Corman in October 2012
|Born||Roger William Corman
April 5, 1926
Detroit, Michigan, US
|Occupation||Film director, producer, screenwriter and actor|
Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926) is an American film producer, director and actor. He has mostly worked on low-budget B movies. Much of Corman's work has an established critical reputation, such as his cycle of films adapted from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Admired by members of the French New Wave and Cahiers Du Cinema, Corman was the youngest filmmaker to have a retrospective at the Cinémathèque Française, as well as the British Film Institute and the Museum of Modern Art. In 2009, he was awarded an Honorary Academy Award.
Corman has occasionally taken minor acting roles in the films of directors who started with him, including The Silence of the Lambs, The Godfather Part II, Apollo 13, The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and Philadelphia. A documentary about Corman's life and career entitled Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel premiered at Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals in 2011, directed by Alex Stapleton. The film's TV rights were picked up by A&E IndieFilms after a well-received screening at Sundance.
Corman was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Anne (née High) and William Corman, an engineer. His brother, Eugene Harold "Gene" Corman, has also produced numerous films, sometimes in collaboration with Roger. Corman and his brother were baptized in their mother's Catholic faith. Corman went to Beverly Hills High School and then to Stanford University to study industrial engineering. While at Stanford, Corman enlisted in the V-12 Navy College Training Program. After the end of World War II, Corman returned to Stanford and received a degree in industrial engineering. In 1948, he worked briefly at U.S. Electrical Motors on Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles, but his career in engineering lasted only four days; he began work on Monday and quit on Thursday, telling his boss "I've made a terrible mistake."
More interested in film, Corman found work at 20th Century Fox initially in the mail room. He worked his way up to a story reader. The one property that he liked the most and provided ideas for was filmed as The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck. When Corman received no credit at all he left Fox and decided he would work in film by himself. Under the GI Bill, Corman studied English Literature at Oxford University. He then returned to Los Angeles, beginning his film career in 1953 as a producer and screenwriter, then started directing films in 1955.
Corman began to direct films in the mid-1950s, including Swamp Women (1955). In his early period, he produced up to nine movies a year. His fastest film was perhaps The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), which was reputedly shot in two days and one night. Supposedly, he had made a bet that he could shoot an entire feature film in less than three days. Another version of the story claims that he had a set rented for a month, and finished using it with three days to spare, thus pushing him to use the set to make a new film. (This is a variation of the story behind 1963's The Terror, much of which was filmed in two leftover days with Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson, after The Raven, which featured them both, wrapped with two days to spare.)
In addition to producing and directing films for American International Pictures (AIP), Corman also partially funded other low-budget films released by other film companies. In 1959, Corman founded Filmgroup with his brother Gene, a company producing or releasing low-budget black-and-white films as double features for drive-ins and action houses. Finding that black-and-white double features were not as successful as colour films, Corman returned to AIP, and Filmgroup ceased operation in 1962.
The Edgar Allan Poe adaptations
Corman's greatest acclaim as a director came with his Edgar Allan Poe cycle released between 1959 and 1964. Based on the works of Poe, made through American International Pictures and mostly in collaboration with writer/scenarist Richard Matheson, the series of eight films comprises House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). All but The Premature Burial starred Vincent Price. Other Poe films got made at AIP in the late 1960s and early 1970s directed by other filmmakers with Price in starring roles.
Corman also worked with set designer Daniel Haller and cinematographer Floyd Crosby on the series. Others who joined him include cinematographer Nicolas Roeg (on Masque), writers Robert Towne and Charles Beaumont, and actors Ray Milland, Basil Rathbone, Hazel Court, Barbara Steele, Debra Paget, and Peter Lorre. After The Raven was completed, Corman reportedly realized that he still had some shooting days left before the sets were torn down and so made another film, The Terror (1963), on the spot with the remaining cast, crew and sets.
He also directed one of William Shatner's earliest appearances in a lead role with The Intruder (a.k.a. The Stranger, 1962). Based on a novel by Charles Beaumont, the film, made for approximately US$80,000, is known for its treatment of segregation and civil rights.
The late 1960s saw Corman and his films give a voice to the counter-culture of the time. In 1966, Corman made the first biker movie with The Wild Angels. It starred Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra and opened the 1966 Venice Film Festival. In 1967, The Trip, written by Jack Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda, began the psychedelic film craze of the late 1960s and was the American entry at Cannes that year. Joan Didion said she went to see The Wild Angels because "there on the screen was some news I was not getting from the New York Times. I began to think I was seeing ideograms of the future."
In 1970, Corman founded New World Pictures which became a small independently-owned production/distribution studio, making many cult films such as Women in Cages (1971), Death Race 2000 (1975), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Children of the Corn (1984), and the Joe Dante film Piranha (1978). Corman's distribution side of New World brought many foreign films to mass audiences in the United States for the first time, including the works of Ingmar Bergman, François Truffaut, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa. In a ten-year period, New World Pictures won more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film than all other studios combined. Corman eventually sold New World to an investment group in 1983 and later formed Concorde Pictures and New Horizons. Corman's penultimate film as director was Von Richthofen and Brown (1971). Corman had always wanted to make an aviation movie, having enjoyed piloting model planes as a young boy. He then returned to directing once more with Frankenstein Unbound (1990). In total, Roger Corman has produced over 300 movies and directed more than 50.
In 2009, Corman produced and directed alongside director Joe Dante the web series "Splatter" for Netflix. The protagonist of the film is portrayed by Corey Feldman, and the story talks of the haunting tale of rock-and-roll legend Johnny Splatter. He also started contributing trailer commentaries to Dante's web series Trailers From Hell.
Corman produced the 2010 films Dinoshark and Dinocroc vs. Supergator for the Syfy cable television channel. Dinoshark premiered on March 13, 2010. Sharktopus, a Syfy production, premiered in September 2010.
Corman lives and works in Southern California and has four children.
Remembrances and awards
His autobiography, titled How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (ISBN 0-306-80874-9), documents his experiences in the film industry.
In 1998, he won the first Producer's Award ever given by the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2006, Corman received the David O. Selznick Award from the Producers Guild of America. Also in 2006, his film Fall of the House of Usher was among the twenty-five movies selected for the National Film Registry, a compilation of significant films being preserved by the Library of Congress.
In 2010, Corman was inducted into the Beverly Hills High School Hall of Fame.
In 2012, Corman was honored with the Filmmaker on the Edge Award at the Provincetown International Film Festival.
"The Corman Film School"
A number of noted film directors worked with Corman, usually early in their careers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Armondo Linus Acosta, Paul Bartel, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, Gale Anne Hurd, Carl Colpaert, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Monte Hellman, George Armitage, Jonathan Kaplan, George Hickenlooper, Curtis Hanson, Jack Hill, Robert Towne, Michael Venzor and Timur Bekmambetov. Many have said that Corman's influence taught them some of the ins-and-outs of filmmaking. In the extras for the DVD of The Terminator, director James Cameron asserts, "I trained at the Roger Corman Film School." The British director Nicolas Roeg served as the cinematographer on The Masque of the Red Death. Cameron, Coppola, Demme, Hanson, Howard and Scorsese have all gone on to win Academy Awards. Howard was reportedly told by Corman, "If you do a good job on this film, you'll never have to work for me again."
Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, Sandra Bullock, and Robert De Niro. David Carradine, who received one of his first starring film roles in the Corman-produced Boxcar Bertha (1972) and went on to star in Death Race 2000, later noted to Beverly Gray, author of Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers: "It's almost as though you can’t have a career in this business without having passed through Roger's hands for at least a moment."
Many of Corman's protegés have rewarded him with cameos in their films, including The Godfather Part II, The Silence of the Lambs, Apollo 13, and as recently as Demme's 2008 film Rachel Getting Married.
The IMDB credits Corman with 55 directed films and some 385 produced films from 1954 through 2008, many as un-credited producer or executive producer (consistent with his role as head of his own New World Pictures from 1970 through 1983). Corman also has significant credits as writer and actor.
In 2010, Roger Corman teamed up with Shout! Factory to release new DVD and Blu-ray editions of Corman productions under the name Roger Corman's Cult Classics. The releases have concentrated on 1970–1980s films he produced through New World rather than directed. These titles include Rock 'n' Roll High School, Death Race 2000, Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World and Piranha, with additional titles continuing to be released.
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- "See a Gruesome Advance Clip from Splatter". DreadCentral.
- "Roger Corman". Trailers From Hell. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
- "Sharktopus Plot Details and Dinoshark Image Revealed!".
- "SyFy Offers a Sneak Peek at Dinoshark in Action!".
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- Allen, Nick (November 15, 2009). "Lauren Bacall receives Oscar". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
- "A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss – Q&A with Mark Gatiss". BBC. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
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- ""Roger Corman on The Blair Witch Project and why Mean Streets would have made a great blaxploitation film. Interview by Andrew J. Rausch."". Imagesjournal.com. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
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- "Rachel Getting Married full cast list". imdb. Retrieved August 8, 2010.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Roger Corman.|
- Official website biography at New Horizons Pictures
- Roger Corman interview at DBCult Film Institute
- Roger Corman bibliography (via UC Berkeley)
- Roger Corman at the Internet Movie Database
- Roger Corman biography on (re)Search my Trash
- Roger Corman at Senses of Cinema
- Roger Corman 1974 Interview
- 2011 radio interview at The Bat Segundo Show
- New Horizons company website