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Wes Craven, Hollywood Horror Master, Dead at 76

The film director, famous for ”Nightmare on Elm Street,“ the ”Scream“ movies and many others, had brain cancer

Master of the modern horror film Wes Craven died on Sunday, his family announced. He was 76 and had battled brain cancer.

Craven, the artist behind “Nightmare on Elm Street,” the “Scream” movie series and many other modern horror masterpieces, remade the genre in contemporary film.

Craven reinvented the youth horror genre in 1984 with the classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” a film he wrote and directed that starred a then-unknown Johnny Depp. He conceived and co-wrote “A Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors” as well.

Then after an absence of three more sequels, he deconstructed the genre a decade after the original, writing and directing the audacious “Wes Craven‘s New Nightmare,” which was nominated as Best Feature at the 1995 Independent Spirit Awards.

In 1996, Craven reached a new level of success with the release of “Scream.” The film, which sent up horror conventions even as it paid homage to them sparked a wildly successful trilogy for Bob Weinstein‘s Dimension Films. The original won MTV’s 1996 Best Movie Award and grossed more than $100 million domestically, as did “Scream 2.”

In a statement Weinstein said: “I am heartbroken at the news of Wes Craven‘s passing.  We enjoyed a 20 year professional relationship and more importantly a warm and close friendship.  He was a consummate filmmaker and his body of work will live on forever. My brother and I are eternally grateful for all his collaborations with us.  Our deepest sympathy to his family.”

Between “Scream 2” and “Scream 3,” Craven directed “Music of the Heart” in 1999, a film that earned its star Meryl Streep an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

Creatively engaged and working until the end, Craven had recently signed an overall television deal with Universal Cable Productions (UCP) and had a number of television projects in development, including “The People Under the Stairs” with Syfy Networks, “Disciples” with UCP, “We Are All Completely Fine” with Syfy / UCP, and “Sleepers” with Federation Entertainment.

He was also executive producing the new “Scream” series for MTV. Craven had recently written and was to direct the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” segment for The Weinstein Company / WGN’s “Ten Commandments” television miniseries.

The following statement was released:

It is with deep sadness we inform you that Wes Craven passed away at 1PM on Sunday, August 30 after battling brain cancer.   He was 76 years old.  Craven was surrounded by love, in the presence of his family at his Los Angeles home.

Craven is survived by his wife, producer and former Disney Studios VP Iya Labunka, older sister Carol Buhrow, son Jonathan Craven with wife Rachel Craven and their two sons Miles and Max; daughter Jessica Craven with husband Mike Wodkowski and their daughter Myra-Jean Wodkowski; and Wes’ stepdaughter Nina Tarnawksy.  Craven was predeceased by his parents Paul Eugene Craven, a machinist who passed away when Wes was 5 years old, his mother Caroline, a bookkeeper; and his older brother Paul James Craven.

One of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, Craven was also a nature lover and committed bird conservationist, serving as a long-time member of the Audubon California Board of Directors.  He was born in Cleveland, OH on August 2nd, 1939.  Craven was a longtime summer resident of Martha’s Vineyard where he moved permanently 3 years ago before returning to Los Angeles for work and health reasons.

In addition Craven continued to be active as a mentor and producer to newer filmmakers, and is an Executive Producer of the upcoming feature film “The Girl in the Photographs” which will premiere at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival.

Craven pushed the genre boundaries with the 2005 psychological thriller, “Red Eye,” starring Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy and Brian Cox. And in 2006 he deftly wrote and directed a romantic comedy homage to Oscar Wilde featuring Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell as a segment in the French ensemble production, “Paris Je T’aime.”

Following this, Craven produced remakes of two of his earlier films for his genre fans, “The Hills Have Eyes” (2006) and “The Last House on the Left” (2009). Craven’s most recent written and directed film, “My Soul To Take” (2010), once again brought together a cast of up-and-coming young teens, and marked Craven’s first collaboration with wife and producer Iya Labunka, who also produced “Scream 4,” which reunited Craven with Kevin Williamson, as well as with stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, not to mention newcomers Emma Roberts and Hayden Pannetierre.