Wes Craven, Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream director, dies at 76 | Film | The Guardian
Veteran Hollywood horror director, who made the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream film franchises, dies after being diagnosed with brain cancer


Wes Craven, veteran writer and director of some of Hollywood’s most famous successful film franchises, has died at the age of 76.
The director of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream died on Sunday night at his Los Angeles home after being diagnosed with brain cancer, the Hollywood Reporter confirmed.

Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and directed his first feature film, The Last House on the Left, in 1972 following a master’s degree in philosophy and writing at Johns Hopkins University and an early career in teaching.

With 1982’s Swamp Thing, Craven moved into directing big-budget films, and had a huge hit when he wrote and directed A Nightmare on Elm Street two years later.

The popularity of the film and its terrifying antogonist Freddy Kreuger established Craven’s reputation as a director of the teen slashers, able to blend gore with wry humour and create memorable film villains.

His mantle as the king of horror continued throughout the 90s, with his Scream franchise setting the tone for numerous imitators. Scream took $173m in worldwide box office takings, with its 1997 sequel falling just short of half a million in matching its predecessor.

Craven only occasionally strayed from the horror genre, including the sentimental Music of the Heart starring Meryl Streep, and his 2005 psychological thriller Red Eye.

Director of Bridesmaids and the Ghostbusters reboot Paul Feig tweeted his respects, calling Craven “one of a kind” and thanking him for “all the years of scares and fun”. Leigh Whannell, co-creator of the blockbuster horror film franchise Saw, tweeted: “any horror fan says goodbye to Wes Craven with a heavy heart. He gifted my generation with so many memories”.

Craven was remembered for uncovering fresh talent, casting a relatively unknown Johnny Depp for A Nightmare on Elm Street and is credited with giving Sharon Stone (Deadly Blessing, 1981) and Bruce Willis (an episode of The Twilight Zone) their first featured roles.

In a 2014 interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Craven said he was amazed by A Nightmare on Elm Street’s longevity in popular culture. He reflected on his life and career, including leaving graduate school having only seen “maybe three films in the theatre” due to his strict religious upbringing.

His move to a small town in upstate New York, where he frequented an art theatre that showed European films, set him on a new career course. “It just knocked me off my chair, the imagination and everything … guys like Bergman and Fellini really appealed to me and the idea of film-making just somehow rang my bell,” he said.

Craven is survived by his wife, Iya Labunka, a film producer and production manager. The pair were married in 2004 and worked together on 2011’s Scream 4. He has two children, Jonathan and Jessica Craven, from his first marriage to Bonnie Broecker. He also has a stepdaughter, Nina Tarnawsky.