Carmen Electra looks back on her iconic Scary Movie opening scene
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At first glance, the opening scene of Scary Movie looks exactly like its target, Scream. There's the girl innocently making popcorn. There's the mysterious, menacing phone call. There's the casual conversation about favorite scary movies.
But soon enough, Scary Movie starts showing its spoof-tastic hand. As the Killer (Dave Sheridan) in the white mask stalks Carmen Electra's Drew Decker — named after Drew Barrymore, of course — she's led through her McMansion out to a nonsensical obstacle course with gags skewering Scream's satirical absurdity and Electra's own reputation as a staple of Playboy magazine.
Director Keenen Ivory Wayans waited until after shooting the rest of Scary Movie to film the Electra-fied opening scene, he says, because the studio kept pushing back on having her join the cast. "Miramax just didn't want to cast her," he recalls. "They didn't think she could do it. They thought she was cheesy, because — and this is no disrespect to Carmen — she was one of the first celebrities to be known more for who they were than for what they'd done, you know? But what they didn't like about Carmen was what made her perfect, and that's what I kept trying to explain."
He laughs. "I kept saying to them, 'Look, trust me. If it doesn't work, then we can hire somebody else, but let me at least shoot it.' And so they finally gave in, and not only was Carmen amazing and really got what was funny about her [being the target], she just committed 100 percent to it."
Electra hopped on the phone with EW to look back on her riotous starring role.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you remember how you got involved?
CARMEN ELECTRA: I actually auditioned for two parts — I want to say the Shannon Elizabeth role (Buffy Gilmore) and, oh gosh, I can't remember. I just thought, "Oh my God, this is a great script, this is gonna be really funny," and I really wanted the job, I wanted that job really bad, but I didn't get it. I didn't get a call, I didn't hear anything, and I remember I had an offer to go to Italy to shoot a movie so I took off. I was there for two weeks and literally the second week, my management called and said, "They want you for Scary Movie." And I said, "What?!" And they said, "Yeah, you're going to have to fly straight from Italy to Canada."
And so I'm like, "Oh my God, this is crazy!" So basically on no sleep at all, I flew in, and we shot all night long. I remember they cut my hair shorter to look more like Drew Barrymore's character, we did a quick fitting, I think two other actresses came in, but Keenen was so awesome and he was really pulling for me for some reason, and, you know, the rest is history.
This role was spoofing your career up to that point, in a way. How'd you feel about that?
Oh, I was thrilled! It was so fun to kind of laugh at myself. It's good to laugh about yourself and laugh about life. I mean, laughter is the best medicine.
Were you worried about anything going in?
Well, thank God I was working out in Italy, because I had no idea I would get stripped down to a bra and panties in the movie. [Laughs] But the one memory I have is that it was so cold in Canada, and when I'm running away from the Killer, and the sprinklers come on, and I'm soaking wet and running, and it goes into slow motion like Baywatch, it was so cold. It was freezing. I'll never forget that. But we finished that scene in one night.
Any improv you remember doing?
Let's see, there was a moment where I answer the phone and it was actually Keenen on the other end of the line. He said, "Just go with it. Answer me with whatever I ask you," so sometimes he would say "say this" or "say that" or "try this" or "try that" and he would just play around. That was what was really cool about working with a director like Keenen. He knows how to get out of you what he wants that scene to be like. There were also scenes that got cut out.
There was a scene when I get outside and I'm running away from the Killer and I fall and trip into the chalk line before getting up again. I take off running, but I think after that, I end up running and running and running and forever running [laughs] and I look up, I'm freaking out, and it turns out I'm on a treadmill. [Laughs] They put a treadmill outside in the yard, but that scene wasn't in the movie. I was running for so long on it.
That sucks that they made you run in the cold on a treadmill for a shot that didn't even make it in.
It was fine, because I was really into working out! [Laughs] I may have been a little exhausted because I flew in from Italy and had jet lag so bad, but I was excited to do it. I have to say, it really changed my life.
Still to this day, to be honest, people send me on my Instagram photos they've posted of Scary Movie or they mention Scary Movie. I mean, God, the franchise went on for so long, it's so crazy. I remember they called me back in for Scary Movie 4, so that was fun, too, but the first Scary Movie, that was just, like, I was so sad I had to die in it. [Laughs]
How hard was it for you to keep a straight face that night to shoot it all?
Probably the popcorn scene, that was hard after saying my line, "Oh, I farted." [Laughs] I think that was the line. And then definitely the banana, because it's just so ridiculous, that you're so petrified that someone's coming to kill you and you look at those items and think about which one to use for a second and then you grab the damn banana. [Laughs] I mean, come on. That's funny.
What do you remember about how big it became afterward, when it topped the box office? Do you remember what it was like seeing it for the first time?
I remember getting tickets to go see the movie, to see it in the theater. There was such a huge line to even get tickets, and they had to turn people down. I threw on a baseball cap and just kind of laid low. I sat in the back with a real audience and watched it, and I remember after my scene, everyone cheered! It was, like, the coolest thing ever. [Laughs] To this day, I don't think I've ever been to a movie where that happened. Well, maybe Star Wars?
I have to ask: Your character says her favorite scary movie is Kazaam, because of Shaquille O'Neal's acting. What's really your favorite scary movie?
I have to go back to the days of Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. Seeing those movies as a little girl just terrified me. My mom loved scary movies, so she would make popcorn and say, "We're watching a scary movie tonight!" And I'd go, "Oh my God, noooo." [Laughs] I was so scared, but I grew up watching them.