Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926) is an American film producer, director and actor. He has mostly worked on low-budget B movies. Some of Corman's work has an established critical reputation, such as his cycle of films adapted from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and in 2009 he won an Honorary Academy Award for his body of work. Corman has occasionally taken minor acting roles in such films as The Silence of the Lambs, The Godfather Part II, Apollo 13 and Philadelphia. A documentary about Roger Corman's life and career entitled Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel premiered at Sundance in 2011.
Corman has been a mentor to young film directors including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Curtis Hanson, John Sayles, and many others. He has also helped launch the careers of actors including Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire andRobert De Niro.
Corman was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Anne (née High) and William Corman, an engineer. His brother, Eugene Harold Corman, has also produced numerous films, sometimes in collaboration with Roger.Corman went to Beverly Hills High School and then to Stanford University to study industrial engineering. While at Stanford, Corman enlisted in the V-12 Navy College Training Program. After the end of World War II, Corman returned to Stanford and received a degree inindustrial engineering.
More interested in film, Corman found work at 20th Century Fox initially in the mail room. He worked his way up to a story reader. The one property that he liked the most and provided ideas for was filmed as The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck. When Corman received no credit at all he left Fox and decided he would work in film by himself. Under the GI Bill, Corman studied English Literature at Oxford University. He then returned to Los Angeles, beginning his film career in 1953 as a producer and screenwriter and started directing films in 1955.
Corman began to direct films in the mid-1950s, including Swamp Women (1955). In his early period, he produced up to nine movies a year. His fastest film was perhaps The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), which was reputedly shot in two days and one night.Supposedly, he had made a bet that he could shoot an entire feature film in less than three days. Another version of the story claims that he had a set rented for a month, and finished using it with three days to spare, thus pushing him to use the set to make a new film. (This is a variation of the story behind 1963's The Terror, much of which was filmed in two leftover days with Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson after The Raven, which featured them both, wrapped with two days to spare.)
In addition to producing and directing films for American International Pictures (AIP), Corman also partially funded other low budget films released by other film companies. In 1959 Corman founded Filmgroup with his brother Gene, a company producing or releasing low budget black and white films as double features for driven-ins and action houses. When Corman saw that black and white double features were not as successful as colour films, Corman returned to AIP with Filmgroup ceasing operation in 1962.
Corman's greatest acclaim as a director came with his Edgar Allan Poe Series of the 1960s. Based on the works of Poe, initially made through American International Pictures, and mostly in collaboration with writer/scenarist Richard Matheson, these films includedHouse of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). All but The Premature Burial starredVincent Price. He also worked with set designer Daniel Haller and cinematographer Floyd Crosby on each film. Others who joined him include cameraman and later director Nicholas Roeg, writers Robert Towne and Charles Beaumont, and movie stars Ray Milland, Basil Rathbone, Hazel Court, Jack Nicholson, Barbara Steele, Debra Paget, and Peter Lorre. After the film version of The Raven was completed, he reportedly realized he still had some shooting days left before the sets were torn down and so made another film; The Terror (1963) on the spot with the remaining cast, crew and sets.
He also directed one of William Shatner's earliest appearances in a lead role, with The Intruder (1962). Based on a novel by Charles Beaumont, the film, made for approximately USD$80,000, has become famous for its treatment of segregation and civil rights.
The late 1960s saw Corman and his films give a voice to the counter-culture of the time. In 1966, Corman made the first biker movie with Wild Angels. It starred Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, and opened the 1966 Venice Film Festival. In 1967, The Trip, written by and starring Jack Nicholson, began the psychedelic film craze of the late 1960s and was the American entry at Cannes that year. Joan Didion said she went to see Wild Angels because, "there on the screen was some news I was not getting from the New York Times. I began to think I was seeing ideograms of the future."
In 1970, Corman founded New World Pictures which became a small independently owned production/distribution studio, making many cult films such as Women in Cages (1971), Death Race 2000 (1975), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), Galaxy of Terror (1981),Children of the Corn (1983), and the Joe Dante film Piranha (1978). Corman's distribution side of New World brought many foreign films to mass audiences in the United States for the first time, including the works of Ingmar Bergman, François Truffaut, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa. In a ten-year period, New World Pictures won more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film than all other studios combined. Corman eventually sold New World to an investment group in 1983, and later formed Concorde Pictures and later New Horizons.
Corman's penultimate film as director was 1971's Von Richthofen and Brown (he had always wanted to make an aviation movie, being a pilot himself). He then returned to directing once more with 1990's Frankenstein Unbound. In total, Roger Corman has produced over 300 movies and directed more than 50.
In 2009, Corman produced and directed alongside with director Joe Dante the web series "Splatter" for Netflix. The protagonist of the film is portrayed by Corey Feldman, and the story talks of the haunting tale of rock-and-roll legend Johnny Splatter. He also started contributing trailer commentaries to Dante's web series Trailers From Hell.
Corman most recently produced the 2010 films Dinoshark and Dinocroc vs. Supergator for the Syfy cable television channel.Dinoshark premiered on March 13, 2010. Sharktopus, his latest Syfy production, had premiered in September 2010.
Corman lives and works in Southern California and has four children.
His autobiography, titled How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (ISBN 0-306-80874-9), documents his experiences in the film industry.
In 1998, he won the first Producer’s Award ever given by the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2006, Corman received the David O. Selznick Award from the Producers Guild of America. Also in 2006, his film Fall of the House of Usher was among the twenty-five movies selected for the National Film Registry, a compilation of significant films being preserved by the Library of Congress.
In 2010, Corman was inducted into the Beverly Hills High School Hall of Fame.
A number of noted film directors worked with Corman, usually early in their careers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese,Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Armondo Linus Acosta, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, Gale Anne Hurd, Carl Colpaert, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Monte Hellman, Paul Bartel, George Armitage, Jonathan Kaplan, George Hickenlooper, Curtis Hanson, Jack Hill, Robert Towne, Michael Venzor and Timur Bekmambetov. Many have said that Corman's influence taught them some of the ins-and-outs of filmmaking. In the extras for the DVD of The Terminator, director James Cameron refers to his work for Corman as, "I trained at the Roger Corman Film School." The British director Nicolas Roeg served as the cinematographer on The Masque of the Red Death. Cameron, Coppola, Demme, Hanson, Howard and Scorsese have all gone on to win Academy Awards. Howard was reportedly told by Corman, "If you do a good job on this film, you'll never have to work for me again."
Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald,Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, and Robert De Niro. David Carradine, who received one of his first starring film roles in the Corman-produced Boxcar Bertha (1972) and went on to star in Death Race 2000, later noted: "It’s almost as though you can’t have a career in this business without having passed through Roger’s hands for at least a moment."
Many of Corman's protegés have rewarded him with cameos in their films, including The Godfather Part II, The Silence of the Lambs, Apollo 13, and as recently as Demme's 2008 film Rachel Getting Married.
|Name||First Corman film||Year||Credited as|
|George Armitage||Gas-s-s-s||1971||writer, associate producer, cast member|
|Timur Bekmambetov||The Arena||2001||director|
|Peter Bogdanovich||Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women||1968||director, cast member|
|James Cameron||Battle Beyond the Stars||1980||art direction, visual effects|
|Francis Ford Coppola||Battle Beyond the Sun||1962||director (scenes in American version)|
|Joe Dante||Hollywood Boulevard||1976||co-director, editor|
|Jonathan Demme||Angels Hard as They Come||1971||writer, producer|
|Curtis Hanson||The Dunwich Horror||1970||co-writer|
|Monte Hellman||Beast from Haunted Cave||1959||director|
|Jack Hill||The Terror||1963||writer|
|Ron Howard||Grand Theft Auto||1977||director, co-writer|
|Gale Anne Hurd||Humanoids from the Deep||1980||production assistant|
|Jonathan Kaplan||Night Call Nurses||1972||director, editor|
|Martin Scorsese||Boxcar Bertha||1972||director|
|Robert Towne||Last Woman on Earth||1960||writer, cast member|
In 2010 Roger Corman teamed up with Shout! Factory to release new DVD and Blu-ray editions of Corman productions under the nameRoger Corman's Cult Classics. The releases have concentrated on 1970s-1980s films he produced through New World rather than directed. These titles include Rock N Roll High School, Death Race 2000, Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, and Piranha, with additional titles continuing to be released.