S. Craig Zahler

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S. Craig Zahler
S. Craig Zahler.jpg
Born Steven Craig Zahler
(1973-01-23) January 23, 1973 (age 44)
Miami, Florida, United States
Other names Czar
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter, director, cinematographer, musician

S. Craig Zahler (born January 23, 1973) is an American film director, screenwriter, cinematographer, novelist and musician.

Life and career[edit]

Zahler has written novels in various genres, including western, crime and science fiction, and these works have received support from major award-winning names in both genre literature and film, most notably, Walter Hill, Kurt Russell, Larry Niven, Joe R. Lansdale and Jack Ketchum. His debut noir western novel, A Congregation of Jackals, was nominated for The Spur Award by the Western Writers of America and The Peacekeeper by the Western Fictioneers. Corpus Chrome, Inc., A Congregation of Jackals and Mean Business on North Ganson Street all received starred reviews for excellence in Booklist.[1]

As a drummer, lyricist and singer, Zahler (under his stage name Czar) collaborates with his longtime friend Jeff Herriott (as JH Halberd) to write and perform songs as the heavy metal band Realmbuilder, who have three albums on Swedish label I Hate Records.[2] This is following Zahler's foray into black metal with the project Charnel Valley, for which he played drums, wrote lyrics and shared songwriting duties with Worm. The two Charnel Valley albums were released by Paragon Records.[3]

Zahler also wrote the script for a 2011 horror film Asylum Blackout (also released as The Incident at Sans Asylum and The Incident), which was directed by Alexandre Courtès.[4]

In 2015, Zahler made his directorial debut, writing and directing the horror western Bone Tomahawk, which stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, David Arquette and Richard Jenkins.[5] The film was released on October 23, 2015, in theaters and on video on demand.

Bone Tomahawk received critical acclaim and won numerous awards. The film is 'Certified Fresh' by Rotten Tomatoes, where it has received positive reviews from 90% of critics.[6] The New York Times called it "[a] witty fusion of western, horror and comedy that gallops to its own beat",[7] while the LA Times said "There's a humming genre intelligence at work in the grim, witty horror-western Bone Tomahawk."[8] The Hollywood Reporter called it "[a] handsome Western with horror overtones",[9] and Variety described it as "...a most violent delight",[10] while Leonard Maltin said "[T]his modest feature leaves The Hateful Eight in the dust. It’s provocative, original, extremely violent and extremely good."[11] Twitch Film said "[Bone Tomahawk] succeeds in demonstrating the voice of its massively talented creator."[12] At the Sitges Film Festival Bone Tomahawk won the critic's award for "Best Picture", and Zahler was given the award for "Best Director". The Independent Spirit Awards nominated Richard Jenkins for "Best Supporting Actor" and S. Craig Zahler for "Best Screenplay". Kurt Russell won the "Best Actor" award at the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards.[citation needed]

Zahler's second feature film as writer, director, and co-composer was Brawl in Cell Block 99, which stars Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Udo Kier, and Don Johnson. This movie received its world premiere at the 74th Venice Film Festival in 2017.[13] Actors Fred Melamed and Geno Segers both returned from his debut, and were joined by Marc Blucas, Mustafa Shakir, Thomas Guiry, Willie C. Carpenter, and others.[citation needed]

Film projects[edit]

On June 22, 2006, Variety told that Zahler began his career at NYU film school as a cinematographer.[14] In 2004, he wrote six scripts, including a western that topped the prestigious Black List entitled as The Brigands of Rattleborge,[14] which Park Chan-wook was set to direct.[15]

On September 7, 2007, THR reported that Warner Bros. had acquired the film rights to the anime Robotech with Tobey Maguire attached to star in and produce the film, while Zahler was set to write the script.[16]

On March 25, 2011, Sony's Columbia Pictures has picked up the script of the film The Big Stone Grid, written by Zahler and produced by Michael De Luca.[17]

On September 5, 2012, it was announced that FX was developing a martial arts drama, Downtown Dragons, with Zahler set to write and executive produce.[18]

On October 30, 2012, Zahler was set to make his directorial debut with a horror western film Bone Tomahawk from his own script. Two years later, the picture went into production in California. The film stars Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins.[19]

On June 27, 2013, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights to his crime novel Mean Business on North Ganson Street. He will write the script of the film which is set to star Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx.[20]

In 2015, Zahler told Creative Screenwriting, "I’ve had maybe a minimum of 21 different screenplays optioned or sold, and not one of them was made in Hollywood. I had one [The Incident] made by a French company in Belgium, but the other 20 or more – and some of those have been optioned multiple times, I had a television series that was at FX that went to Starz that went to AMC – none of them have been made."[21]

On May 10, 2016, 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights to Zahler's western novel Wraiths of the Broken Land. The screenplay will be written by Drew Goddard and the film will be directed by Ridley Scott.[22]

On February 1, 2017, Variety confirmed that Zahler will direct Dragged Across Concrete, a film about police brutality. The film will star Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, who previously worked together in the former's 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge.[23]



Year Title Director Screenwriter Novel author Cinematographer Composer Notes
1995 August Roads Yes
1996 Warsaw Story Yes short film
1997 Lucia's Dream Yes
2003 Rooster Yes short film
2011 The Incident Yes also known as Asylum Blackout
2015 Bone Tomahawk Yes Yes Yes
2017 Brawl in Cell Block 99[25] Yes Yes Yes
2018 Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich[26] Yes
2018 Dragged Across Concrete[27] Yes Yes Yes


As a metal musician, Zahler is better known by his stage name Czar. As a soundtrack composer and in the synthesizer project Binary Reptile, he uses his real name.

Charnel Valley (Czar and Worm)

  • The Dark Archives (2005, Paragon Records)[28]
  • The Igneous Race (2007, Paragon Records)[29]

Realmbuilder (Czar and JH Halberd)

  • Summon the Stone Throwers (2009, I Hate Records)[30]
  • Fortifications of the Pale Architect (2011, I Hate Records)[31]
  • Blue Flame Cavalry (2013, I Hate Records)[32]

Jeff Herriott & S. Craig Zahler / Binary Reptile

  • Bone Tomahawk (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2015, Lakeshore Records)
  • Crawl Into the Narrow Caves (2017, Lakeshore Records)(as Binary Reptile)


  1. ^ S. Craig Zahler. "S. Craig Zahler". Goodreads. 
  2. ^ "Realmbuilder". metal-archives.com. 
  3. ^ "Charnel Valley". metal-archives.com. 
  4. ^ Leydon, Joe (2 October 2011). "Review: ‘The Incident’". variety.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Movie News - Movie Reviews - Entertainment Weekly". Entertainment Weekly's EW.com. 
  6. ^ "Bone Tomahawk". 
  7. ^ "Review: ‘Bone Tomahawk’ Is Western, Horror and Comedy". The New York Times. 22 October 2015. 
  8. ^ Abele, Robert. "Pokey, wry 'Bone Tomahawk' cuts to the core of quirky horror westerns". 
  9. ^ "'Bone Tomahawk': Fantastic Fest Review". 
  10. ^ Lodge, Guy (2 October 2015). "Film Review: Kurt Russell in ‘Bone Tomahawk’". 
  11. ^ Maltin, Leonard. "Never A Bad Time For A Good Western: Bone Tomahawk - IndieWire". 
  12. ^ Brown, Todd (4 October 2015). "Fantastic Fest 2015 Review: BONE TOMAHAWK Is One Of The Most Brutal Westerns Ever Put To Film". 
  13. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/sep/02/brawl-in-cell-block-99-review-vince-vaughn-venice-film-festival
  14. ^ a b Ross, Matthew (22 June 2006). "Craig Zahler early career". variety.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Sneider, Jeff (29 August 2012). "‘Oldboy’ helmer saddles up for ‘Brigands’". variety.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Maguire, WB attack the big screen with 'Robotech'". hollywoodreporter.com. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Kit, Borys (25 March 2011). "Columbia Picks Up Spec Script By S. Craig Zahler". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (5 September 2012). "FX Developing Martial Arts Drama Project". deadline.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  19. ^ Sneider, Jeff (30 October 2012). "S. Craig Zahler to direct ‘Bone Tomahawk’". variety.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (27 June 2013). "Warner Bros Acquires Craig Zahler Crime Novel As Re-Team Of ‘Django Unchained’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx". deadline.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Zacharias, Ramona (December 14, 2015). "Delivering the Beats: Bone Tomahawk". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved May 10, 2016. 
  22. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (May 10, 2016). "Ridley Scott, Drew Goddard, Fox & ‘The Martian’ Team Set ‘Wraiths Of The Broken Land’". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 30, 2016. 
  23. ^ McNary, Dave (1 February 2017). "Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn to Star in Movie About Police Brutality". Variety. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  24. ^ a b c d "Books by S. Craig Zahler". goodreads.com. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  25. ^ "‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ - production listing". Backstage. Retrieved October 30, 2016. 
  26. ^ Hipes, Patrick (May 2, 2016). "‘Puppet Master’ Reboot In Works With S. Craig Zahler Penning Script". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 30, 2016. 
  27. ^ Kit, Borys (February 1, 2017). "Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn Reteam for Thriller 'Dragged Across Concrete' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Charnel Valley - The Dark Archives - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". metal-archives.com. 
  29. ^ "Charnel Valley - The Igneous Race - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". metal-archives.com. 
  30. ^ "Realmbuilder - Summon the Stone Throwers - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". metal-archives.com. 
  31. ^ "Realmbuilder - Fortifications of the Pale Architect - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". metal-archives.com. 
  32. ^ "Realmbuilder - Blue Flame Cavalry - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". metal-archives.com. 

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