Writer, producer, director... Larry Cohen did it all and brought the genre world such memorable classics such as The Stuff, It's Alive, Maniac Cop, and Q. A unique filmmaker with a unique vision, there was never anyone else quite like Larry Cohen and we're incredibly sad to report that he just passed away at the age of 77, according to recent reports (including confirmation from Shade Rupe).
Larry Cohen's impact on horror and genre filmmakers is immeasurable, but with a career spanning more than five decades, his work wasn't specific to only horror, having created thought-provoking crime, exploitation, and sci-fi movies and television. Our thoughts are with Larry's family and friends during this difficult time. If you haven't had the chance to watch it yet, I strongly recommend checking out the recent documentary King Cohen (which is available on Shudder) to learn more about the life and career of this incredible filmmaker.
Heather Wixson also talked with Larry Cohen a couple of years back during promotion of the King Cohen documentary, where he reflected on his career and love of movies:
Well, I grew up in a time when you went to the movies all the time, because there was no television. The movies changed every week, sometimes twice a week, and so I was at the movies all the time. I just loved going to the movies and watching movies and sometimes, I’d even sit through them twice and sit there all day until the manager threw me out. There was no choice but to go to the movies or go home, and I liked being at the movies more than I liked being at home. The movies were my home, and I guess I always wanted to do movies. When I was a kid, I was drawing my own comic books, which were essentially storyboards of movies, but that's what I was doing when I was eight, nine, or ten years old. It was my hobby.
I was doing 62-page comic books, things like that, that were pretty good stories, and I wasn't a bad artist, either. I made these comic books, but nobody wanted to read them—I even had to bribe kids to read them. I liked doing them, so I always knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker. I started off writing for television, and then I started writing for movies after that, but I was not happy with the movies that they were making with my scripts, so I decided that I had to direct my own films.
Then, when I got the opportunity to start making my own films, I just fell in love with the whole process, particularly since I wrote, produced, directed, and edited all my movies. Because I did all the jobs, that meant I didn't have to deal with anybody. I was completely independent of any interference, and that's how I made my movies—it's the only way I could make them, really. A couple of times I stepped outside that and tried to work in the studio system, but it didn't work out, and I walked off a couple of pictures because of interference from studio people and producers. I wanted to go and make my films by myself, and I didn't want to deal with arguments and compromises and the constant aggravations that people go through to make a picture.
As a matter of fact, the only people I had to deal with were the actors, and actors usually loved me because I had total control of the picture, and they weren't accustomed to anybody that had total control. Every detail was under my supervision, and any problems that came up, I took care of even the most minuscule things. If an actor wasn't happy with their trailer, or they wanted their mother picked up at the airport or something, I took care of everything.
People said to me, "Well, don't you think you'd do better if you have somebody as a sounding board?" I didn't want any sounding boards. If someone's painting a painting, they don't have people come in and give them notes on the painting. Most movies are like symphony orchestras with huge amounts of coordinated people. My movies are more like a jazz quartet, where there is always somebody riffing and changing everything around their mood, and the songs are always subject to innovation, and that's what I'm doing as a filmmaker.