Filmmaker Sam Raimi was born on October 23, 1959, in Royal Oak, Michigan, near Detroit. He started making movies with his friends as a teenager. His career first took off with his low-budget horror film Evil Dead (1981). Since then, Raimi has moved on to such popular hits as Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007).
One of five children, Sam Raimi inherited a love for filmmaking from his father, a furniture and appliance store owner. The elder Raimi loved to make home movies, and Sam created his first film at the age of 11. Two years, he had his own 8 millimeter camera to use on his own projects. Raimi, along with his friend Bruce Campbell, later studied filmmaking with Vern Nobles who made industrial films. Before long, Raimi started working for Nobles as a production assistant.
Raimi shared his passion for movies with his friends in high school. They did odd jobs and used their allowances to fund their productions on the Civil War and other topics. In 1977, Raimi enrolled at Michigan State University. There he befriended Robert Tapert, another film aficionado.
Dropping out of college, Raimi devoted himself to making movies full time. He formed Renaissance Pictures with his friends Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert. To raise money, he and his partners met with local doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in the Detroit area. They showed these potential investors 20 minutes of footage and asked them for $5,000 each. After raising nearly $400,000, Raimi had enough cash for his first major film.
Putting his own humorous spin on horror, Raimi created The Evil Dead, a disturbing tale about a group of college students in the woods who accidentally awaken some gruesome demons. Campbell played one of the leading roles in the film, which languished for a time. Raimi and his partners had trouble finding a distributor for the movie, but they eventually got it released in Europe. Overseas, Raimi's combination of gore and slapstick won over audiences. The film became a cult classic back in the United States, and Raimi attracted a lot of interest from Hollywood. Producer Dino Di Laurentiis offered to fund a sequel to the film.
With a bigger budget this time around, Raimi returned to deadly supernatural forces in Evil Dead II (1987). The film proved to be a modest hit, both critically and commercially. Audiences were delighted by its humor and terrified by its gore and extreme violence. Raimi produced one more Evil Dead installment, 1993's Army of Darkness, but it did not fare as well as the earlier productions.
Outside of horror, Raimi worked in a number of different genres. He directed the poorly received Crimewave (1985), which was co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Raimi later returned the favor by helping to write the script for the Coens' 1994 film The Hudsucker Proxy. Trying to create his own superhero, Raimi wrote and directed Darkman (1990) starring Liam Neeson. It was not a critical or box office success, but it enjoyed some popularity on video and spawned two straight-to-video sequels.
Raimi tackled another style of film with the western The Quick and the Dead (1995) with Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie did poorly at the box office. He had better luck on television around time, working as an executive producer. He scored big with such syndicated shows as Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in the mid-1990s.
Box Office Hits
In 1998, Raimi's then-sagging directorial career received a substantial boost from his work on A Simple Plan starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton. The drama explored the impact of money on the relationship between two brothers and a friend. The trio discovered millions of cash in a crashed plane and conspired to keep the dough. Raimi earned praise for his work on the film, which some critics called one of the year's best movies.
Raimi was tapped to helm the big screen adaptation of the Spider-Man comic book series by Stan Lee. Actor Tobey Maguire took the pivotal role of Peter Parker, the young teenager who gets special powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. For the first time in his career, Raimi enjoyed enormous box office success as Spider-Man proved to be one of the biggest hits of 2001. He followed up that blockbuster with two more popular sequels, Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007). Plans for a fourth installment were scrapped in 2010 by Sony Pictures, which decided to reboot the series without Raimi or Maguire.
These days, Raimi has his hands in a number of projects. He will direct Oz, the Great and Powerful, a prequel of sorts to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, which stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams.
Raimi is married to Gillian Greene, daughter of the late actor Lorne Greene of Bonanza fame. The couple has five children together.
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