Clive Barker Biography

Author, Filmmaker(1952–)
Writer and filmmaker Clive Barker is largely considered a master of the horror genre. His Books of Blood and Hellraiser films are among his best-known works.

Synopsis

Clive Barker was born October 5, 1952, in Liverpool, England. In college he created a theater group that became the Dog Company. In 1984 he published his first work of work of fiction, Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. In the early 1980s he and George Pavlou made the films Underworld and Rex. In 1987 he directed his own film, Hellraiser. Since then, he has worked on both screenwriting and fiction.

Early Life

Clive Barker was born on October 5, 1952, to a working-class family in Liverpool, England. His father, Leonard, was a shipping clerk. Barker’s mother, Joan, was a housewife and a lively storyteller. To help pay the bills, Barker’s parents ran a boarding house. Many of the boarders were actors, who encouraged Barker’s early interest in theater.

When he was just four years old, Barker witnessed a man fall from a plane to his death during an air show. Forced to look away, he developed a growing fascination with morbid, forbidden sights. As a teen, Barker became an enthusiastic reader of horror fiction, particularly the work of Edgar Allan Poe. This preoccupation with the macabre would influence his creative work in the years to come.

Theater Life

In addition to his fascination with horror fiction, Barker also maintained a keen interest in theater. As early as secondary school, he started writing and performing his own plays.

After graduating from secondary school, Barker enrolled at the University of Liverpool as an English major. College life proved challenging for Barker. He created an outlet for his angst by starting his own theater company, called the Hydra Theatre Company, with a group of friends. In addition to other plays, the company presented original works penned by Barker himself.

When Barker graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1974, he and the Hydra Theatre Company kept putting on plays. In 1976 they moved the company to London and became an established, professional company, renaming themselves the Dog Company. The Dog Company faced some initial challenges, but eventually became popular with audiences and critics alike. In 1982 members of the group were ready to move on to other things, and the group disbanded. Following the breakup, Barker continued to write plays, but by then was beginning to gravitate more toward writing fiction.

Fiction Writing

In 1984 Barker published his fiction work for the first time, in the form of a short-story collection called Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. The stories became best sellers in Britain. When they were reprinted in America, they were met with equal enthusiasm.

In 1985 Barker published his first novel, The Damnation Game. Afterward, he wrote three more Books of Blood and two additional novels—Weaveworld and Cabal, published in 1987 and 1988, respectively.

Film Career

Barker’s flair for horror writing lent itself well to the film industry. In the early 1980s Barker was approached by filmmaker George Pavlou, who wanted to convert some of Barker’s Books of Blood stories into films. The two formed a collaboration and in 1985 released the low-budget movie Underworld. Barker followed the film with another low-budget flick, Rex, which was also based on one of his stories from Books of Blood.

When neither film garnered much attention, Barker decided to start directing his own films. Thus, in 1987, Hellraiser made its way to the screen, to critics’ praise and box-office success. The film gave rise to two sequels and put Barker on the map as not just a horror writer but also a horror filmmaker.

In 1990, Barker released his first Hollywood-produced, big-budget film, Nightbreed. Afterward he moved to Beverly Hills, where throughout the 1990s and into recent years, he has continued to work on both his screenwriting and his fiction—including an unexpected fantasy book for children published in 2002.

Personal Life

Barker met his partner, fashion photographer David Armstrong, in 1996, and the two have since lived together in Beverly Hills. Although same sex-marriage was not legal in California at the time, the couple held a marriage ceremony in 1997. Barker has a stepdaughter named Nicole, Armstrong’s daughter from a previous marriage.

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