Scream 4 opened in theaters yesterday, more than ten years after the release of the last installment. Horror icon Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) has helmed each film in the successful franchise, which has grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide. “They’re very unusual,” says Craven of the series’ appeal. “It’s hardly ever mentioned but they’re murder mysteries and really very clever ones. And they’re also soap operas. And just the shock of killing off Drew Barrymore. It was unusual and quite vicious. I think it was unprecedented.” EW talked to Craven about his memories of the original film, Scream 4′s script drama, and whether he’d be interested in doing a Scream 5.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you remember from reading the original Scream script?
WES CRAVEN: I was blown away by it. It scared me in a way. My first impulse was, “Don’t go there again. You don’t want to go there again into this darkness.” I was at an autograph signing convention and this little kid came up to me after I signed and he said, “Sir, the movies you’ve been making are too soft. You need to make a kick-ass movie again, like Last House on the Left.” And then off he went. I literally went back and called Bob and said, “I’ll do it.”
Do you have any memories that stick out from the first film?
Well the first five days were the Drew Barrymore sequence.
You shot in sequence right?
She said she had a secret story she would tell you?
She was so into it. Such a delight to work with. Some horrible thing had been done to an animal and she told me this with tears in her eyes. So whenever we needed her to cry I would go [whispers] “The animal is having that horrible thing done to it.” I won’t say what it was but she would go, “Ohhhhhhh!” So she was a lot of fun and that was obviously very intense.
Do you remember noticing Courteney [Cox] and David [Arquette] falling in love?
Oh sure. I think it became apparent towards the end. As Courteney said while we were shooting Scream 4, “Of course he was sleeping with everyone so finally he’d get around to me!”
Everyone said you all had lots of dinners together.
We found this restaurant run by a young couple that they had just opened called Ca Bianca. They just loved us and they would serve us these incredible meals and bring out wine. It was just like I died and gone to heaven.
The original title was Scary Movie, right?
I was very upset about it. It’s funny — when we started, [I got] a robe as a gift that said Scary Movie on it. Then towards the end [Bob Weinstein] said, “I’m going to change the title to Scream.” And I was like “That sucks!” I told my assistant to take the robe and cut it up into three-inch squares and mail it back to him. She didn’t do it so I still have it.
The shoot for Scream 4 didn’t seem to be very smooth. How did you feel about it?
I wept myself to sleep every night [smiles]. No, of course it was stressful. I always prided myself of coming to the set with a shot list but quite often we’d literally get pages the night before, sometime the day of. That part was very stressful.
What was Kevin Williamson’s involvement with Scream 4?
Kevin laid out the whole thing basically in his first couple of drafts. At a certain point, I was doing a lot of notes and I did some writing. Then I started working with Ehren Kruger. Kevin kind of just withdrew. I think he had his television show and they were threatening to sue him because there had been delays with the script. I frankly just don’t know that part of the story because I wasn’t around.
So the script was still evolving during the production?
It was evolving. Yes. It evolved a lot.
Through it all, people always say you’re the center of calm. Where does that come from?
Somebody has to be! [Laughs] It’s just the way I deal with the stresses. People depend on the captain not be freaking out.
What was it like reuniting with everyone?
It was great. It was great working with my wife [Iya Labunka] as a producer. It gave it great sense of continuity.
Did you have any awareness of David and Courteney having issues during filming?
No. The only thing that was odd when he finished his shooting, he didn’t go home. Then we started to wonder what was going on.
Are you signed up to do more Screams?
I contractually have to be shown the script first. If I pass then somebody else will do it.
Would you want to do a Scream 5?
Depends on the script. It’s gonna be a tough act to follow.