Graduates of the Corman filmmaking academy

Coppola, Scorsese, and James Cameron are just three of the directors who worked with Corman.

June 11, 2010 21:59
3 minute read.
Roger Corman

311_Roger Corman. (photo credit: JaSunni)


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Roger Corman has had various companies throughout his more than 50 years in Hollywood, but at all of them, he gave the best and brightest aspiring filmmakers their start. He is diplomatic, when asked whether he knew right away that those who went on to huge successes were extraordinarily talented, saying, “I thought everyone I hired was talented, that’s why I gave them a chance.” Here is a partial list of those who got their start from Corman:

Francis Ford Coppola: The director who went on to make the Godfather series and Apocalypse Now (and won an Oscar for directing Godfather II), directed his first film, the thriller Dementia 13, for Corman in 1963, for $22,000. His first job for Corman was writing English dialogue for a Russian science fiction movie Corman imported in 1962, called Battle Beyond the Stars.

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Martin Scorsese: Scorsese won his Oscar in 2007 for the crime drama The Departed, and is arguably the most important director of his generation, with such acclaimed films as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Mean Streets on his resume. But his directorial debut was Boxcar Bertha (1972), a gritty, Depression-era labor drama for Corman, starring David Carradine and Barbara Hershey. His next movie, the highly personal crime drama Mean Streets, put him on the map as a major director. Scorsese says he offered Corman the chance to produce it, but Corman said he only would if the director changed the main characters from Italian Americans to blacks. Scorsese declined.

Peter Bogdanovich: The director of The Last Picture Show, What’s Up Doc? and Paper Moon got his start as Corman’s assistant on The Wild Angels. Corman then gave him the opportunity to direct Targets (1968), in which he intercut horror footage from The Terror (1963) with a contemporary story about a sniper.

James Cameron: The director of Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time, got his start as an art director and miniatures designer on the Corman film Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). He also worked on the art department of several other Corman films.

Ron Howard: The child actor and star of the Happy Days television
show got his first adult movie acting credit in the Corman film Eat My Dust (1976). Corman cast him in Grand Theft Auto (1977), and Howard agreed to do it if Corman allowed him to write and direct it, which Corman did. Howard is now one of the most highly regarded American directors, who won an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, and recently made Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and Frost/Nixon.

Jonathan Demme: Demme won an Oscar for directing Silence of the Lambs (1991). He started out as a writer and producer for Corman on the 1971 film Angels Hard as They Come, and went on to direct the Corman exploitation films Caged Heat and Crazy Mama.

John Sayles: Independent filmmaker Sayles, who still refuses to work in the studio system, got his start as a writer and actor on the Corman film Piranha. He has gone on to write and direct such acclaimed films as Return of the Secaucus Seven, Lone Star, City of Hope and Honeydripper.

Jack Nicholson: Although best known as an Oscar-winning movie star, Nicholson wrote a number of scripts for Corman, among them The Trip (1967). Nicholson’s acting career had stalled in the 1950s, when he worked mainly in live television, but Corman gave him a chance to act in the film The Cry Baby Killer in 1958, and he went on to key roles in such films as Little Shop of Horrors and The Terror.

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