Roger Corman, Legendary Filmmaker and King of B-Movies, Dies at 98

Roger Corman, the legendary filmmaker and king of B-movies who also helped launch the careers of Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Robert DeNiro, and many more, has died at the age of 98.

As reported by Variety, Corman passed away on May 9 at his home in Santa Monica, California, while being surrounded by his family.

“His films were revolutionary and iconoclastic, and captured the spirit of an age. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, ‘I was a filmmaker, just that,’” the family said in a statement.

Image Credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Image Credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Roger Corman was born on April 5, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan, and he wasn’t a person who grew up dreaming of making it big in Hollywood. He actually went to Stanford University and chose to study industrial engineering, but he discovered that field was not his passion.

After college, he spent a whole four days working at U.S. Electrical Motors and ended that run when he told his boss, “I’ve made a terrible mistake.” With his future now in his hands and limitless, he chose to walk down the path of filmmaking since his brother, Gene Corman, was a working agent in the movie industry.

His first gig was in the mail room of 20th Century Fox and he would end up having a career that was the stuff of legend. However, he wasn’t known for big budget blockbusters and instead found his niche in the world of low-budget films of many genres that could be made very quickly.

He helped spearhead hundreds of these films as the co-founder of New World Pictures, the founder of Concorde/New Horizons, and more, and he was given an Honorary Academy Award for his “rich engendering of films and filmmakers.”

He was given such nicknames as “The King of the Cult Film” and “The Pope of Pop Cinema” as only a very few of his films failed to turn a profit in nearly six decades of making movies. While these films may not be the height of cinema, they helped lay the foundation for some of the greatest actors and directors that have ever lived.

In addition to the names listed in the intro, Corman was a key player in helping bolster the careers of Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Peter Bogdanovich, Gale Anne Hurd, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern, William Shatner, Sandra Bullock, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, and many more.

As previously mentioned, he worked with Ron Howard when he was directing his first feature film in Grand Theft Auto in 1977. Howard complained a bit about Corman not paying for any extras in the film, to which he responded, “Ron, if you do a good job for me on this picture, you’ll never have to work for me again.”

He’s also somewhat responsible for the mega-franchise known as The Fast and the Furious as he produced a film with the same name back in 1955. Producer Neal Moritz approached Corman about the name when he was getting ready to launch the franchise, and the two agreed to make it happen.

Most of his credits were as a producer for movies that boasted a budget of just $5 million or under, but he also directed over 50 projects, including Machine Gun Kelly, I Mobster, The Wild Angels, Little Shop of Horrors, House of Usher, and The Intruder.

He kept up a relationship with many of the stars he worked with over the years, and a lot of them gave him cameo roles in their films, including Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II, Howard’s Apollo 13, Demme’s Philadelphia, Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, and Dante’s Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Speaking of those he helped and worked with, people from all over the world have already begun sharing a few words about the impact of Roger Corman, and we’ll share a few below;

“RIP Roger Corman. A great movie maker and mentor. When I was 23 he gave me my 1st shot at directing. He launched many careers & quietly lead our industry in important ways. He remained sharp, interested and active even at 98. Grateful to have known him,” Ron Howard wrote on Twitter/X.

“Roger Corman was my very first boss, my lifetime mentor and my hero. Roger was one of the greatest visionaries in the history of cinema. I am absolutely devastated by his loss and send my love and deepest condolences to the Corman family,” Gale Anne Hurd wrote on Twitter/X.

“Roger Corman, one of the most influential movie directors in my life, has passed away. It was my privilege to know him.He was a great friend. He shaped my childhood with science fiction movies and Edgar Allen Poe epics. I’ll miss you, Roger,” John Carpenter wrote on Twitter/X.

“We lost a true legend! In 1994, I was in a low budget film when @markhamill visited. Why is a superstar like Mark here? I was confused. Well, it was a #RogerCorman project. Everyone who was anyone loved visiting with Roger! Even a jedi! Last Dec, at the NAEJ awards, I met up w/ Mr. Corman again. He was energetic, joyful and still super passionate for filmmaking. Pure inspiration! One of a kind. Sad to know this special human is not with us anymore. TY for everything. RIP,” Ming-Na Wen wrote on Twitter/X.

“So very sorry to hear of Roger Corman’s passing. Working with Roger in The Wild Angels was a highlight of my life. He was a such a lovely man. Sending condolences to his wife Julie and their children,” Nancy Sinatra wrote on Twitter/X.

Corman is survived by his wife, Julie Corman, and his two daughters, Catherine and Mary.

Adam Bankhurst is a writer for IGN. You can follow him on X/Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on TikTok.

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