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John Carpenter Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (16) | Trivia (32) | Personal Quotes (31) | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 16 January 1948Carthage, New York, USA
Birth NameJohn Howard Carpenter
Nickname JC
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (2)

John Carpenter was educated at Western Kentucky university. He began making short films in 1962. He won an academy award for Best Live-Action Short Subject in 1970, for The Resurrection of Broncho Billy (1970). Carpenter formed a band in the mid-1970s called The Coupe de Villes. Since the 1970s, he has had numerous roles in the film industry including writer, actor, composer, producer, and director.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Melissa Portell < mportell@s-cwis.unomaha.edu>

John Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York. His family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where his father was the head of the music department at Western Kentucky University. He attended Western Kentucky University and then USC film school in Los Angeles, not the University of South Carolina. While there, he made The Resurrection of Broncho Billy (1970) and started work on Dark Star (1974). He was also in a band called the Coupe de Villes while he attended USC, which included future directors Tommy Lee Wallace and Nick Castle.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Rona Menashe

Spouse (2)

Sandy King (1 December 1990 - present)
Adrienne Barbeau (1 January 1979 - 14 September 1984) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (16)

[Horror] Although Carpenter has directed films in numerous other genres (dark comedy, sci-fi, romance), he is known primarily for making horror films (Halloween (1978) and the subsequent sequels not directed by him, The Fog (1980), The Thing (1982), etc.). He is also known as the "Master of Horror" or the "Prince of Darkness" (after one of his films).
[Attribution] The words "John Carpenter's" appear before almost all of his film and TV titles (e.g., John Carpenter's Halloween (1978)).
Uses synthesizer-based soundtracks that he composes himself (Most famous for the theme song to Halloween (1978), obviously).
[Cheap Scare] Many of Carpenter's films include what he calls a "cheap scare", where something comes into view very fast and leaves just as quickly, intensified by musical cues. Carpenter makes open compositions that allow the villain/monster (or sometimes just an object) to pop into frame from the background, the immediate foreground or from either side of the frame. It has since become a horror cliché after using "cheap scares" so effectively in Halloween (1978).
[Apocalypse] Apocalyptic overtones run throughout Carpenter's films, most prominently in his unofficial but aptly titled Apocalypse Trilogy (The Thing (1982), Prince of Darkness (1987), In the Mouth of Madness (1994)) and more subtly in films like Halloween (1978), They Live (1988) and Escape from New York (1981).
His lead male characters are anti-heroes (e.g., Snake Plissken in the "Escape" films and Napoleon Wilson in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)) whereas the bad guys in his films are usually depicted as zombie-like, mindless, and lacking a personality or emotion. Though many people die in his films, with few exceptions, he usually avoids showing gore.
[Cinematography] Uses minimalist cinematography and lighting. Tries to make empty spaces look full, and full spaces look empty. Shoots all of his movies in Panavision (2.35:1 ratio with anamorphic lenses). The exceptions are Dark Star (1974) and all of his TV work.
Is known for an unofficial "Carpenter's Repertory Group" of actors who he enjoys working with, including Kurt Russell, Sam Neill, Peter Jason, George 'Buck' Flower, and various crew members. Also frequently casts musicians (Ice Cube, Isaac Hayes, Alice Cooper, Jon Bon Jovi).
[Names] Likes to name characters after real life people: directors, etc. Also reuses character names from classic movies. For example, John T. Chance, Carpenter's pseudonym in for editing Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), is John Wayne's character in Rio Bravo (1959); Donald Pleasence's character name in Halloween (1978), Sam Loomis, is also the name of Janet Leigh's boyfriend in Psycho (1960). Frequently uses the character names "Tramer" and "Baxter" in different films as well.
[Video Screen] His films often feature important visuals shown from a video screen (The end-of-the-world transmission from the future in Prince of Darkness (1987), the Norwegian recordings of the expedition to uncover the aliens in The Thing (1982), various TV sets and the general anti-TV motif in They Live (1988), etc.).
Frequently makes references to classic Westerns
Includes at least one scene inside an automobile in nearly all his films. Likes to include helicopters in his films, many times doing a cameo as a pilot.
Underlying sense of paranoia in horror stories
Graphic visual effects and body transformations
Often references the works of Alfred Hitchcock
Films often take place in single confined locations

Trivia (32)

In the movie Change of Habit (1969) Elvis Presley plays a character named John Carpenter. In 1979 Carpenter directed the TV movie Elvis (1979) starring his good friend Kurt Russell.
Is a fan of the Quartermass movies (The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), Five Million Years to Earth (1967)), wrote Prince of Darkness (1987) under the pseudonym of Martin Quatermass, and the village in In the Mouth of Madness (1994) is named after a rail station in "Quatermass and the Pit".
Appears in his own films under the name Rip Haight, appearing in in The Fog (1980), Starman (1984), Body Bags (1993), and Village of the Damned (1995).
Considers it bad luck to wear the hat of the show he's working on. Will not wear a crew cap until the film is over.
Loves Elvis Presley and old Cadillacs.
Is a major NBA fan and has a satellite dish installed on his location trailer to keep up with the games. Always has a portable basketball hoop on location.
He has a son, Cody Carpenter, with Adrienne Barbeau.
Is a great fan of Sergio Leone and cast Lee Van Cleef in Escape from New York (1981) because of his work with Leone.
Carpenter's character Snake Plissken (of Escape from New York (1981) and Escape from L.A. (1996)) is about to become a comic book. Published by theCrossGen imprint Code 6 Comics, the book will be known as "John Carpenter's The Snake Plissken Chronicles". It is set for publication beginning in 2003.
With the exception of Escape from L.A. (1996), he has rarely made a sequel to any of his films. Has said that he got forced into writing Halloween II (1981), but refused to direct it because he "didn't want to direct the same movie again".
Biography in the following: John Wakeman, editor. World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945- 1985. pp. 184-189. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Praised longtime friend and frequent collaborator Kurt Russell for being a hard-working, professional actor who isn't afraid to take on roles that might hurt his image or make him look like a fool.
He is a big fan of The Beach Boys and Howard Hawks.
Was originally supposed to direct Firestarter (1984), and even had a screenplay written by Bill Lancaster. Both were replaced when The Thing (1982), a film on which they both collaborated, did poorly at the box office.
Said in a 1982 interview that he thought the R rating for Halloween (1978) was justifiable, but The Fog (1980) should've been rated PG.
Was given the chance to direct Mutant Chronicles (2008).
Was offered a chance to direct the Eddie Murphy film The Golden Child (1986), but turned it down.
Turned down the chance to direct Top Gun (1986).
Turned down the chance to direct Fatal Attraction (1987).
Was offered the chance to direct Armed and Dangerous (1986) but turned it down. The job went to Mark L. Lester who also directed Firestarter (1984), which was offered to Carpenter.
Is an avid fan of the Godzilla films. He considers the first Godzilla movie (Gojira) to be an inspiration for him.
Was approached to score Planet Terror (2007) for Robert Rodriguez, but was busy finishing up post-production on Masters of Horror (2005).
Close friend of actor Jeff Bridges.
Turned down the chance to direct Zombieland (2009).
In the 5th edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (edited by Steven Jay Schneider), 2 of his films are listed: Halloween (1978) and The Thing (1982).
In an interview, he stated that he takes much of the failure of his movies pretty hard. However, out of all the movies that he had done, he claimed that The Thing (1982) was the failure he took the hardest.
Lives in West Hollywood, California.
Shares the low score of 3 in Empire's 'My Movie Mastermind' with Michael Keaton and Steve Guttenberg.
He directed child actress Kim Richards in his second feature film, "Assault on Precinct 13", and directed Kim's sister Kyle Richards in his next film, "Halloween".
Named his five favorite films as Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Rio Bravo (1959), Citizen Kane (1941), Vertigo (1958) and Blow-Up (1966).
He has always claimed that the Western is his favorite genre but he's never made a full-length film within the genre.
Claims that his son, Cody Carpenter got him hooked on playing video games. When Cody was growing up, the two spent time playing together, with early games such as Sonic the Hedgehog (1991). As an avid gamer, he continues playing video games both with his son and independently. As of 2013, his recent favorites included: Dishonored (2012), Assassin's Creed III (2012), and the God of War (2005) Collection. He can frequently be seen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with his son. (Source: Magazine: gameinformer (Volume XXIII, Number 6, Issue 242)).

Personal Quotes (31)

In France, I'm an auteur; in Germany, a filmmaker; in Britain; a genre film director; and, in the USA, a bum.
We're a violent country. We always have been. We embrace our individuality and our violence.
Things haven't been going great lately. For a while now people haven't really been getting my movies. Certainly the box office hasn't been up to speed. Sure, some of my recent stuff hasn't been perfect, but neither has it been the shit that many have said. Critically, it's all become a bit of a crapshoot. The critics thought I was a bum when I started out and they think I'm a bum now.
[on why he passed on Fatal Attraction (1987)] There wasn't a grain of originality in it original version, the script I read, had Glenn Close winning in the end by killing herself and thereby getting the moral upper hand. I knew the audience was never going to buy that. The audience was always gonna want to see the wife shoot the bitch. Sure enough, they shot the original script, previewed it, got booed off screen and went back and shot the ending you see today. That was a journey I couldn't be bothered to go on.
I don't deny that commercial success means a lot to me, the best reviews you can get are at the box office.
Another trend is a lot of women are going to see horror films. That's a really welcome development for horror... It actually has a broadened audience. I think most studios recognize that there is a real potential in horror, if you can find something new and unique. For a while it was a lot of remaking of Japanese horror films that have a whole different way of approaching a story - some of which translates quite well in this country. It is fascinating to watch for a guy who worked in the horror trenches.
Movies are pieces of film stuck together in a certain rhythm, an absolute beat, like a musical composition. The rhythm you create affects the audience.
I have always had different aspects to my personality. I think I'm a long-term pessimist and a short-term optimist. I do feel a great darkness about humanity. But -- simultaneously and contradictorily -- I also feel that life can be pretty fabulous. I should also express some of that in my work; I don't want to limit myself as a filmmaker. I want to be true to the parameters of all films. They should create a mood and tingle you emotionally. That is what I'm after. I want the audience to experience some feeling. I want them to know they're alive.
[in a 1986 interview] Hollywood is a weird place. The film industry has changed. Business is bad. Directors are treated like bums now. This is a bad time for creative people. Hollywood is a mean place to work.
Working for the studios is no piece of cake. But it's a trade-off situation, whomever you work for. You have much less creative freedom working for big studios, but they really release your film. By comparison, you have enormous creative freedom working for independent companies like New World. But when it comes time to sell your film and show it to the public, they don't have the same clout as big studios. The independents have to fight to get your film in theaters in which to show your film and they have to fight to keep your film in those theaters. Everybody in the business faces one truth all the time -- if your movie doesn't perform immediately, the exhibitors want to get rid of it. The exhibitors only want product in their theaters which makes money. Quality has nothing to do with it.
I'm flattered if someone comes to me with the idea of remaking one of my films. Remake or original, making a movie still comes down to old-fashioned hard work. If it's based on another film, well, so be it. Remakes have been part of cinema since its earliest days - think of A Star Is Born (1937), which was remade numerous times. And they're especially big right now because it's become increasingly difficult to lure audiences into theaters. Advertising a remade title that may be familiar to audiences can hopefully cut through the clutter of titles and products that one sees.
When you've been in the movie business for as long as I have your priorities change. The reasons I got into it in the beginning were very pure. I was driven by a creative urge to be a part of Hollywood and to make my mark in the movies. As I've gone through it practically -- in real life -- I've realized that ambition is immature. Luck and the randomness of fate play such a big part in whether I'm a success or a failure. After a while, I told myself, "The only thing I can do is the best I can do." That's what being a professional is all about. It's how I conduct myself. I try to live with dignity and honor. But I can't ever depend on reaching my goals, because there's too much that I can't control in my way. I've learned that I either have to be happy with who I am -- or not.
I'm pretty happy with who I am. I like myself and what I'm doing. I don't need to be the world's greatest director or the most famous -- or the richest. I don't need to make a whole lot of great films. I can do my job and I can do it pretty well. This is the realization I've come to, later in life. It's called growing up.
When somebody who makes movies for a living -- either as an actor, writer, producer or director -- lives to be a certain age, you have to admire them. It is an act of courage to make a film -- a courage for which you are not prepared in the rest of life. It is very hard and very destructive. But we do it because we love it. Regardless of how bitter I was a few years ago because of my experiences at the studios, I'm still making films.
Film buffs who don't live in Hollywood have a fantasy about what it's like to be a director. Movies and the people who make movies have such glamor associated with them. But the truth is, it's not like that. It's very different. It's hard work. If you were suddenly catapulted into that situation -- without any training -- you would say after it was over: "Oh, God! You're kidding! You mean, this is what it's like? This is what they put you through?" Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like this -- and it's often worse. People have tried to describe the film business, but it's impossible to describe because it's so crazy. You must know your craft inside out and then pick up the rules as you go along.
I don't want to be in the mainstream. I don't want to be a part of the demographics. I want to be an individual. I wear each of my films as a badge of pride. That's why I cherish all my bad reviews. If the critics start liking my movies, then I'm in deep trouble.
Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or the other. They're us with hats on. The zombies in George Romero's movies are us. They're hungry. Monsters are us, the dangerous parts of us. The part that wants to destroy. The part of us with the reptile brain. The part of us that's vicious and cruel. We express these in our stories as these monsters out there.
Jeff Bridges is the greatest, as an actor and a person. He's the best actor of his generation, bar none.
I can play just about any keyboard but I can't read or write a note.
[on how they created the Michael Myers mask] We didn't have enough money to make it. Production designer, Tommy Lee Wallace brought a clown mask, which was one idea. Then he brought a Star Trek Captain Kirk mask, It was a really terrible likeness of William Shatner, I mean terrible looking. We cut the eye holes a little bit bigger, spray painted it.....and that was it, it looked really creepy.
They Live (1988) was made as response to the horror of the Reagan years.
Everyone who ever made a low-budget film was influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968).
I can remember at USC in the late Sixties when everybody was making socially relevant films. Good God, they'd have given anything if you made a film about Vietnam, about American injustices. That's the kind of thing they wanted. They looked down on you and felt you were naive if you cared about Hollywood films. But I wasn't caught up in that. I went back to my roots.
I arrived in L.A. the most naive human being on the face of the earth. When I got off the plane at LAX, I got a map of Los Angeles, looked up USC, and decided to walk. It only looked like it was a couple of blocks away. After about 15 blocks of carting my luggage down some endless street, I looked at the map again. It took me a while to figure out the scope of Los Angeles. If I'd continued walking that day, I would still be walking. I was a real country boy.
[on making Halloween (1978). When we needed kids walking down the street, anyone who had a family rounded up their kids. Everyone helped out - it was just the joy of making movies.
The trick with shooting a low-budget film is to shoot as little footage as possible and extend the scenes for long as one can.
If I had three wishes, one of them would be "Send me back to the '40s and the studio system and let me direct movies." Because I would have been happiest there. I feel I am a little bit out of time. I have much more of a kinship for older-style films, and very few films that are made now interest me at all. I get up and walk out on them.
[on Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)] We found that the audience didn't want different stories. What they wanted was just the same old thing over and over again. [The producers] got mad because they thought I'd destroyed their franchise. They took it out of my hands and I was done with Halloween.
With the kinds of movies being made by studios today, there are very few low-budget films, and those are entrusted to young geniuses, not old guys like myself.
ponding to Debra Hill's remark in The Fog DVD commentary] I recycle all of Howard Hawks' films, Debra.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) is a movie that I really don't think ever had a director. It's one of the few movies I've ever seen that didn't have one.

Salary (1)

Halloween (1978) $10,000

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