Best known for creating the cult horror franchise Evil Dead, as well as directing the original Spider-Man trilogy (2002–07) and the 1990 superhero film Darkman.
Samuel M “Sam” Raimi, the fourth of five children, was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, the son of Celia Barbara (Abrams) and Leonard Ronald Raimi, and grew up in Birmingham, Michigan. He was raised in Conservative Judaism; his ancestors emigrated from Russia and Hungary. Raimi graduated from Groves High School and later went on to attend Michigan State University, where he majored in English but left after three semesters to film The Evil Dead.
Raimi became fascinated with making films when his father brought a movie camera home one day and he began to make Super 8 movies with childhood friend Bruce Campbell. In college, he teamed up with his brother’s roommate Robert Tapert and Campbell to shoot Within the Woods (1978), a 32-minute horror film which raised $375,000, as well as his debut feature film It’s Murder!. Through family, friends, and a network of investors, Raimi was able to finance production of the highly successful horror film The Evil Dead (1981) which became a cult hit and launched Raimi’s career.
He began work on his third film, Crimewave (1985), intended as a live-action comic book — the film was not successful, due in part to unwanted studio intervention. Raimi then returned to the horror genre with the seminal Evil Dead II (which combined slapstick with over the top horror, showcasing his love of the Three Stooges). With his brother Ivan Raimi (and crediting himself as Celia Abrams), Sam Raimi also wrote Easy Wheels (1989), a parody of Outlaw biker films. A long-time comic book buff, he then attempted to adapt “The Shadow” into a movie, but couldn’t secure the rights, so he created his own super-hero, Darkman (1990). It was his first major studio picture, and was only moderately successful, but through it he secured funding for Evil Dead III, which was retitled Army of Darkness and turned away almost totally from horror in favor of fantasy and comic elements. Army of Darkness, the final movie in the Evil Dead trilogy, was a box office flop, yet on video became a cult classic.
In the 1990s, Raimi moved into other genres, directing such films as the western The Quick and the Dead (starring Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman), the critically acclaimed crime thriller A Simple Plan (1998) (starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton), and the romantic drama For Love of the Game (1999) (starring Kevin Costner). Raimi achieved great critical and commercial success with the blockbuster Spider-Man (2002), which was adapted from the comic book series of the same name. The movie has grossed over US$800 million worldwide, spawning two sequels: Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, both directed by Raimi and both grossing roughly $800 million each. After the completion of the third Spider-Man film, he planned on producing two more sequels but could not find a satisfactory script. Prior to directing the Spider-Man films, Raimi lobbied to direct Batman Forever when Tim Burton was ousted from the director’s chair, but was rejected in favor of Joel Schumacher.
Raimi frequently collaborates with Joel and Ethan Coen, beginning when Joel was one of the editors of Evil Dead. The Coens co-wrote Crimewave and The Hudsucker Proxy with Raimi in the mid-1980s (though Hudsucker was not produced for almost a decade). Raimi made cameo appearances in Miller’s Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy, and with Joel Coen in Spies Like Us. In turn the Coens advised Raimi on shooting in snow for A Simple Plan, based on their experiences with Fargo. He has also worked in front of the camera in The Stand as a dimwitted hitman, John Carpenter’s Body Bags as a gas station attendant, and Indian Summer in what is perhaps his biggest role as a bumbling assistant to Alan Arkin. The film was written by his childhood friend writer-director Mike Binder and shot at the camp that they both attended when they were younger. Raimi also produced the entire The Grudge franchise.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Raimi had an interest in directing a film version of The Hobbit, the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2008, Guillermo del Toro got the nod instead, with Peter Jackson as the executive producer. Raimi may direct By Any Means Necessary, the next film based on the “Jack Ryan” CIA character created by Tom Clancy. Disney also approached him to direct W.I.T.C.H.: The Movie, based on the popular comic.
Raimi directed Oz the Great and Powerful, which was released in March of 2013. He said he would not be directing the sequel.
Raimi often works with film editor Bob Murawski, a fellow Michigan State University alumnus. Among Raimi’s films edited by Murawski include the Spider-Man movies, The Gift, and Army of Darkness. Raimi also frequently collaborates with composer Joseph LoDuca, another acquaintance from Michigan who has provided the scores to most of his films.
Raimi’s visual trademarks include:
In the Making The Amazing documentary on the Spider-Man 2 DVD, both Tobey Maguire and Bruce Campbell humorously recount Raimi’s penchant for “abusing” actors. To obtain detailed closeups of a character getting hit by debris Raimi stands off-camera throwing items, swinging tree branches, etc., at the actor at the center of the shot. Scenes from the documentary show that Raimi is the one throwing popcorn at Peter Parker during the walk to the wrestling ring in Spider-Man and tossing gold coins around during the bank robbery scene in Spider-Man 2, as well as a passer-by banging their bag into Peter Parker’s head as he kneels on the sidewalk of his college’s campus being Sam Raimi.
In many of Raimi’s movies the camera itself is part of the action onscreen. One of Raimi’s most famous sequences involves a POV shot of Bruce Campbell being chased through a cabin by an unseen evil force.
Raimi has been married since 1993 to Gillian Dania Greene, daughter of actor Lorne Greene. They have five children, three of whom (daughter Emma Rose and sons Lorne and Henry) appeared as extras in Drag Me to Hell, and in Spider-Man 3 during the movie’s final battle. He is the older brother of actor Ted Raimi and the younger brother of screenwriter Ivan Raimi.
In 2007, Rolling Stone reported Raimi had donated $9,999 to the Republican Party (the maximum legal amount).
Sam Raimi’s directing credits include…
|1978||Clockwork (short film)|
|1978||Within the Woods (short film)|
|1981||The Evil Dead|
|1987||Evil Dead II|
|1992||Army of Darkness|
|1995||The Quick and the Dead|
|1998||A Simple Plan|
|1999||For Love of the Game|
|2009||Drag Me to Hell|
|2013||Oz the Great and Powerful|
|2014||Rake (2 episodes)|
|2015||Ash vs Evil Dead (Episode: “El Jefe”)|
“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.”
[on undertaking Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)] “I didn’t want anything to do with it. I really had so much respect for the original movie that I didn’t want to even read it. [But later] I actually fell in love with the characters in the story and I realized this does not dishonor the original ‘Wizard of Oz’ movie. It’s a love note to the works of Baum.”
“After I made The Quick and the Dead (1995) — which was the ultimate “style-fest” for me — I felt very empty. And I felt that I cannot continue down this road of style. I need substance. So, I took a break from the movie business for a couple of years and I said that I wanted to find a picture where the script is the movie and the acting is the movie. And my wife showed me “A Simple Plan”, the book from Scott B. Smith. And I loved it and it’s a brilliant screenplay. And that’s where I was then — I was all about being invisible as the director, with no style and letting Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton and Brent Briscoe and Bridget Fonda do the heavy lifting. And I loved it — it reinvigorated me and reminded me of why I love the movies.”
“I love the Spider-Man character. And that’s what’s at the heart of it. That’s why I really love it. But there’s another fun thing that I never had before where you make your movie and a lot of people see it and they seem to like it. So it’s like oh my god, I’ve always been the nerd, lame ass guy on the side, but I made something that a lot of people like. I know that won’t last for long, and I’m obviously riding the Spider-Man thing. He’s a popular character for 40 years. So anyone who makes a Spider-Man movie gets to make a popular movie. But it’s fun to be popular, even if it’s a brief, lame thing, and even though I know it’s not important.”
“And I do think there’s a new crop of American filmmakers coming. And they’re in high school right now. They’re in Mrs. Dawson’s English class! They’ve got new tools, they’ve got computers and the video cameras, which are the equivalent of our super-8mm training ground. It’s even better because they can shoot for free. We had to gather up like four bucks, five bucks to buy a roll of film, another three bucks to process it, and that was a very limiting [thing], in high school you’ve gotta rake leaves for three hours to shoot a roll of film! ”
[on Crimewave (1985)] “I wanted it to be the ultimate picture of entertainment. To thrill, chill, make the audience laugh, cry, scream… They screamed for their money back.”
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen use many of Raimi’s trademark camera movements in their films.
During the mid-1980s, Raimi used to live in an apartment with actor Bruce Campbell, writer/director Scott Spiegel, writer/director Joel Coen, writer/producer Ethan Coen and actresses Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand and Kathy Bates.
He is friends with director John Landis. He had cameos in Landis’ Spies Like Us (1985) and Innocent Blood (1992), while Landis did cameos in Raimi’s Darkman (1990) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). Both also appeared in Stephen King’s ABC mini-series The Stand (1994).
Many years before landing the role of director on the Spider-Man movies, Raimi planned to create a film based on Marvel’s comic interpretation of “The Mighty Thor” with Stan Lee. While the movie never materialized, Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man and many other Marvel characters, became good friends with Raimi and later appeared in cameos on the Spidey flicks.
Sam’s oldest brother, Sander, died in a swimming pool accident at the age of 15 while on a scholarship trip to Israel. Sander used to perform magic tricks for Sam and his friends; when he died, Sam learned to perform the tricks himself.
His breakthrough project, the low-budget horror cult film The Evil Dead (1981), had an estimated budget of $350,000. Twenty-five years later he helmed a production with an estimated budget at 1,000 times the cost of that film, Spider-Man 3 (2007), with an estimated production cost of $350,000,000, making it the most expensive motion picture produced up to that time.