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Tom Savini

Tom Savini
Savini at Spooky Empire's Ultimate Horror Weekend 2014, held in Orlando, Florida.
Born Thomas Vincent Savini
(1946-11-03) November 3, 1946
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Other names The Godfather of Gore
The Sultan of Splatter
Occupation Actor
Special make-up effects
Stunt performer

Thomas Vincent "Tom" Savini (born November 3, 1946) is an Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Creepshow and Monkey Shines; he also created the special effects and makeup for many cult classics like Friday the 13th (parts I and IV), Maniac, The Burning, The Prowler and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Savini directed Night of the Living Dead, the 1990 remake of Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead;[2] his other directing work include three episodes of the TV show Tales from the Darkside and one segment in The Theatre Bizarre. As an actor and stuntman, he has appeared in films such as Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Knightriders, From Dusk till Dawn, Planet Terror, Machete, Django Unchained and Machete Kills.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • FX education 3
  • Filmography 4
    • As actor 4.1
    • As make-up artist/special effects technician 4.2
    • As director 4.3
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Savini was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is of Italian descent.[3] He was raised in the Catholic religion and graduated from Central Catholic High School. As a boy, his inspiration was actor Lon Chaney, Sr., and Savini attributes his earliest desires to create makeup effects to Chaney and the film Man of a Thousand Faces.[4] Experimenting with whatever medium he could find, the young Savini practiced creating makeup effects on himself, later convincing his friends to let him practice his craft on them. He also discovered another passion, acting. Combining his makeup applications and homemade costumes, he especially enjoyed scaring his friends. Savini attended Point Park University for three years, before enlisiting in the United States Army. After his tour in Vietnam, he attended Carnegie-Mellon University,[5] as the first undergraduate to be awarded a full fellowship in the acting and directing program. He appeared in stage productions throughout college and continued on stage long after his tour of duty in Vietnam.

Savini served as a combat photographer during the Vietnam War.[6] In a 2002 interview, he told the Pittsburgh Post "When I was in Vietnam I was a combat photographer. My job was to shoot images of damage to machines and to people. Through my lens, I saw some hideous [stuff]. To cope with it, I guess I tried to think of it as special effects. Now, as an artist, I just think of creating the effect within the limitations we have to deal with."[6] He continued to practice with makeup in Vietnam, often frightening indigenous peasants by appearing to suddenly transform into a "monster". Using the lens of his camera, Savini separated himself from the real life horrors of war;[7] however, all the images still haunted his mind. Savini said his wartime experiences influenced his eventual style of gory effects: "I hated that when I watched a war movie and someone dies. Some people die with one eye open and one eye half-closed, sometimes people die with smiles on their faces because the jaw is always slack. I incorporated the feeling of the stuff I saw in Vietnam into my work."[8] In 1970, while on guard duty, a flare was triggered in the jungle area Savini was watching. Against military protocol, Savini fired into the bush without informing his superiors. Other soldiers likewise began firing until a duck wandered from the bush completely unharmed. Due to his failure to follow orders, Savini was taken off guard duty from his bunker on the following evening. That same evening, the bunker came under attack and several soldiers were wounded or killed. As a result of this incident, Savini earned the nickname "Duck Slayer" and to this day will not eat duck.[9]

Among the many talents Savini achieved as a young man was the art of fencing, he is a tournament fencer as well as an accomplished gymnast. [10] Much of his stunt work and some of his characters reflect these graceful abilities; however, he is also accomplished with a bull whip and can easily execute a motorcycle stunt. Many of his characters have been bikers or madmen who are hardened and eerily evil.


Savini is primarily known for his groundbreaking work in the field of special make-up effects, also known as prosthetic makeup.[11] His signature style and techniques bring vivid realism to genre films. Early in Savini's career, Dick Smith became an inspiration and a guide, later becoming an associate at Savini's Special Make-up Effects Program. Among other projects, Smith is known for his groundbreaking work in The Exorcist.

Savini applies make-up to Ari Lehman, creating his vision of Jason Voorhees

Savini got his breakthrough working with Pittsburgh filmmaker Stephen King. In 1984, he agreed to work on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, where he killed his creation Jason Voorhees. Returning to the zombie genre in 1985, Savini was nominated and won the 1985 Saturn Award for Best Makeup Effects for his work on the Romero's Day of the Dead. In 1986, Savini worked with director Tobe Hooper on the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Savini has also worked on films by Italian director Dario Argento, first in 1990 on the film Two Evil Eyes and again on the 1993 film Trauma. In the 1991 film Heartstopper, he created special effects for director John A. Russo. Although focusing more on his acting career in recent years, Savini has continued to be active with special makeup effects and in 2011 supervised the effects for the Australian film Redd Inc.

As an actor, Savini has appeared in many of the same films he was creating effects for. His first appearance was a relatively straight, innocuous character in Martin in 1977; however, he played a menacing biker called Blades in his next film Knightriders (1981). Continuing with the biker theme, Savini played the universally recognized, whip-wielding, vampire-fighting biker "Sex Machine" in the 1996 Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk till Dawn. (This character was a riff on Blades from Dawn of the Dead replete with the same costume.)

Tom Savini in 2007

In 2007, Savini had a role in Planet Terror, one of two stories in the Grindhouse film, directed by Robert Rodriguez. Savini plays Deputy Tolo, who fights to save his town from an infestation of zombie-like creatures. In another Rodriguez film, Machete,[12] based on a fake movie trailer played during the film Grindhouse, Savini played Osiris Amanpour, hired to track and kill the main character, Machete. Savini reprised his role in the sequel, Machete Kills. Throughout the years, Savini has appeared in movie roles from cameos as the vampire David Van Etten in Lost Boys: The Tribe, as the sheriff in the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, or tongue in cheek characters, like Jesus Christ in Zombiegeddon (2003). In 2006, Savini essayed the role of Prester John, the mythical villain in the dreamlike Sea of Dust. That year also saw the release of Johannes Roberts' Forest of the Damned, in which Savini played a mad hermit surrounded by angels cast from heaven. In 2008, he made a brief appearance in Zack & Miri Make a Porno as a thieving slumlord. He also appeared in The Dead Matter, along with Andrew Divoff and Jim O'Rear. Savini voiced himself on the The Simpsons episode "Worst Episode Ever". While making an appearance at Android's Dungeon, Savini performs the "Gutbuster" gag, covering the crowd in "blood and guts" and consequently humiliating the Comic Book Guy. In 2012, Savini appeared as a shop teacher, Mr. Callahan, in the Pittsburgh-set teen drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower, starring Logan Lerman. Savini also appeared as one of the Trackers in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Future projects include Savini starring in the Nazi zombie film The 4th Reich directed by Shaun Robert Smith, playing the role of SS-Standartenführer Oskar Dirlewanger.[13] As a film director, Savini helmed episodes of the syndicated television series Tales from the Darkside, the aforementioned 1990 color remake of Night of the Living Dead and, House Call, the pilot of the proposed series The Chill Factor, which starred Pittsburgh actor Bingo O'Malley. In 2011, he directed "Wet Dreams", one of six segments to the horror film The Theatre Bizarre. In 2009, Savini announced his plan to direct a new film, Death Island, with special make-up effects by his former protege Greg Nicotero.[14] On September 1, 2013, Savini began a crowd funding project on Indiegogo for Death Island. His plans are to begin filming by the end of 2013.[15]

In the 2008 novel Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry, Savini appears as one of the real-world horror celebrities who are in the fictional town of Pine Deep when monsters attack; other celebrities include James Gunn, Jim O'Rear, Brinke Stevens, Ken Foree, Stephen Susco, Debbie Rochon, Joe Bob Briggs and blues man Mem Shannon.[16][17][18][19][20]

Savini also briefly took part in Jerry Lawler's 2010 revival of the Memphis Wrestling pro wrestling television show. His on-screen character sent horror-movie monsters (played by wrestlers from the Memphis area) onto the show to get revenge for Savini who blamed Lawler for the death of Savini's friend Andy Kaufman; the monsters' handler was manager "Hollywood" Jimmy Blaylock.

In 2012, American filmmaker Jason Baker debuted a biography of Savini entitled Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini.[21]

He stated during a Q&A with fans that the hardest movie he has ever worked on was Creepshow because it was "5 movies in 1".[22]

FX education

Savini runs the Tom Savini's Special Make-Up Effects Program[23] at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, Pennsylvania. Savini is happy to say that he refers offers he receives for movie make-up effects projects to his students and graduates of his school as well.[24] Savini's longtime associate Dick Smith had incorporated an advanced professional make-up seminar into the last semester of the program, but it is no longer offered.

Savini is the author of several books on special effects including Grande Illusions I and II (1983, 1994) which detail the production and mechanical workings of many of his famous film effects. In Horror F/X, a 1989 direct-to-video interview conducted by frequent collaborator John Russo, Savini explains many of his effects techniques, illustrated by film clips and behind-the-scenes video footage. He is also associated with other books in the horror genre including Book of the Dead and Horror 101 for which he wrote the foreword. Savini has also appeared in public demonstrating his effects, including two memorable appearances in the 1980s on Late Night With David Letterman in which he demonstrated such effects as "fire gel" and a gunshot to the head on Letterman himself.


As actor

Year Film Role Notes
1977 Martin Arthur First film with George A. Romero
1978 Dawn of the Dead Blades Second film with George A. Romero
Effects Nicky
1980 Maniac Disco boy
1981 Knightriders Morgan Third film with George A. Romero
1982 Creepshow Garbage Man #2 Fourth film with George A. Romero (cameo)
1984 The Boy Who Loved Trolls Motorcyclist
1985 The Ripper Jack the Ripper Direct-to-video; shot in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma
1986 Twisted Sister: Come Out and Play Teacher Cameo
1987 Creepshow 2 The Creep
1990 Two Evil Eyes The Monomaniac (Uncredited) Fifth film with George A. Romero
1992 Innocent Blood News Photographer
1994 Heartstopper Lt. Ron Vargo
1995 The Demolitionist Roland
1996 Mr. Stitch Chemical Weapons Engineer Television movie
From Dusk till Dawn Sex Machine
2000 Sheena Peter Reynolds Episode "Lost Boy"
2001 The Monster Man Uncle Joe
Web of Darkness Rouge
Children of the Living Dead Deputy Hughs
The Simpsons Himself Episode "Worst Episode Ever"
2002 Eyes Are Upon You Eddie Rao
Ted Bundy Salt Lake City Detective
2003 Blood Bath Stranger
Zombiegeddon Jesus Christ New York City Horror Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award
2004 Vicious Kane
Dawn of the Dead The County Sheriff Remake of the 1978 film Dawn of the Dead
Death 4 Told Man Cameo
Unearthed Victor Tonelli
2005 Forest of the Damned Stephen
Land of the Dead Blades (Zombie) Sixth film with George A. Romero
2006 A Dream of Colour in Black and White Caddy
Beyond the Wall of Sleep Sheriff
The Absence of Light The Higher Power
2007 Grindhouse Deputy Tolo Segment Planet Terror
Loaded Dice The Bishop
2008 Silent Vengeance Daniel Phillips
It's My Party and I'll Die If I Want To Uncle Tom
Lost Boys: The Tribe David Van Etten Sequel to the 1987 film The Lost Boys
Zack and Miri Make a Porno Jenkins
Sea of Dust Prester John
2009 Eldorado
2010 The Dead Matter Sebed
Machete Osiris Amanpour
Horrorween Killer
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Cop Episode "One Hundred"
2012 The Theatre Bizarre Dr. Maurey
Django Unchained Tracker Chaney
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Mr. Callahan
2013 Machete Kills Osiris Amanpour
The 4th Reich SS-Standartenführer Oskar Dirlewanger[25]
LocoCycle Holt Ryebach (live acting only) Video game[26]

As make-up artist/special effects technician

Year Film Notes
1972 Deathdream
1974 Deranged
1977 Martin
1978 Dawn of the Dead Nominated: Saturn Award for Best Make-Up Effects
1980 Friday the 13th
1981 Eyes of a Stranger
The Burning
The Prowler
1982 Xiao sheng pa pa
Alone in the Dark
1984 Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Maria's Lovers
1985 Day of the Dead Saturn Award for Best Make-Up Effects
1986 Twisted Sister: Come out and Play
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
1987 Creepshow 2
1988 Tales From the Darkside Episode "Family Reunion"
Monkey Shines
Red Scorpion
1990 Two Evil Eyes
1991 Heartstopper
Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh
1993 Killing Zoe
H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon
1994 Backstreet Justice
1997 Cutting Moments
1999 Cold Hearts
2001 Web of Darkness
2002 Ted Bundy
2011 Death from Above
2012 Redd Inc
2017 Nightmare City

As director

Year Film Notes
1984–1988 Tales from the Darkside TV, three episodes
1990 Night of the Living Dead Remake of the 1968 film
2004 Chill Factor: House Call
2011 The Theatre Bizarre Segment "Wet Dreams"
2017 Nightmare City Remake of Nightmare City (1980)


  • Grande Illusions: A Learn-By-Example Guide to the Art and Technique of Special Make-Up Effects from the Films of Tom Savini ISBN 0-911137-00-9
  • Grande Illusions II ISBN 0-911137-07-6
  • Bizarro! (A reissue of Grande Illusions, arbitrarily re-titled by its publisher) ISBN 0-517-55319-8


  1. ^ Awards listed at Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ J.C. Maçek III (2012-06-15). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead".  
  3. ^ 3 Like1 Dislike0 Jan 27, 2012 by B. Alan Orange (2012-01-27). "EXCLUSIVE: Tom Savini Talks The Theatre Bizarre". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  4. ^ "Foreword by Tom Savini". Cult Reviews. 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  5. ^ Savini News
  6. ^ a b Hayes, John (October 11, 2002). "Savini's a Scream-Checking in with the master of TerrorMania".  
  7. ^ Interview in the documentary Scream Greats Volume I - Tom Savini Master of Horror FX; Starlog Films/Paramount Home Video, 1985.
  8. ^ Chris Hewitt, Adam Smith (March 2009). "Freddy V Jason".  
  9. ^ Interview in the magazine Bizarre, February 2006.
  10. ^ 
  11. ^ Horror F/X hosted by John Russo; JTC Video Inc./Market Square Productions, 1989.
  12. ^ "It's 'Machete' Madness!! Check Out Over 27 New Images!!!". BloodyDisgusting. 
  13. ^ "'"Early Concept Art for Nazi-Horror Tale 'The 4th Reich 3D. BloodyDisgusting. 
  14. ^ "Tom Savini directs again on DEATH ISLAND". 
  15. ^ "First Details on Tom Savini’s Death Island". 
  16. ^ ILoz Zoc (2007-02-07). "BC Books Interviews Author Jonathan Maberry". Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  17. ^ Maberry, Jonathan. "Bad Moon Rising". Pinnacle Press, 2005.
  18. ^ Scythe, Ramius (2010-06-22). "Horror Chronicles Features Debbie Rochon". Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  19. ^ "MTV Artist Focus On Tom Savini". 1946-11-03. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  20. ^ Greg Petaloudis (2013-01-10). "Horror Unlimited Ingrid Pitt Award - Debbie Rochon". Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  21. ^ "Filmmaker Jason Baker Talks Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini". 
  22. ^ "Tom Savini Q&A - Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012 - May 6th, 2012". 
  23. ^ "Tom Savini Special Make-Up Effects School". Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  24. ^ "Tom Savini: A Real Sex Machine". Film Threat. 2003-10-14. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  25. ^ "THE 4TH REICH prepares for battle; filmmaker talks". 
  26. ^ "We Make Awesome". Twisted Pixel Games. Retrieved 2014-05-05. 

External links

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