Stuart Gordon Dead: Beloved Horror Filmmaker Dies at 72

DEAUVILLE, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 09: Stuart Gordon poses at photocall for Edmond at the 31st Deauville Festival Of American Film on September 9, 2005 in Deauville, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

Stuart Gordon, co-writer of the classic film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and filmmaker behind the cult classic Re-Animator passed away on Tuesday evening. He was 72.

The sad news was confirmed to Variety by his family, but a cause of death was not immediately given. He is survived by Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, his wife of nearly 52 years, daughters Suzanna, Jillian, and Margert Gordon, and four grandchildren.

Born on August 11, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, Gordon graduated from Lane Technical High School before studying at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he majored in theatre. However, the budding filmmaker dropped out and moved back to Chicago to start the Organic Theater with his wife Carolyn, which was wildly successful. They’re largely credited from jumpstarting the career of playwright David Mamet after performing the world premiere of “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.”

The Organic Theater group’s improv comedy show, “Bleacher Bums,” ran on stage for 10 years, and was later turned into a TV movie by Norman Lear – a move which kicked off Gordon’s transition from theatre to film. He teamed up with Brian Yuzna and Charles Band to start Empire Pictures, and in 1985, they produced the cult classic Re-Animator based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story, which Gordon both wrote and directed.

Widely regarded as the King B-movies, that title is earned from directing movies such as From Beyond 1986, followed by 1987’s Dolls, 1993’s Body Snatchers, and Castle Freak in 1995. With the addition of Dagon, and the “Dreams In The Witch House” episode on Showtime’s Masters of Horror, Gordon will be largely remembered as one of the best filmmakers to bring Lovecraft’s stories to the screen.

In a 2014 interview, Gordon said of the iconic horror fiction writer, “He’s incredibly imaginative But also, he’s primarily a science fiction writer. And all the science stuff that’s in his stories is fairly accurate – he did a lot of research. For example, in From Beyond, he did a lot of research into the pineal gland; in Re-Animator, he almost gives you the formula for bringing the dead back to life. I think he was very interested in how things actually worked.”

Gordon Was Supposed To Direct ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids,’ Which Was Originally Titled ‘Teenie Weenies’

While the film starring Rick Moranis was ultimately directed by Joe Johnston, Gordon told Film Threat in 2003, “Originally I was going to direct it. I did all the prep work, the storyboarding, the set design, got all the way up to casting and I had drop out because I got sick. So it was disappointing.”

“I was happy with it,” Gordon said of the finished film. “I think Joe Johnston, who ended up directing it, did a good job.”

In 1989, he co-created the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids film story with Yuzna and Ed Naha. He’s also credited for Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves! before creating the TV series version of the original Disney movie, which aired from 1997 to 2000.

As for the movie originally being called Teenie Weenies, Naha explained the title was inspired by a kid’s comic strip. “Stuart and Brian had young children back then and came up with this idea about shrunken kids. They pitched it to Disney and the studio was interested. So, they approached me about working with them and we came up with the story.

“When I was a kid on the East Coast,” Naha continued, “there was a comic strip in the Sunday edition of The New York Daily News called the ‘Teenie-Weenies.’ It was one huge frame showing little people riding around on mice or sitting in thimbles and I just loved that.”

Gordon’s Wife Carolyn Appeared In Many Of His Films

Married since college, the two remained partners in life and frequent artistic collaborators. While still in college, she starred as a nude dancer in Gordon’s controversial student play version of Peter Pan, which caused him to arrested for obscenity.

Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (R) in ‘Dolls’

She appeared as Rose in Norman Lear’s Bleacher Bums, the TV series E/R, and most of Gordon’s films including Re-Animator, Robot Jox, The Pit and The Pendulum, Space Truckers, and more.

Tributes To The Horror Filmmaker Filled Social Media Following News of Gordon’s Death

The news of Gordon’s passing was difficult for his fans, friends and fellow filmmakers, all of whom shared beautiful tributes online late on Tuesday evening. Point Blank director Joe Lynch tweeted, Stuart Gordon was a massive influence on so many of us, myself included.
He was a Cinema maverick, a SplatterPunk & an actor’s auteur. Stuart always brought his A game to any B flick. Thank you for the Lovecraft and “Happy Landings” From Beyond, Maestro. #RIPStuartGordon.”

Gordon left a lasting image even those who merely interviews him. Los Angeles Times reporter Jan Yamato tweeted, “I’m so sorry to hear of Stuart Gordon’s passing. He was a great storyteller and a very kind man who went out of his way to mentor a number of younger filmmakers who absolutely adored him.”

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