Roger Corman, a trailblazer of independent cinema who won an Honorary Oscar for his unparalleled ability to nurture aspiring filmmakers, died on Thursday. He was 98.

"It is with profound sadness, and boundless gratitude for his extraordinary life, that we remember our beloved husband and father, Roger Corman," Corman's family shared on social media. "He was generous, open-hearted and kind to all those who knew him. A devoted and selfless father, he was deeply loved by his daughters. 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.'"

Born in Detroit on April 5, 1926, Corman made his way to Hollywood at an early age and worked his way up from the bottom, getting his start as a messenger in the mailroom at 20th Century Fox. His prolific producing career began in earnest in 1954, when he produced the sci-fi horror film Monster from the Ocean Floor, and the thriller The Fast and the Furious, which starred Oscar nominee John Ireland. (47 years later, the latter film, about a convict on the run in a Jaguar convertible, would inspire the title to one of Hollywood's biggest franchises.)

Following his producing breakthrough, Corman made his directorial debut in 1955 with the Western Five Guns West, starring John Lund and Oscar winner Dorothy Malone; it was the first of three films he directed that year. Corman continued to work at an unprecedented rate, seamlessly bouncing between different genres. He quickly earned the title "King of the Bs," a loving acknowledgment of his mastery of the B-movie. Among his most celebrated directorial efforts are 1960's The Little Shop of Horrors and 1964's The Masque of the Red Death, which was one of eight Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that Corman helmed.

A still from 1960's 'The Little Shop of Horrors,' directed by Roger Corman.

Perhaps Corman's most impressive quality was his eye for spotting talent, having helped start the careers of young filmmakers such as Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Ron Howard, and Martin Scorsese.

"Roger Corman gave me my start in movies," Scorsese said. (Corman produced 1972's Boxcar Bertha.) "He set the guidelines, and then he gave me tremendous freedom within those guidelines. In essence, he taught me how to actually make movies. If I hadn't worked with Roger, I wouldn't have known how to make Mean Streets or, when it comes right down to it, any of the pictures that followed. It was the same for many, many other filmmakers of my generation. I admired Roger, I loved him, I loved the pictures he directed (especially the Poe adaptations) and the spirit of his filmmaking."

Once his disciples went on to become some of the most acclaimed auteurs in Hollywood, they would often cast Corman in their own films. Corman made on-screen appearances in such films as The Godfather Part II, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and Apollo 13.

Corman directed more than 50 films, which pales in comparison to his 300-plus producing credits, and his legacy only grew over the years as many of his low-budget films became recognized as cult classics. "Roger Corman, one of the most influential movie directors in my life, has passed away," horror master John Carpenter posted on social media. "It was my privilege to know him. He was a great friend. He shaped my childhood with science fiction movies and Edgar Allan Poe epics. I'll miss you, Roger."

Ron Howard, whose 1977 directorial debut Grand Theft Auto was produced by Corman, also paid tribute, writing, "RIP Roger Corman. A great movie maker and mentor. When I was 23, he gave me my first shot at directing. He launched many careers and quietly lead [sic] our industry in important ways. He remained sharp, interested and active even at 98. Grateful to have known him."


In 2009, Corman was awarded the Honorary Oscar due to "his unparalleled ability to nurture aspiring filmmakers by providing an environment that no film school could match."

"I think that to succeed in this world you have to take chances," Corman said in his acceptance speech at the 2009 Governor Awards. "Many of my friends and compatriots and people who've started with me are here tonight, and they've all succeeded. Some of them succeeded to an extraordinary degree. And I believe they've succeeded because they had the courage to take chances, to gamble. But they gambled because they knew the odds were with them; they knew they had the ability to create what they wanted to make."

He continued, "It's very easy for a major studio or somebody else to repeat their successes, to spend vast amounts of money on remakes, on special effects-driven tentpole franchise films. But I believe the finest films being done today are done by the original, innovative filmmakers who have the courage to take a chance and to gamble. So I say to you: Keep gambling, keep taking chances."

Corman is survived by his wife, Julie, and four children.


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