Growing up hardcore Catholic meant I wasn’t allowed to watch Rated R movies. It also meant that I believed in the end-times and that they were coming for me specifically. That’s why I had a panic attack in the middle of a Von’s when I was 5 years old. Knowing that, you could understand that all it took to give me brutal nightmares was a newspaper ad featuring Freddy Kruger. Wes Craven was the stealer of sleep.
That is until I had the good fortune of meeting Wes as an adult and it all started with a spare Cirque du Soleil ticket.
I was in Las Vegas, by myself, to accept an award for a short film I’d made. Wes was my presenter and we were both ushered into a greenroom the size of a school auditorium. Like fighters, we were briefly allowed to shake hands before we were ushered into opposing corners. I was left alone in a my corner and told, “don’t move no matter what.”
And I didn’t. Wes, on the other hand, had at least a half dozen people from the organization chatting him up, taking pictures, what you would expect for a celebrity.
And then Wes made a bee-line for me.
“They gave me two tickets but I’m here alone. Want to go to Cirque du Soleil with me?”
I barely remember the award ceremony but I’m positive any picture would show me wearing a crooked smile. I just kept thinking, “I’m going to see a show starring muscle bound clowns with the guy that convinced me that sleep equals death.”
That night we drank beer, ate very expensive sushi and just chatted. He was amused that I had only seen his films either because of peer pressure or in college classes. We shared stories about growing up in strict, religious families. We effused over our love of the great European masters – Fellini, Goddard and, most importantly, Bergman.
After the show, after I’d explained that I had indeed enjoyed the performance and any grimacing he saw on my face was due to the proximity of that stupid clown – I hate clowns – Wes invited me to give him a call once back in LA.
That’s when I really got to know the Wes Craven renown for his warmth, intelligence and generosity. This is the Wes Craven that not only gave me a break, he also offered up his mentorship. This is when I got to be friends with Wes.
Wes acquired one of my scripts and when I insisted on directing it myself, he offered his support. When I crashed and burned pitching him a remake of one of his older movies (think Albert Brooks from Broadcast News), he took me out for lunch and drinks, all the while reassuring me that it wasn’t that bad, and that next time it’ll only get better. When assigned to write a non-horror feature for him to direct, he’d see my frustration after every round of notes and always proclaimed, “you’re getting closer, next time you’ll nail it.”
Eventually, like many friendships, we saw each other less and less but we still kept in touch, traded Christmas cards.
The last time I saw him was at the ArcLight discussing Children of Men. We only had a minute to catch up but I was heartened to hear that he was coming back to both the big and small screen with an armload of projects.
I was heartbroken to learn of his passing from brain cancer.
If I had two more minutes to speak with him, I’d tell Wes how much I cherished our chats about playing the guitar, his trying to teach me about the birds I could find in Hollywood, and our schemes to charge another lunch to Bob Weinstein — thanks, Bob! I’d thank him for believing in me and for being a mentor and a friend. I hope that I honored him with the work I’ve done and that I honor him with the work I will do.
Wes Craven, 1939-2015.
We hold you in our hearts.
You haunt us in our dreams.
Rest in peace.