In 2010 he became a member of Audubon California’s Board of Directors.
His favorite films included Night of the Living Dead, The Virgin Spring and Red River. On August 30, 2015, Craven died of brain cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 76 years old.