The Pedophile Director Embraced by Hollywood
Last week Jeepers Creepers 3, the third entry in the horror-flick franchise, opened in theaters for one night only. The Fathom Events premiere unleashed The Creeper in 635 theaters, grossing more than $1.7 million. The film was so successful that the one-night-only event has been expanded to Oct. 4 encore showings across the country. But Jeepers Creepers 3 will forever be tainted by writer-director Victor Salva’s deeply disturbing criminal past.
In 1986, Salva’s 35-minute short, Something in the Basement, so impressed legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola that he came on as a producer of Salva’s first full-length feature, Clownhouse. Salva, then 28, cast the 12-year-old Nathan Winters, who he had also featured in Something in the Basement, in Clownhouse. The movie centered around three young brothers whose suburban existence transforms into a waking nightmare when their house is occupied by psychopaths dressed as clowns.
During filming, the sixth grader’s mother, Rebecca Winters, began to suspect that her son was being terrorized both on and off the set. “Victor said I couldn’t go to the set,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “He said Nathan couldn’t work if I was there. I just had these feelings. I confronted Nathan and he admitted it to me, he said, ‘I have a secret and I can’t tell anyone.’” Police raided the director and former child-care worker’s home, where they foundchild pornography—including a homemade pornographic tape that showedSalva engaging in oral sex with his pre-adolescent star. “He spent the better part of a year grooming me and my parents,” Nathan Winters recalled in an interview earlier this year. “Developing the trust. It was very calculated, and a long process, as it is with most pedophiles.”
In April 1988, Salva pleaded guilty to five felony counts—lewd and lascivious conduct, oral copulation with a person under 14, and three counts of procuring a child for pornography. He was sentenced to three years in prison, and was released in 1989 after serving only 15 months. The Winters family sued Coppola’s Commercial Pictures for $5 million; Rebecca Winters said thathey eventually settled out of court for “barely over $100,000.”