American film director, producer, writer and occasional actor Sam Raimi is famous as the director of the first three successful “Spider-Man” movies, which starred Tobey Maguire. He added writing credit for “Spider-Man: 3” (2007), which he shared with his brother Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sergent. Both Raimi and Maguire have decided not to return for “Spider-Man 4” because of creative differences. Raimi is also known for directing the cult horror films “Evil Dead” series, “Darkman” (1990), “A Simple Plan” (1998, won a Cognac Festival du Film Policier Award), and “Drag Me to Hell” (2009). He has produced several movies, including “Hard Target” (1993), “Timecop” (1994), “The Grudge” (2004) and its sequel “The Grudge 2” (2006), and “Armored” (2009). On the small screen, he is responsible for the success of the syndicated series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” (1995-1999) and “Xena: Warrior Princess” (1995-2001). Other TV series he executive produced include “M.A.N.T.I.S.” (1994-1995, 1997; also a writer), “Jack of All Trades” (2000-2001), “Cleopatra 2525” (2000-2001) and “Legend of the Seeker” (2008).
Raimi won a Time-Machine Honorary Award at the 1992 Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival. He later picked up the George Pal Memorial Award at the 2001 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Raimi has been voted into Premiere's “Power 50” four times and ranked No. 37 in 2003, No. 48 in 2004, No. 3 in 2005 and No. 23 in 2006.
Raimi and his wife, actress Gillian Greene, have five children together. He previously was romantically linked to Lisa Henson, the president of Columbia Pictures. Raimi is a passionate collector of comic books and mentions “Spider-Man” as his favorite. He is a big fan of the American vaudeville and comedy act The Three Stooges.
Childhood and Family:
Born Samuel Marshall Raimi on October 23, 1959, in Royal Oak, Michigan, Sam Raimi grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in Birmingham, Michigan. His father, Leonard Ronald Raimi, was a home furnishing store owner and his mother, Celia Barbara Raimi, owned lingerie shops. The fourth of five children, Sammy's eldest brother, Sander Raimi (born in 1953), was killed in a swimming accident at age 15 while on a scholarship trip to Israel. His elder brother, Ivan Raimi (born in 1956), is a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a screenwriter who has collaborated with him in several writing projects, including “Army of Darkness” (1992), “Spider-Man 3” (2007) and “Drag Me to Hell” (2009). Sammy also has a younger brother named Ted Raimi, (born on December 14, 1965), who is an actor, and a sister, Andrea Raimi, who is a stenographer.
Sammy received an 8mm movie camera from his father when he was a child. He subsequently started making amateur short films. About the same time, he made friends with future actor and collaborator Bruce Campbell. Besides Campbell, he also developed close relationships with Scott Spiegel and John Cameron in junior high school. Sammy graduated from Birmingham Groves High School in Birmingham, Michigan, in 1977 and then enrolled at Michigan State University where he was an English major. He quit college after three semesters to pursue a filmmaking career.
In 1993, Sammy married actress Gillian Greene (born on January 6, 1968), the daughter of actor Lorne Greene. Sam and Gillian are the parents of Lorne, Henry, Emma, Dashiell and Schooley Raimi.
The Evil Dead
Sam Raimi made his first short film, “It's Murder,” which starred his old high school friends Bruce Campbell, John Cameron and Scott Spiegel, in 1977. While in college, he founded the Michigan State University Society for Creative Filmmaking with his brother Ivan and Ivan's roommate, producer Robert Tapert, and also served as president of the film society. Instead of renting films, Raimi and his friends made their own feature length movies on Super 8 and showed them to campus audiences. Raimi was reunited with Campbell and Spiegel for his short “Within the Woods” (1978), a 32 minute horror movie produced by Tapert. After dropping out of college, he joined forces with Tapert and Campbell to establish the production company Renaissance Motion Pictures in 1979, with Campbell serving as president and Raimi as vice president.
Raimi made his feature film directing and writing debut with “The Evil Dead,” starring Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich and Theresa Tilly. Made through Renaissance in 1979, the movie drew controversy over its graphic terror, hostility and bloodshed and initially had difficulty finding distributors until 1981 when a European company purchased it in the Cannes Film Festival marketplace. Released in theaters in the U.S. on April 15, 1983, the film enjoyed average success upon its release. Raimi picked up the Prize of the International Critics' Jury at the 1982 Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival for his work on the film. “The Evil Dead” received mixed reviews from critics upon its release, but has since become a cult hit.
In 1985, Raimi returned to the director's chair to direct Campbell, Reed Birney, Paul L. Smith, Louise Lasser, Brion James and Sheree J. Wilson in the movie “Crimewave,” which he also co-wrote with the Coen Brothers. It was also in 1985 that Raimi, who had acted in several short films, was cast in the feature films “Stryker's War,” a movie written and directed by Josh Becker, and “Spies like Us,” a comedy from John Landis. Two years later, he co-wrote, (with Spiegel), directed and executive produced the sequel “Evil Dead II” (1987), where Campbell reprised his role of Ash J. Williams. The film was nominated for three Saturns, including Best Horror Film. Raimi closed out the decade with the memorable supporting role of Randy in the Spiegel directed thriller “Intruder” (1989) and serving as an executive producer of the independent movie “Easy Wheels” (1989), which was released direct-to-video in October 1990. He also co-wrote (under the pseudonym Celia Abrams) the script for the latter movie with his brother Ivan and the director David O'Malley.
Raimi ventured into mainstream filmmaking with “Darkman” (1990). Starring Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Larry Drake and Colin Friels, the action film gained primarily positive reviews from critics and did well at the box office. With a budget of $16 million, the film grossed nearly $49 million worldwide. For his efforts, Raimi was handed the Best Director Award at the 1990 Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival, where he also earned an additional nomination for Best Film, and a 1991 Saturn nomination for Best Director. “Darkman” spawned the straight-to-video installments “Darkman II: The Return of Durant” (1995) and “Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die” (1996), both of which were executive produced by Raimi. In 1990, Raimi also had small roles in the films “Miller's Crossing” and “Maniac Cop 2.”
After executive producing Josh Becker's “Lunatics: A Love Story” (1991), starring his brother Ted Raimi and Campbell, Raimi co-wrote the screenplay of Adam Rifkin's comedy “The Nutt House” and landed a bit part in Landis' “Innocent Blood” before directing and co-writing with Ivan the third and last installment in the “Evil Dead” movie series, “Army of Darkness” (all 1992). The film has grossed over $21.5 million against its $11million budget and like its predecessors, has achieved cult status. Raimi picked up the Golden Raven at the 1993 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, the Critics' Award and an International Fantasy Film Award nomination for Best Film at the 1993 Fantasporto, a Grand Prize nomination at the 1993 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival and a Best Film nomination at the 1992 Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival for his work on the film.
Raimi next executive produced “Hard Target” (1993), which was directed by John Woo and starred Jean-Claude Van Damme, and portrayed Stick Coder in Mike Binder's “Indian Summer” (1993), opposite Alan Arkin, Matt Craven and Diane Lane. He then made his TV acting debut in the NBC movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1993). In 1994, he created the science fiction TV series “M.A.N.T.I.S.,” which aired on Fox from August 1994 to March 1995 and supported Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Charles Durning in the Coen Brothers comedy “The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994), in which he also shared the writing credit with the Coens. Raimi next played Bobby Terry in the ABC miniseries “Stephen King's 'The Stand'” (1994) and was cast as Hudsucker Brainstormer in Brian Levant's “The Flintstones” (1994). He also served as a producer on the Van Damme movie “Timecop” (1994), for director Peter Hyams.
Still in 1994, Raimi executive produced the syndicated TV film “Hercules and the Amazon Women,” starring Kevin Sorbo as Hercules, and later produced “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys - Hercules and the Lost Kingdom,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys - Hercules and the Circle of Fire,” “Hercules in the Underworld” and “Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur” (all 1994). It was not long before Raimi found international prominence as the executive producer of the fantasy series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” (January 1995 to November 1999). The show became one of the most successful syndicated shows in the history of television. He enjoyed further TV victory with the spin-off show “Xena: Warrior Princess,” which he executive produced with long time partner and creator Robert Tapert. Starring Lucy Lawless, the show ran in syndication from September 1995 to May 2001. He also executive produced the horror series “American Gothic” (1995-1996), the action series “Spy Game” (1997), which he created with Ivan Raimi, John McNamara, and others, and “Young Hercules” (1998-1999), which starred Ryan Gosling.
Raimi returned to the director's chair when he helmed Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in the western movie “The Quick and the Dead” (1995), which was written by Simon Moore. The film earned a mixed reception from critics and did not do well at the box office. Three years later, he directed Bill Paxton, Bridget Fonda and Billy Bob Thornton in “A Simple Plan” (1998). Despite being a flop at the box office, the film was praised by several critics and earned Oscar nominations for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Scott Smith) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Thornton). The film also brought the director the Special Jury Prize at the 1999 Cognac Festival du Film Policier. Raimi then directed Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone and Brian Cox in the big screen adaptation of Michael Shaara's “For Love of the Game” (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Raimi directed Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank and Michael Jeter in the supernatural thriller “The Gift” (2000), which was written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson. The same year, he also began his executive producing stint on the spy TV series “Jack of All Trades” (syndicated, 2000-2001) and the series “Cleopatra 2525” (syndicated, 2000-2001).
A zealous fan of “Spider-Man” comic books, Raimi scored a huge breakthrough in 2002 when he was hired to direct a big screen movie about the character. Released on May 3, 2002, by Columbia Pictures, “Spider-Man” starred Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin/Norman Osborn and James Franco as Harry Osborn. The film won critical acclaim and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound. It was also a major commercial success. “Spider-Man” became the third highest grossing film of 2002 and remains at No. 21 on the highest grossing film of all time list. Raimi earned a Saturn nomination for Best Director and an Empire nomination in the same category for “Spider-Man.”
Raimi resurfaced in 2004 to direct the sequel “Spider-Man 2” with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco reprising their previous roles. The film earned rave reviews from critics and won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, not to mention additional nominations for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Sound Editing. At the box office, the film grossed over $783 million worldwide and is the 11th highest grossing film of all time in the United States. For his effort, Raimi took home a Saturn and an Empire for Best Director. He again helmed Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco in “Spider-Man 3” (2007), which he scripted with his brother Ivan and Alvin Sargent. With a worldwide gross of nearly $891 million, the film emerged as the most successful film in the series worldwide despite getting a mixed reception from critics. It also became Marvel's most successful film, Sony Pictures Entertainment's highest grossing film to date, and the second highest grossing superhero film after “The Dark Knight” (2008). Raimi commented, “’The Dark Knight' (2008) was brilliant and the audience seemed to love it and I think it rightfully raises expectations for the other superhero pictures, which is a great thing for everybody, for the filmmakers, for the audience.”
Outside the “Spider-Man” movie series, Raimi worked extensively as a producer on the movies “The Grudge” (2004), which was directed by Takashi Shimizu and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Behr, the Stephen T. Kay directed horror movie “Boogeyman” (2005) and the sequel “The Grudge 2” (2006), again helmed by Shimizu. In 2007, he produced The Pang Brothers' “The Messengers,” Sebastian Gutierrez's “Rise: Blood Hunter” and David Slade's “30 Days of Night.”
In 2009, Raimi directed, co-write (with Ivan) and produced the horror film “Drag Me to Hell.” Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2009, the film received critical acclaim upon its release and was a success at the box office where it grossed over $86 million worldwide against its 30 million dollar budget. The cast included Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, Adriana Barraza, David Paymer and Reggie Lee. He also produced Nimród Antal's “Armored” (2009), which starred Matt Dillon, Jean Reno and Laurence Fishburne. Also in 2009, Raimi executive produced the short lived TV series “13: Fear Is Real,” which debuted on the CW Television Network on January 7, 2009. Raimi was also an executive producer of “Legend of the Seeker,” a series based on “The Sword of Truth” novels by Terry Goodkind. The show premiered on November 1, 2008, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series in 2009. Raimi has signed on as producer on the upcoming films “Priest” (2010) and “Dibbuk Box” (2010). He will return to the director's chair for the feature film adaptation of the well known video game series “Warcraft” (2011), which was scripted by Robert Rodat. He also serves as a producer on the film.
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Saturn Award, Best Director, “Spider-Man 2,” 2005
Empire: Best Director, “Spider-Man 2,” 2005
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: George Pal Memorial Award, 2001
Cognac Festival du Film Policier: Special Jury Prize, “A Simple Plan,” 1999
Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film: Golden Raven, “Army of Darkness,” 1993
Fantasporto: Critics' Award, “Army of Darkness,” 1993
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival: Time-Machine Honorary Award, 1992
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival: Best Director, “Darkman,” 1990
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival: Prize of the International Critics' Jury, “The Evil Dead,” 1982