Born on January 16, 1948 in Carthage, NY, John Carpenter grew up in Bowling Green, KY. John wanted to be a director ever since he saw It Came From Outer Space, Forbidden Planet and other early science fiction movies. He would go to college at Western Kentucky University, where his father was a professor of Music, and at the University of Southern California, where he studied film. His first short film, The Resurrection of Bronco Billy, which was made for a student project, would win an academy award for Best Short Live Action Film in 1970. John Carpenter would continue to direct, produce, write and even score many of the movies he worked on. John would usually hold several of those titles at the same time.
His experiences with Bronco Billy powered John Carpenter for his next work, Dark Star. Dark Star started as a college project with fellow student Dan O'Bannon, but after graduation, the short was expanded into a full length move on the cheap budget of $60,000. During the making of the movie, John Carpenter had his hands in everything, even the editing as well as sanctioning the script.
Carpenter's second full length feature would be Assault On Precinct 13, a tribute to Howard Hawk's Rio Bravo. The movie did not fare too well in the states, but it wowed the audience at the London Film Festival and becamse a cult hit. The films success abroad caught the notice of Moustapha Akkad a producer looking for a director. The two would combine and create the first in a highly successful series of horror films, Halloween. Halloween brought Carpenter the success he thought he woiuld get with Dark Star, as it was the most successful independant film ever for a number of years. In the same year, Carpenter would direct the TV movie Someone's Watching Me.
The next full length flick Carpenter worked on was a biopic on the life of Elvis Presley, simply called, Elvis. In this film, Kurt Russell would play the lead role of Elvis, and the two would work together for the first of many time. While working on this film, Carpenter would discover how successful Halloween was, and when a movie gets successful in Hollywood...
Carpenter produced and directed Halloween II, the second in a long series of slasher films, whith the possible exception of Halloween III, where Carpenter tried to get away from the slasher mold. Halloween II was supposed to be the end of the series, but the studios wanted more money, and thus halloweens IV - VI. In 1999, Carpenter received an offer to Produce H20, the 20th anniversary of the original Halloween. Leading lady, Jamie Lee Curtis, even called Carpenter to try and get him aboard the project, but she was unnsuccessful and Carpenter did not sign on to the project.
After Elvis, Carpenter's next project was The Fog, a ghost story set in a costal town. This film was another hit for Carpenter, who had recently become Hollywood's premier master of Horror. After The Fog, John went in a change of direction, making the action movie Escape from New York, which starred Kurt Russell as wise cracking-action guy Snake Plissken. Carpenter's success continued with Escape as many enjoyed the semi-post-apocalyptic future carpenter had designed.
For his next movie, Carpenter went back to his roots. He remade one of the movies that inspired him to get into this business, The Thing From Another World and the short story it was based off of, "Who Goes There" by John W. Campbell. The Thing would be a special fx juggernaught, utilizing some of the most impressive, not to mention disgusting effects of the time. Although poorly recieved by the critics, The Thing fared well in the box office, and would be another success for Carpenter.
In 1983 a great pairing of the horror universe occured, and I don't mean Dracula vs. The Wolfman. John Carpenter paired up with the master of written horror, Stephen King for the movie version of King's book Christine. While King would not be the happiest with the finished product, saying that it seemed lifeless and flat, however Carpenter would be back on his way into Hollywood after the critical thrashing that The Thing received.
Carpenter strayed into unfamiliar territory by directing the sci-fi/romance Starman, for which Jeff Bridges earned an Oscar nomination for his work as the title role. John followed this movie with the cult hit Big Trouble in Little China, a ghost story about an American trucker (Kurt Russell) causing a huge ruckus in china. High action, silly horror, if any at all, like a bad Army Of Darkness. Big Trouble in Little China was a great, campy movie. The plot was incredibly cheesy (an old Chinese man needed a girl with green eyes for some mystical reason) but this was still one of my favorite movies when I was a youngin'.
Despite the fact that I thought it was a good flick, Big Trouble caused little box office success. John Carpenter went back to working on smaller budgeted pictures, where he had more creative control. John's next movie was Prince of Darkness, an ambitious film that tries to explore the metaphysical aspects of pure evil. The movie was the first of a multi-picture deal Carpenter signed with Universal and Carolco. The second movie made in this deal was They Live featuring popular at the time wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper. The third movie of this deal would never come to fruition.
In 1992, Carpenter hit a directorial low with Memoirs Of An Invisible Man. The movie was initially intended to be a serious piece, and not a comedy, but the studio thought they'd make more money with funny man, Chevy Chase (Whoops). This would cause Carpenter to go back to smaller projects, such as two segments of the TV creepshow trilogy called Bodybags. John would appear in the movie as a morgue attendant in the "wraparound" story.
John Carpenter returned to the bigscreen with the horror flick, Village Of The Damned, another remake of one of Carpenter's favorite movies. Village did not do well in the box-offices and was released straight to VHS in Europe, except for France (Thanks Linca). The poor sales were partially due to Universal Pictures, for they moved the debut up a week to fill in for the not yet finalized To Wong Foo, which featured Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo in drag. The only problem for Carpenter would be what happened a week earlier. A week before the release of Village, the Oklahoma City bombing happened, making people not so anxious to go see unfriendly alien children invading a small corn-laden town.
In 1996, Carpenter and Kurt Russell would get together and revive Snake Plissken as the two worked on Escape from L.A.. The sequel/remake of Escape from New York. Escape from L.A. tried to be full of action, with a "hip" attitude. The Movie would recieve mixed reviews and fared alright in the theaters. It wasn't the worst way to spent an hour and a half, as it was a pretty good straight forward action movie (except for that STUPID surfing scene).
Taking his cues rom a book again, Carpenter worked on Vampires, the adaption of a novel by John Steakley. The movie would follow a group of vampire hunters as they, well, hunt vampires. The movie was released in France first, where it fared very well. When vampires was released in the USA, it leaped up to number 1 in the box office, one of many Carpenter had in his career. Carpenter followed this movie up with some more TV movies, then went back to the bigscreen to make Ghosts of Mars, which he has also written.