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Tom Savini

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Tom Savini
Savini in 2014
Thomas Vincent Savini

(1946-11-03) November 3, 1946 (age 77)
  • Actor
  • prosthetic makeup artist
  • film director
  • stunt performer
Years active1974–present

Thomas Vincent Savini (born November 3, 1946[1]) is an American prosthetic makeup artist, actor, stunt performer and film director. He is known for his makeup and special effects work on many films directed by George A. Romero, including Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Creepshow, and Monkey Shines; he also created the special effects and makeup for many cult classics like Friday the 13th (parts I and IV), Maniac, The Burning, The Prowler, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Savini directed Night of the Living Dead, the 1990 remake of Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead;[2] his other directing work includes three episodes of the TV show Tales from the Darkside and one segment in The Theatre Bizarre. As an actor and stuntman, he has appeared in films such as Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Knightriders, From Dusk till Dawn, Planet Terror, Machete, Django Unchained, and Machete Kills.

Early life


Savini was born on November 3, 1946, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is of Italian descent.[3] He was raised Catholic and graduated from Central Catholic High School. As a boy, his inspiration was actor Lon Chaney Sr., and Savini attributes his earliest desires to create makeup effects to Chaney and the film Man of a Thousand Faces.[4]

Experimenting with whatever medium he could find, the young Savini practiced creating makeup effects on himself, later convincing his friends to let him practice his craft on them. He also discovered another passion, acting. Combining his makeup applications and homemade costumes, he especially enjoyed scaring his friends. Savini attended Point Park University for three years, before enlisting in the United States Army. After his tour in Vietnam, he attended Carnegie-Mellon University,[5] as the first undergraduate to be awarded a full fellowship in the acting and directing program. He appeared in stage productions throughout college and continued on stage long after his tour of duty in Vietnam.

Savini served as a combat photographer during the Vietnam War.[6] In a 2002 interview, he told the Pittsburgh Post "When I was in Vietnam I was a combat photographer. My job was to shoot images of damage to machines and to people. Through my lens, I saw some hideous [stuff]. To cope with it, I guess I tried to think of it as special effects. Now, as an artist, I just think of creating the effect within the limitations we have to deal with."[6] He continued to practice with makeup in Vietnam, often frightening indigenous peasants by appearing to suddenly transform into a "monster".

Using the lens of his camera, Savini separated himself from the real life horrors of war;[7] however, all the images still haunted his mind. Savini said his wartime experiences influenced his eventual style of gory effects: "I hated that when I watched a war movie and someone dies. Some people die with one eye open and one eye half-closed, sometimes people die with smiles on their faces because the jaw is always slack. I incorporated the feeling of the stuff I saw in Vietnam into my work."[8]

In 1970, while on guard duty, a flare was triggered in the jungle area Savini was watching. Against military protocol, Savini fired into the bush without informing his superiors. Other soldiers likewise began firing until a duck wandered from the bush completely unharmed. Due to his failure to follow orders, Savini was taken off guard duty from his bunker on the following evening. That same evening, the bunker came under attack and several soldiers were wounded or killed. As a result of this incident, Savini earned the nickname "Duck Slayer" and to this day will not eat duck.[9]

Among the many talents Savini achieved as a young man was the art of fencing; he is a tournament fencer as well as an accomplished gymnast.[10] Much of his stunt work and some of his characters reflect these graceful abilities; however, he is also accomplished with a bull whip and can easily execute a motorcycle stunt. Many of his characters have been bikers or madmen who are hardened and eerily evil.



Savini is primarily known for his groundbreaking work in the field of special make-up effects, also known as prosthetic makeup.[11] His signature style and techniques bring vivid realism to genre films. Early in Savini's career, Dick Smith became an inspiration and a guide, later becoming an associate at Savini's Special Make-up Effects Program. Among other projects, Smith is known for his groundbreaking work in The Exorcist.

Savini got his breakthrough working with Pittsburgh filmmaker George A. Romero, providing a convincing wrist-slashing effect in the opening scenes of Martin (1978). The following year, working with a larger budget on Dawn of the Dead, Savini created his signature palette of severed limbs and bite-marks. In the 1980 slasher film Friday the 13th, Savini expanded his repertoire of blood and gore.[12] He continued to perfect those techniques in another film that year, Maniac.[13]

Along with the 1981 films The Burning and The Prowler, Savini earned the nickname "The Sultan of Splatter". In 1982, he created more traditional horror effects in the film Creepshow directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King. In 1984, he agreed to work on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, where he killed his creation Jason Voorhees. Returning to the zombie genre in 1985, Savini was nominated and won the 1985 Saturn Award for Best Makeup Effects for his work on the Romero's Day of the Dead. In 1986, Savini worked with director Tobe Hooper on the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Savini has also worked on films by Italian director Dario Argento, first in 1990 on the film Two Evil Eyes and again on the 1993 film Trauma. In the 1991 film Heartstopper, he created special effects for director John A. Russo. Although focusing more on his acting career in recent years, Savini has continued to be active with special makeup effects and in 2011 supervised the effects for the Australian film Redd Inc.

As an actor, Savini has appeared in many of the same films he was creating effects for. His first appearance was a relatively straight, innocuous character in Martin in 1978; however, he played a menacing biker called Blades in his next film Dawn of the Dead (1978), a role he reprised in zombie form with a cameo appearance in the 2005 continuation of the series, Land of the Dead. In the 1980 film Maniac, his brief role in the film found him facing the maniac's shotgun and having his head blown off in a spectacular display. Savini had a more prominent role as biker and antagonist Morgan, the Black Knight, in George A. Romero's Knightriders (1981).[13] Continuing with the biker theme, Savini played the universally recognized, whip-wielding, vampire-fighting biker "Sex Machine" in the 1996 Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk till Dawn.[14]

Tom Savini in 2007

In 2007, Savini had a role in Planet Terror, one of two stories in the Grindhouse film, directed by Robert Rodriguez. Savini plays Deputy Tolo, who fights to save his town from an infestation of zombie-like creatures. In another Rodriguez film, Machete,[15] based on a fake movie trailer played during the film Grindhouse, Savini played Osiris Amanpour, hired to track and kill the protagonist Machete. Savini reprised his role in the sequel, Machete Kills.

Throughout the years, Savini has appeared in movie roles from cameos as the vampire David Van Etten in Lost Boys: The Tribe;as the sheriff in the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake; or tongue in cheek characters like Jesus Christ in Zombiegeddon (2003).

In 2006, Savini essayed the role of Prester John, the mythical villain in the dreamlike Sea of Dust. That year also saw the release of Johannes Roberts' Forest of the Damned, in which Savini played a mad hermit surrounded by angels cast from heaven. In 2008, he made a brief appearance in Zack & Miri Make a Porno as a thieving slumlord. He also appeared in The Dead Matter, along with Andrew Divoff and Jim O'Rear. Savini voiced himself on The Simpsons episode "Worst Episode Ever": While making an appearance at Android's Dungeon, Savini performs the "Gutbuster" gag, covering the crowd in "blood and guts" and consequently humiliating the Comic Book Guy. In 2012, Savini appeared as a shop teacher, Mr. Callahan, in the Pittsburgh-set teen drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower, starring Logan Lerman. Savini also appeared as one of the Trackers in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Future projects include Savini starring in the Nazi zombie film The 4th Reich directed by Shaun Robert Smith, playing the role of SS-Standartenführer Oskar Dirlewanger.[16]

As a film director, Savini helmed episodes of the syndicated television series Tales from the Darkside, the aforementioned 1990 color remake of Night of the Living Dead; and Housecall, the pilot of the proposed series The Chill Factor, which starred Pittsburgh actor Bingo O'Malley. In 2011, he directed "Wet Dreams", one of six segments to the horror film The Theatre Bizarre. In 2009, Savini announced his plan to direct a new film, Death Island, with special make-up effects by his former protege Greg Nicotero.[17] On September 1, 2013, Savini began a crowd funding project on Indiegogo for Death Island. His plans were to begin filming by the end of 2013.[18]

In the 2008 novel Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry, Savini appears as one of the real-world horror celebrities who are in the fictional town of Pine Deep when monsters attack; other celebrities include James Gunn, Jim O'Rear, Brinke Stevens, Ken Foree, Stephen Susco, Debbie Rochon, Joe Bob Briggs and blues man Mem Shannon.[19][20][21][22][23]

Savini also briefly took part in Jerry Lawler's 2010 revival of the Memphis Wrestling pro wrestling television show. His on-screen character sent horror-movie monsters (played by wrestlers from the Memphis area) onto the show to get revenge for Savini who blamed Lawler for the death of Savini's friend Andy Kaufman; the monsters' handler was manager "Hollywood" Jimmy Blaylock.

In 2012, American filmmaker Jason Baker debuted a biography of Savini entitled Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini.[24]

He stated during a Q&A with fans that the hardest movie he has ever worked on was Creepshow because it was "5 movies in 1".[25]

In 2018, Savini announced via his Instagram that he would be directing a horror web series, in collaboration with others, including Tina Romero, George A. Romero's daughter. Special effects for the web series will be completed by Savini's students at Douglas Education Center.[26] The web series is currently in production.[27]

In May 2019, Slipknot lead singer and frontman Corey Taylor said in an interview[28] that Tom Savini worked to produce and create his new masks for the upcoming We Are Not Your Kind album and subsequent tour cycles. Around the same time, Savini was approached by wrestler Bray Wyatt to design the mask for his brand new "Fiend" character.[29]

FX education


Savini runs the Tom Savini's Special Make-Up Effects Program[30] at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, Pennsylvania. Savini is happy to say that he refers offers he receives for movie make-up effects projects to his students and graduates of his school as well.[31]

Savini is the author of several books on special effects including Grande Illusions I and II (1983, 1994) which detail the production and mechanical workings of many of his famous film effects.[32] In Horror F/X, a 1989 direct-to-video interview conducted by frequent collaborator John A. Russo, Savini explains many of his effects techniques, illustrated by film clips and behind-the-scenes video footage. He is also associated with other books in the horror genre including Book of the Dead and Horror 101 for which he wrote the foreword. Savini has also appeared in public demonstrating his effects, including appearances in the 1980s on Late Night With David Letterman in which he demonstrated such effects as "fire gel" and a gunshot to the head on Letterman himself.



As an actor



Year Film Role Notes
1978 Martin Arthur First film with George A. Romero
Dawn of the Dead 'Blades' Second film with George A. Romero
Effects Nicky
1980 Maniac Disco Boy
1981 Knightriders Morgan Third film with George A. Romero
1982 Creepshow Garbage Man #2 Fourth film with George A. Romero (cameo)
1985 The Ripper Jack The Ripper Direct-to-video; shot in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma
1986 Twisted Sister: Come Out and Play Teacher Cameo
1987 Creepshow 2 The Creep
1990 Two Evil Eyes The Monomaniac (Uncredited) Fifth film with George A. Romero
1992 Innocent Blood News Photographer
1994 Heartstopper Lieutenant Ron Vargo
1995 The Demolitionist Roland
1996 From Dusk till Dawn 'Sex Machine'
2001 The Monster Man Uncle Joe
Web of Darkness Rouge
Children of the Living Dead Deputy Hughs
2002 Eyes Are Upon You Eddie Rao
Ted Bundy Salt Lake City Detective
2003 Blood Bath Stranger
Zombiegeddon Jesus Christ New York City Horror Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award
2004 Vicious Kane
Dawn of the Dead County Sheriff Cahill Remake of the 1978 film Dawn of the Dead
Death 4 Told Man Cameo
Unearthed Victor Tonelli
2005 Forest of the Damned Stephen
Land of the Dead Blades (Zombie) Sixth film with George A. Romero
2006 A Dream of Colour in Black and White Caddy
Beyond the Wall of Sleep Sheriff
The Absence of Light The Higher Power
Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film Himself Documentary film
2007 Grindhouse Deputy Tolo Segment Planet Terror
Loaded Dice The Bishop
2008 Silent Vengeance Daniel Phillips
It's My Party and I'll Die If I Want To Uncle Tom
Lost Boys: The Tribe David Van Etten Sequel to the 1987 film The Lost Boys
Zack and Miri Make a Porno Jenkins
Sea of Dust Prester John
2009 Eldorado
2010 The Dead Matter Sebed
Machete Osiris Amanpour
Horrorween Killer
2012 The Theatre Bizarre Dr. Maurey
Django Unchained Tracker Chaney
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Mr. Callahan
2013 Machete Kills Osiris Amanpour
The 4th Reich SS-Standartenführer Oskar Dirlewanger[33]
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th Himself - Special Make-Up Effects Documentary film
2015 The Sadist The Sadist
2020 In Search of Darkness: Part II Himself Documentary film
2024 Terrifier 3 TBA [34]


Year Film Role Notes
1984 The Boy Who Loved Trolls Motorcyclist Television film
1996 Mr. Stitch Chemical Weapons Engineer
2000 Sheena Peter Reynolds Episode: "Lost Boy"
2001 The Simpsons Himself Episode: "Worst Episode Ever"
2004 The 100 Scariest Movie Moments Television documentary, Part 1: 100-81
2009 His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th Himself - Host Television documentary
2010 Aqua Teen Hunger Force Cop Episode: "One Hundred"
2016 From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series Burt 7 Episodes
2020 N0S4A2 Old Snake Episode: "The Night Road"
Locke & Key Locksmith

Video game

Year Video game Role Notes
2013 LocoCycle Holt Ryebach Live acting only[35]

As a make-up artist/special effects technician



Year Film Notes
1974 Deathdream
1974 Deranged
1978 Martin
Dawn of the Dead Nominated: Saturn Award for Best Make-Up Effects
1980 Friday the 13th
1981 Eyes of a Stranger
The Burning
The Prowler Savini sometimes cites The Prowler's gore and special effects as his all-time greatest work
1982 Xiao sheng pa pa
Alone in the Dark
1984 Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter Jason Voorhees
Maria's Lovers
1985 Day of the Dead Saturn Award for Best Make-Up Effects
1986 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
1987 Creepshow 2
1988 Tales from the Darkside Episode "Family Reunion"
Monkey Shines
Red Scorpion
1990 Two Evil Eyes
1991 Heartstopper
Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh
1993 Killing Zoe
H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon
1994 Backstreet Justice
1995 Ghostwriter Episode "Attack of the Slime Monster"
1996 Mr. Stitch Television film
1997 Cutting Moments
1999 Cold Hearts
2001 Web of Darkness
2002 Ted Bundy
2011 Death from Above
2012 Redd Inc
2022 The Black Phone Savini designed the Grabber mask with Callosum Studios
TBD Nightmare City

Video game

Year Video game Notes
2017 Friday the 13th: The Game Savini Jason design

As a director

Year Film Notes
1984–1988 Tales from the Darkside TV, three episodes
1990 Night of the Living Dead Remake of the 1968 film
2004 Chill Factor: Housecall
2011 The Theatre Bizarre Segment "Wet Dreams"
2019 Creepshow Episode 6. Segment "By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain"
TBD Nightmare City Remake of Nightmare City (1980)[36]


  • Grande Illusions: A Learn-By-Example Guide to the Art and Technique of Special Make-Up Effects from the Films of Tom Savini ISBN 0-911137-00-9
  • Grande Illusions II ISBN 0-911137-07-6
  • Bizarro! (A reissue of Grande Illusions, arbitrarily re-titled by its publisher) ISBN 0-517-55319-8


  1. ^ Dick, Jeremy (November 3, 2021). "Tom Savini Celebrated by Horror Fans on His 75th Birthday". MovieWeb. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  2. ^ J.C. Maçek III (2012-06-15). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead". PopMatters.
  3. ^ 3 Like1 Dislike0 Jan 27, 2012 by B. Alan Orange (2012-01-27). "Exclusive: Tom Savini Talks The Theatre Bizarre". MovieWeb.com. Retrieved 2012-08-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Foreword by Tom Savini". Cult Reviews. 2011-12-15. Archived from the original on 2019-08-17. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  5. ^ Savini News Archived February 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Hayes, John (October 11, 2002). "Savini's a Scream-Checking in with the master of TerrorMania". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on March 5, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  7. ^ Interview in the documentary Scream Greats Volume I - Tom Savini Master of Horror FX; Starlog Films/Paramount Home Video, 1985.
  8. ^ Chris Hewitt, Adam Smith (March 2009). "Freddy V Jason". Empire. p. 97.
  9. ^ Interview in the magazine Bizarre, February 2006.
  10. ^ "Tom Savini Supanova Pop Culture Expo". Archived from the original on 2016-10-10. Retrieved 2020-06-24.
  11. ^ Horror F/X hosted by John Russo; JTC Video Inc./Market Square Productions, 1989.
  12. ^ Roffman, Michael (April 30, 2020). "Tom Savini on Learning from Dreams, Exercising in Quarantine, and Revisiting Friday the 13th". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  13. ^ a b Abrams, Simon (October 16, 2018). "The Legendary Tom Savini on a Career of Special Effects Wizardy and Unforgettable Horror". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  14. ^ Chapstick, Kelsey (June 11, 2019). "Tom Savini on Corey Taylor's New Mask, Joy of Scaring People, Life as "Sex Machine"". Revolver. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  15. ^ "It's 'Machete' Madness!! Check Out Over 27 New Images!!!". BloodyDisgusting. 10 July 2010.
  16. ^ "Early Concept Art for Nazi-Horror Tale 'The 4th Reich 3D'". BloodyDisgusting. 15 January 2010.
  17. ^ "Tom Savini directs again on Death Island". Archived from the original on 2009-09-23.
  18. ^ "First Details on Tom Savini's Death Island". 21 August 2013.
  19. ^ ILoz Zoc (2007-02-07). "BC Books Interviews Author Jonathan Maberry". Blogcritics.org. Archived from the original on 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  20. ^ Maberry, Jonathan. "Bad Moon Rising". Pinnacle Press, 2005.
  21. ^ Scythe, Ramius (2010-06-22). "Horror Chronicles Features Debbie Rochon". Horrorchronicles.com. Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  22. ^ "MTV Artist Focus On Tom Savini". Mtv.com. 1946-11-03. Archived from the original on October 5, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  23. ^ Greg Petaloudis (2013-01-10). "Horror Unlimited Ingrid Pitt Award - Debbie Rochon". Horrorunlimited.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  24. ^ "Filmmaker Jason Baker Talks Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini". 6 April 2013.
  25. ^ "Tom Savini Q&A - Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012 - May 6th, 2012". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2016-01-09.
  26. ^ "Instagram post by Tom Savini • Jan 16, 2018 at 12:46am UTC". Instagram. Archived from the original on 2021-12-26. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  27. ^ "[First Look] Tom Savini Directs in New Web Series, Currently Shooting! | Nightmare on Film Street". Nightmare on Film Street. 2018-01-16. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  28. ^ "Corey Taylor recruits Dawn of the Dead effects master Tom Savini for new Slipknot mask". 31 January 2019.
  29. ^ "Details On Bray Wyatt's Creepy New Mask". July 16, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  30. ^ "Tom Savini Special Make-Up Effects School". Dec.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  31. ^ "Tom Savini: A Real Sex Machine". Film Threat. 2003-10-14. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  32. ^ Squires, John (February 25, 2019). "Tom Savini Coffee Table Photo Biography Book Coming Soon!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  33. ^ "The 4th Reich prepares for battle; filmmaker talks". Archived from the original on 2009-11-15. Retrieved 2020-06-24.
  34. ^ Squires, John (May 23, 2024). "'Terrifier 3' – Makeup Effects Legend Tom Savini Will Appear in Slasher Sequel". Bloody Disgusting. Archived from the original on May 23, 2024. Retrieved May 23, 2024.
  35. ^ "We Make Awesome". Twisted Pixel Games. 6 November 2013. Archived from the original on 2014-06-30. Retrieved 2014-05-05.
  36. ^ Gingold, Michae (March 3, 2015). "Tom Savini remaking Umberto Lenzi's Zombie Fave "Nightmare City"". Fangoria. Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 7, 2016.