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Also Known As: James T Chance, John Howard Carpenter, Martin Quatermass, John T Chance, Rip Haight, Frank Armitage Died:
Born: January 16, 1948 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Carthage, New York, USA Profession: director, screenwriter, composer, producer, actor, editor, musician, songwriter, helicopter pilot

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

For most of his life, John Carpenter had been directing films. Surrounded by artistic influences ever since he was young - his father was an accomplished violinist and his mother routinely took him to movies - Carpenter naturally made the transition from childhood experimenter, to film student, to finally, professional director. Unexpected, however, was his making one the most important horror films ever in "Halloween" (1978), a chilling tale of a serial killer terrorizing a small town that was shot for a mere $300,000 and became one of the most profitable films of all time. Without stars, special effects or visible gore - there was nary a drop of blood on screen - "Halloween" launched Carpenter's career, while spawning untold numbers of imitators, no less than six direct sequels, and one (awful) remake. Though he went on to direct other seminal films - "Escape from New York" (1981), "Christine" (1983) and "Big Trouble In Little China" (1986) - Carpenter was forever remembered for creating a new horror subgenre - the slasher flick - that has often been imitated, but never duplicated.

For most of his life, John Carpenter had been directing films. Surrounded by artistic influences ever since he was young - his father was an accomplished violinist and his mother routinely took him to movies - Carpenter naturally made the transition from childhood experimenter, to film student, to finally, professional director. Unexpected, however, was his making one the most important horror films ever in "Halloween" (1978), a chilling tale of a serial killer terrorizing a small town that was shot for a mere $300,000 and became one of the most profitable films of all time. Without stars, special effects or visible gore - there was nary a drop of blood on screen - "Halloween" launched Carpenter's career, while spawning untold numbers of imitators, no less than six direct sequels, and one (awful) remake. Though he went on to direct other seminal films - "Escape from New York" (1981), "Christine" (1983) and "Big Trouble In Little China" (1986) - Carpenter was forever remembered for creating a new horror subgenre - the slasher flick - that has often been imitated, but never duplicated.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Ward, The (2011)
2.
  Ghosts of Mars (2001) Director
3.
5.
  In the Mouth of Madness (1995) Director
6.
  Village of the Damned (1995) Director
7.
  John Carpenter Presents Body Bags (1993) Director ("The Gas Station") ("Hair")
8.
9.
  They Live (1988) Director
10.
  Prince of Darkness (1987) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
4.
 Ghosts of Mars (2001)
5.
 Silence Of The Hams, The (1994) (Cameo Appearance)
6.
7.
 Boy Who Could Fly, The (1986) Coupe De Villes Member
8.
9.
 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills (2001) Interviewee
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1956:
At age eight, began making his own action-oriented movies using his father's 8mm Brownie camera
:
First substantial film, the 40-minute featurette, "Revenge of the Colossal Beasts"
:
While still a teen, formed own production company, Emerald Productions
:
Filmed the 40-minute short, "Warrior and the Demon"; this was Carpenter's first use of stop-motion animation
:
Made his last, and reportedly best short, "Gorgon the Space Monster"
1965:
Emerald Productions published the film fanzine, <i>Fantastic Films Illustrated</i>
:
Met future collaborator Dan O'Bannon while both were graduate film students at USC
1969:
Served as co-writer, film editor and music composer on the Oscar-winning short, "The Resurrection of Bronco Billy"
1974:
First major film as director, "Dark Star"; also co-wrote Dan O'Bannon
1976:
Wrote, directed and scored second feature, "Assault on Precinct 13"
1978:
TV-movie writing debut, "Zuma Beach" (NBC)
1978:
First mainstream Hollywood film, "Eyes of Laura Mars"
1978:
Wrote, directed and composed the score for his breakthrough film, "Halloween"
1978:
Directed Lauren Hutton in the NBC TV-movie, "Someone's Watching Me!"; first screen collaboration with future wife Adrienne Barbeau
1979:
Helmed the ABC biopic "Elvis"; Kurt Russell played the title role in their first collaboration
:
Formed own production company Hye Whitebread Productions with wife Barbeau
1980:
Directed, wrote and composed the score for "The Fog"; also made his screen acting debut
1981:
Second collaboration with Kurt Russell, "Escape From New York"
1982:
Directed first film he did not write, "The Thing"; again collaborated with Russell
1983:
Directed the film adaptation of the Stephen King novel, "Christine"
1984:
Directed t"Starman," starring Jeff Bridges in his Oscar nominated role
1984:
Made debut as an executive producer, "The Philadelphia Experiment"
1985:
Directed Kurt Russell in "Big Trouble in Little China"
1987:
Returned to low-budget filmmaking with "Prince of Darkness"
1990:
Wrote and produced the Western comedy "El Diablo," for HBO
1993:
Executive produced and directed two segments of the Showtime anthology, "John Carpenter Presents Body Bags"
1996:
Re-teamed with Kurt Russell for the sequel, "John Carpenter's Escape From L.A."
1998:
Directed the film, "Vampires," starring James Woods as the leader of a band of vampire hunters
2001:
Wrote and directed the horror film, "Ghosts of Mars"
2005:
Directed "Cigarette Burns," an episode of Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series
2005:
Produced the big budget remake of his film, The Fog"
2006:
Once again directed an episode of Showtime's Masters of Horror series, "Pro-Life"
2010:
Returned to directing with "The Ward"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Western Kentucky University: Bowling Green , Kentucky -
University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California - 1968 - 1971

Notes

"Carpenter best sums up the influence of his fannish preoccupations, in a letter he wrote to the fanzine PHOTON shortly after the release of "Dark Star": 'My young life was filled with the pulp and pablum of "Not of This Earth", "It Conquered the World" and "Enemy From Space". I was only eight years old when I saw "Forbidden Planet", but I still haven't gotten over it. The young eyes that watched the invisible id creature make its huge footprints in the sand of Altair IV and finally saw the thing fully illuminated in the glowing laser beams would never be the same.'"--From "Roots of Imagination" by Frederick S. Clarke, CINEFANTASTIQUE, Volume 10, Number 1.

From "Carpenter: Riding High on Horror" by Jordan R Fox, CINEFANTASTIQUE, Volume 10, Number 1:

[Fox:] What's your view on the resurgence of the horror film in recent years?

[Carpenter:]I don't think it's just the horror film. We're going back to escapist entertainment; the "B" film is coming back. By "B" I don't mean less expensive, good, or important, but a film whose primary purpose is to entertain. There was a great deal of pretension in film during the '60s and '70s: filmmaking is ART. The idea was that you were delivering a message of great importance. This goes back to Antonioni and Fellini, the influence of the European film. Now we're going back to the American cinema, filmmakers like Howard Hawks, Hitchcock and John Ford--entertainment movie-makers. I'm happy, because this is the best kind of film there is.

His [Carpenter's] early work was a fond and felicitous tribute to the aura of RKO in the forties: very low-budget pictures full of visceral excitement and rich cinematic texture that belie their cost. He adores and refers to the style of Hitchcock and the atmosphere of Hawks, and he made "Dark Star" as a rebuke to "2001" and an affirmation of the innocent wonder of "The Thing" or "Forbidden Planet". With effect, for "Dark Star" is the best space-travel film since the early fifties.--David Thomson, "A Biographical Dictionary of Film" (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).

From Fox, CINEFANTASTIQUE Volume 10, Number 1:

[Carpenter:] You want a philosophy? Filmmaking is not people sitting and talking. That's recording--like what we're doing here. Movies MOVE--M-O-V-E--they move. Cutting, camera movement--that's what they're about.

At the same time, technique is not an end in itself. It is the means through which you reach your audience. I don't want to make a film where the story is subordinated to technique. We're all storytellers here."

"I am a writer, and a director, and let me tell you something, a screenplay is not a movie, it's a bunch of words. The director makes the movie. All this other bullshit can just go away. I've had my screenplays directed by other people. "The Eyes of Laura Mars" was directed by Irvin Kershner and he is the author of that movie, not me. As a director, I am the author of my movies. I know that's not a popular view with the writers, but I'm sorry. If the writer thinks he's an auteur, then let him thread up his screenplay in a projector and we'll take a look at it."--John Carpenter interviewed in "Fires... Floods... Riots... Earthquakes... John Carpenter!: Hollywood's Prince of Darkness Destroys L.A." by Ted Elrick, DGA MAGAZINE, July-August 1996 (Vol. 21, No. 3).

From Fox, CINEFANTASTIQUE, Volume 10, Number 1:

[Fox:] That brings up the question of the 'director's hand.' A good example would be Brian De Palma and "The Fury", where you have some very fancy shots that show off his camera virtuosity.

[Carpenter:]It's called masturbation. Now, to be fair, I must admit that I have been masturbatory in my work also, but I do try not to be too self-conscious. A director get's a few tricks under his belt and says 'Hey, watch this! See what I can do!' But it's hollow isn't it? There's no substance underneath. Take a film like "Vertigo". The underlying emotions are so strong, the technique just amplifies them (without calling attention to itself)."

"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."--Carpenter quoted in "A Biographical Dictionary of Film" by David Thomson.

From Army Archerd's column, "Just for Variety" in DAILY VARIETY, October 9, 1995:

". . .Sandy and John Carpenter's home in the Point Reyes National Forest area was one of 40 destroyed by the forest fire last week. John bought the house when he was making "The Fog". It was their 'retreat from the world', also the site of his "Village of the Damned". 'It's the last anyone will see of that forest with its 200-foot-tall trees', Sandy said. The house was in ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST. They are more saddened about the loss of the forest and its animals than their house."

"In . . . "They Live", aliens have settled on Earth, offering material success to a chosen few while the rest of the population becomes poor and homeless. In one of the most chilling moments of the film, the hero stumbles upon some special sunglasses which, when worn, reveal subliminal messages hidden in billboards and magazines. Everywhere there are messages ordering the subconscious to 'Consume' and 'Marry and Reproduce.' Dollar bills reveal the message, 'This is your God.' The sunglasses also reveal the aliens' true identity.

As he rides across the Paramount lot in a studio golf cart on his way to a photo shoot, Carpenter, wearing sunglasses given to him from a French fan which have the "They Live" logo on the frames, suddenly spots a fellow in jeans and work shirt. After a beat Carpenter says, "He's human." As his golf cart turns a corner, he spots another fellow, this time wearing a suit and tie. 'I'm not sure about him,' he says.--From Elrick, DGA MAGAZINE, July-August 1996.

Carpenter should not be confused with the stage actor of the same name who has also appeared in films including "Network" and "Tootsie"

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Debra Hill. Producer, screenwriter. Met Carpenter while working as script supervisor on "Assault on Precinct 13" (1976); produced and co-scripted Carpenter's "Halloween" (1978) and "The Fog" (1980), produced "Escape From New York" (1981), produced and co-scripted "Escape From L.A.".
wife:
Adrienne Barbeau. Actor. Married January 1, 1979; divorced November 1988; appeared in several of Carpenter's film and TV projects.
wife:
Sandy King. Producer. Has collaborated with Carpenter on many of his films and some TV projects.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Howard Ralph Carpenter. College music professor; session musician. As a session player in Nashville, played with Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra and Brenda Lee; one of the originators of the "Nashville sound".
mother:
Milton Jean Carpenter.
son:
John Cody Carpenter. Mother Adrienne Barbeau.

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