Roger Corman death: Ron Howard and John Carpenter lead tributes to trailblazing director

Corman gave numerous famous actors and filmmakers their early breaks

Jacob Stolworthy
Sunday 12 May 2024 12:51 BST
Roger Corman's The Raven - trailer

Roger Corman, the B-movie director who is credited with changing the face of Hollywood, has died aged 98.

Throughout his career, Corman, who directed 55 films including The Little Shop of Horrors and gothic chiller The Masque of the Red Death, provided numerous famous actors and directors with their early breaks.

Corman died on Thursday (9 May) at his home in Santa Monica, California. The news was announced by his daughter Catherine Corman, who said in a statement: “He was generous, open-hearted and kind to all those who knew him. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, ‘I was a filmmaker, just that.’”

The director, who launched his career in 1955, started work in the mail room at 20th Century-Fox before being hired as a story reader. After receiving no credit for an idea he provided for the Gregory Peck film The Gunfighter, he left, and years later he started a career in low-budget filmmaking.

He soon gained a reputation as a master of independent filmmaking, which led to his popular nickname “the King of Cult”.

As well as directing low-budget films – several of which were Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, including The Raven and House of Usher – he found a lucrative side hustle by handling the US distribution of world cinema.

He was the reason Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, Federico Fellini’s Amarcord and Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum, the latter two of which won Oscars, were released internationally.

The actors that Corman cast when they were newcomers include Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper. Most went on to become famous after starring in films by directors whose careers Corman himself had previously launched, including Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Frances Ford Coppola.

Some of the directors he worked with early in his career went on to cast Corman in their own films when they had become successful directors in their own right. Corman has small roles in Coppola’s The Godfather Part II, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, and Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.

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Howard paid tribute to Corman, writing: “RIP Roger Corman. A great movie maker and mentor. When I was 23 he gave me my 1st shot at directing. He launched many careers & quietly [led] our industry in important ways. He remained sharp, interested and active even at 98. Grateful to have known him.”

Roger Corman has died aged 98
Roger Corman has died aged 98 (Lehtikuva/Shutterstock)

Halloween director John Carpenter posted: “Roger Corman, one of the most influential movie directors in my life, has passed away. It was my privilege to know him. He was a great friend. He shaped my childhood with science fiction movies and Edgar Allen Poe epics. I’ll miss you, Roger.

Corman received an honorary Academy Award in 2009.

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