4 Famous Artists Who Stole Big Ideas From Newcomers

Everyone knows artists are influenced by those who came before them. Would there be an Oasis without The Beatles? Would there be a Hemingway without Mark Twain? Would there be Cracked's own Felix Clay without his uncle who used to do that "pull my finger" joke while exposing his young nephew to pornography?

paulprescott72/iStock/Getty Images
And we'll never forgive you for your creation, Uncle Henry.

But sometimes influences work the other way. Sometimes, artists who are already established masters are clearly influenced by young upstarts. People so striking that even the pros want a piece of it. Here are four old masters influenced by young artists.

#4. Francis Ford Coppola Borrows Some Sam Raimi Evil Dead II Tricks For Dracula

Without question, Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most highly regarded American filmmakers of all time. If he never did another thing, he'd still be known as the genius behind The Godfather: Part I and II as well as Apocalypse Now. (But also The Godfather: Part III and Jack, but let's not talk about that.)

Like Benjamin Button, but the opposite -- meaning terrible.

In 1992, when Coppola set out to make an adaptation of Dracula, he was already ranked up there with the Spielbergs and Scorceses of the industry. But that didn't mean he was too big or immodest to learn some tricks from a newcomer. In this case: Sam Raimi. In 1992, Sam Raimi had not yet started the trend of superhero movies that didn't suck with his Spider-Man trilogy. He had not done his critically acclaimed A Simple Plan. In 1992, Raimi was just a young filmmaker most notable for Evil Dead II, and that movie was not yet the cult classic that redefined horror and black comedy it is today. It was still very much a low-budget horror flick known to teen and college audiences. The kind of flick maladjusted creeps like, um, me watched in high school. But clearly Coppola saw its importance.

There are a couple of shots from Evil Dead II that are, for lack of a better word, Raimi-esque. One is his use of sped-up footage from the point of view of the bad guy. This technique is used all through Evil Dead II to create a feeling of an approaching evil (seen at 46 and 56 seconds in during the trailer). Another technique would be extreme close-ups of leading men making way over-the-top crazy faces in the face of unspeakable evil. Coppola makes prominent use of both these techniques in Dracula, much in the way an accomplished filmmaker borrows techniques from a newcomer. Oh wait. That's not much of a metaphor -- that's exactly what Coppola's doing.

It's hard to prove these points precisely without a side-by-side viewing, especially with pesky things like copyright law, but let's do our best. Coppola's Dracula is currently on Netflix, and I'd encourage you to watch the POV rapid camera pans in the scene where Dracula approaches Lucy's estate with any number of scenes from Evil Dead II. That clip is not publicly available, but you do get a taste of it at 44 to 48 seconds in the trailer.

And let's enjoy some of the master Bruce Campbell's manic faces compared with Keanu's. We have the scene from Evil Dead II where Ash fully appreciates just how all-encompassing the evil that surrounds him is, compared with Jonathan Harker first realizing the depth of evil in Dracula's castle after witnessing his brides devour a baby. For those Cracked readers in class, at work, or donating blood for free Twinkies without the ability to watch videos, it looks a bit like this:

Sure, Bruce is better, but y'know when it comes to acting most people are better than Keanu.

The point is, the audience reaction to both these faces is uncomfortable laughter in the face of unspeakable evil. Not an intuitive combination. But copping a couple of techniques from a newcomer, Coppola was able to infuse new life into some very dead or undead material.

#3. David Bowie Takes Inspiration From Trent Reznor In 1995

If you've read my column before, there is a tiny chance you know I'm a bit of a Bowie fan. But even if you're not me (and I'm sooo sorry about that), you'd have to recognize David Bowie as a rock legend, making lasting contributions to the glam rock, plastic soul, and electronic music movements. He is also the undisputed champion of sexually harassing Muppets with uncomfortably tight clothing.

Trigger warning.

By 1995, he'd been a star for over 20 years with nothing to prove. But an artist like Bowie, who had always taken influences from diverse sources such as novelist William Burroughs, drag performer Jayne County, songwriter Bob Dylan, vocalist Anthony Newley, and German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, stayed open to new influences. One influence was Trent Reznor, at the height of his gloomy, sexual dangerousness. (Which is a good thing, because being influenced by the new-wave Trent of five years earlier would have been terrible.)

"Hi, I'm Trent and I think tunes are fun!"

In 1992, Bowie was seemingly lost, reuniting with producer Nile Rodgers to release perhaps his worst album -- the poppy and uneven Black Tie White Noise. Reznor, however, was ascending with Pretty Hate Machine and his mix of keyboard programming, distortion, and angst. That carried on into The Downward Spiral, which was exploding as Bowie recorded his album Outside. You can feel its influence.

Although Bowie is too much of a talent to merely ape trends, the overall sound of the track above has far more to do with NIN than Bowie's previous work, and even the overall visual presentation of mixing high art, decay, and leather in one place clearly indicates Bowie was taking notes. After the album, the two would go on to tour together and even collaborate musically on "I'm Afraid Of Americans" in 1997.

*Little footnote here: Even though Bowie clearly took inspiration from Reznor, Reznor's music was also clearly influenced by Bowie's work -- particularly Bowie's Heroes and Scary Monsters. Indeed, if you have any doubt about that, compare Bowie's "Crystal Japan" to Reznor's "A Warm Place" -- a song that was obviously poached and which Reznor has admitted to unconsciously stealing. If you watch the video, you'll notice that even though Bowie was completely aware of the steal, he never mentioned it to Reznor until the two were on television, because he is a miserable bastard whom I will love forever.

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