ED WOOD, American filmmaker, born (d. 1978) American motion picture director, screenwriter, actor and producer. In the 1950s, Wood made a run of independently produced, extremely low-budget horror, science-fiction and cowboy films, now celebrated for their technical errors, unsophisticated special effects, idiosyncratic dialogue, eccentric casts and outlandish plot elements, although his flair for showmanship gave his productions at least a modicum of commercial success. He was a Marine, and claimed that he had participated in the Battle of Guadalcanal while secretly wearing a brassiere and panties beneath his uniform.

Wood’s popularity waned soon after his biggest “name” star, Béla Lugosi, died. He was able to salvage a saleable feature from Lugosi’s last moments on film, but his career declined thereafter. Toward the end, Wood made pornography and wrote pulp crime, horror, and sex novels. His posthumous fame began two years after his death, when he was awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time.

Fascinated by the exotic and bizarre, Wood joined a carnival after discharge from the Marines. His several missing teeth and disfigured leg (souvenirs from his time in combat) combined with personal fetishes and acting skills made him a perfect candidate for the freak show. Wood played, among others, the geek and the bearded lady . As the bearded lady, he donned women’s clothing and created his own prosthetic breasts. Carnivals would be frequently depicted in Wood’s works, most notably (and semi-autobiographically) in the novel Killer in Drag. The 1994 film Ed Wood, by director Tim Burton, tells the story of Wood and Lugosi and the making of their three films, (Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 from Outer Space), from a sympathetic point of view. Wood was famously played by Johnny Depp and Lugosi by Martin Landau, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Makeup (Rick Baker) was the film’s makeup artist). Burton’s successes for Paramount Pictures were at odds with his insistence to shoot the Wood film in black-and-white, and the studio turned it down as a probable box office failure. Eager to embrace Burton, Disney accepted the project, monochrome and all. As Paramount had anticipated, the film received mass critical acclaim but did poorly at the box office. It has since become a cult hit on video and DVD.

Reverend Steve Galindo of Sacramento, California created a legally recognized religion in 1996 with Wood as its official savior. The Church of Ed Wood now boasts over 3,500 legally baptized followers.