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Did Wes Craven Scare Us? His Unique Method of Self-Motivation in Filmmaking

by Lidia Lucovic

Wes Craven’s unique and emotionally charged method of self-motivation for filmmaking left a lasting impression on Scream star Jamie Kennedy. Kennedy, known for his portrayal of film enthusiast Randy Meeks in both the 1996 slasher Scream and its 1997 sequel, had the opportunity to collaborate closely with the renowned director. Craven’s portfolio extends beyond the Scream franchise to include iconic horror films such as The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

During a conversation with Michael Rosenbaum on his podcast, Inside of You, Kennedy reminisced about his interactions with Craven. He recounted a particular moment when he discovered an unusual source of motivation for the director. Kennedy shared the following anecdote:

“His residence was adorned with memorabilia from his various films. Adjacent to his bed, there was a small frame containing something intriguing. I inquired, ‘What is that?’ He replied, ‘That’s my hack license.’ A hack license is the permit to operate a taxi in New York City, and it read Wes Craven, LAC Cab, 1971 to 1972.

I asked, ‘Why do you keep that by your bedside?’ He responded, ‘Because every morning when I wake up and see it, I remind myself that it’s something I never want to return to.’ The fear of reverting to a life of driving a cab served as his driving force for making movies… The apprehension associated with that license ignited his creative passion and left us all in awe.”

Wes Craven: Pioneering and Reinventing the Horror Genre

Wes Craven’s early career dabbled in adult films, but he would soon make an indelible mark on the horror genre. While The Last House on the Left courted controversy worldwide due to its graphic content, which could have potentially jeopardized his career, 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes received a much warmer reception and firmly established Craven as a horror director. This success occurred despite any initial reluctance he may have had about being confined to a specific genre. His standing in the genre was further fortified with the release of A Nightmare On Elm Street, where he introduced audiences to the now-iconic antagonist, Freddy Krueger (portrayed by Robert Englund). Additionally, Craven contributed to the establishment of numerous tropes that would come to define the slasher genre.

Although Craven continued to helm horror films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, he also played a pivotal role in revolutionizing the genre with Scream. Through its self-aware and horror-savvy homage to Craven’s own works and those of his fellow slasher contemporaries, Scream stood out as a film unafraid to affectionately poke fun at the groundwork Craven himself had laid. Consequently, despite Craven’s initial reluctance to direct Scream, he played a key role in revitalizing the genre and inspiring future filmmakers.

Given Craven’s immense impact on the genre, his motivational approach is indeed surprising, as it is difficult to fathom that he ever doubted his ability to continue making movies. Craven is credited with creating numerous horror classics that not only garnered critical acclaim but also remain subjects of ongoing analysis and reevaluation, cementing his enduring influence on the genre. Therefore, Kennedy’s recollection offers a unique glimpse into the more vulnerable side of this horror icon.

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