It's difficult to imagine a horror icon's first acting job, but they all had to start somewhere, just like any other famed actor. The same goes for the directors and writers who work so hard to make people squirm in their beds late at night. Although some made student films or even adult films, like Wes Craven, none came straight out of the gate with masterpieces. Dues must be paid.
Stephen King tossed out his breakthrough debut novel and Rob Zombie worked behind the scenes on a children's show. While their paths all differed, the outcome was the same - indelible work in the genre and their names etched in the annals of horror.
Many famous actors got their start either in front of or behind the camera of Pee-Wee's Playhouse, a children's show that aired from 1986 until 1990. Rock star and horror film director Rob Zombie is included on this list, working as a production assistant on the series. Zombie was around 19 at the time, telling outlet Westword that he really enjoyed the people working on the show and did "crap work" for it.
After moving on from his stint behind the scenes, Zombie took his love for old horror movies and integrated it into the videos for his music before making his first film, House of 1000 Corpses, in 2003. It became a cult favorite, leading to sequels featuring the Firefly clan, remakes of John Carpenter's beloved Halloween franchise, and multiple low-budget horror movies with a rabid following.
- Photo: Inglourious Basterds / The Weinstein Company
Roth's Cabin Fever hit in 2003, bringing the writer and director to the forefront of a new movement in horror that emphasized gore and body trauma. Famed director Quentin Tarantino produced Roth's followup, Hostel, a dark fable about rich, powerful people paying to torment vacationers staying in group hostels. Even today, Roth continues to push the limits of human squeamishness with movies like The Green Inferno.
Before his directorial debut, Roth had an unusual job working as a cybersex operator on the internet for Penthouse magazine in the early 1990s. Pretending to be a woman, Roth fulfilled fantasies for people.
- Photo: It: Chapter 2 / Warner Bros.
King worked as a high school teacher and sometimes had short stories published in gentleman's magazines to help pay the bills. Although he already had three novels finished and sitting unpublished, King wrote Carrie to combat criticisms about his inability to write well-rounded female characters. After only writing three pages, King trashed the novel. Luckily Tabitha, his wife, fished the pages from the garbage and pushed King to finish.
The rest is, of course, history, as King became a writer synonymous with the horror genre, publishing more than 60 novels and at least five non-fiction books. He's also directed a movie adaptation of his own short story, Maximum Overdrive, and seen multiple film, television, and mini-series adaptations of his works.
- Photo: Scream / Dimension Films
Wes Craven brought horror into viewers' dreams with his classic series A Nightmare on Elm Street and its distinctive stripey-sweater-wearing villain Freddy Krueger; but before that, he directed adult films. Although Craven earned degrees from Wheaton College and Johns Hopkins University, in his thirties, he decided to branch out into film. Using pseudonyms, he dipped his toes into the business via adult films, including an undisclosed role in the making of Deep Throat.
Luckily for horror aficionados, Craven pivoted with his gory debut The Last House on the Left in 1972, followed by The Hills Have Eyes in 1977 and A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. Craven went on to redefine the horror genre with 1996's Scream, making the characters aware of all the rules to surviving a horror movie while fighting their own masked slayer.