Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson encouraged directors of new sequel to take 'big swings'
It is no real spoiler to say that the new Scream film (out in cinemas Jan. 14) takes big swings when it comes to some of the beloved franchise's characters. Executive producer Chad Villella explains that the jaw-dropping turns were a crucial part of the original script, by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick.
"Those big swings were definitely present in the script," says Villella. "As you're getting closer and closer to production, and the rubber's about to meet the road, everyone always voices their doubts and is like, 'Oh, are we sure this the right choice?' But for us, those swings, they're so essential and so integral to what happens in the story. They're really consequential. All of the really big turning points for us, they're valuable to what the movie is and it just wouldn't be the same experience if you removed them. It's sort of a house of cards and really that is what was so clear to us about the script as we were reading it. We loved the risks that it took and wanted to make sure that we protected those at all costs."
Co-director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin reveals that another of the new film's executive producers, original Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson, encouraged such risk-taking.
"There's a swing in the movie that Kevin Williamson flagged in pre-production," says Bettinelli-Olpin, a member of the Radio Silence collective along with his fellow Scream director Tyler Gillett and Villella. "[He said], 'This is the only thing that doesn't quite feel like it's in a Scream movie, which is why I think it's the absolute thing you need to make sure stays in the script.'"
Below, Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillett, and Villella talk about paying homage to Wes Craven (who directed the first four films in the series) and the future of the Scream franchise.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The new Scream has been getting great reactions. That must feel pretty good.
TYLER GILLETT: Yeah, I think it's more than we ever expected. You always make something hoping that it connects with people and you're white-knuckling it right up to the moment that people's opinions are out in the world. We are beyond thrilled [about the reactions] and so excited for audiences now to get to have the experience.
Your 2019 movie Ready or Not was a success, but what was the process of auditioning for the Scream gig?
CHAD VILLELLA: Well, it's funny you bring up Ready or Not because Ready or Not kind of was our audition. Working [on the film] with the team at Project X — William Sherak, Paul Neinstein, and James Vanderbilt — that was very nice and they brought us in to Gary Barber at Spyglass. They said, "We think you're the guys to help us make this movie," and we couldn't be more thankful for them doing that.
What was it like reading the script? And how similar was that screenplay to what people will see in cinemas?
MATT BETTINELLI-OLPIN: We went in to read the script and we took probably two-and-a-half, three hours to do it, because it was so good and we didn't want to miss anything. It read like you were seeing the movie in the most realistic way. What people will see is pretty much what was on the page then. We changed some things out of necessity, but at the end of the day, the script we read and the movie you're seeing are very very similar. They really wrote a great script.
The movie goes deep in the weeds with the horror genre. I thought I was having a stroke when some characters started discussing "elevated horror." It was like someone had scooped out my brain and put it on a screen.
GILLETT: That's how we felt reading it. We've always been reticent to step into a franchise because it's so hard to create new tracks in something, especially when it's been done so successfully. Obviously, we're fans of the original four movies and all of Wes' work, there was a sort of added layer of pressure with this. So we went in to reading that script and we were so blown away by the multiple layers of commentary in the movie and how, like you said, it felt like Guy and Jamie were inside our brains. There were moments when we were literally cheering when we reading the script.
The Scream series has been very well curated over the years compared to some other franchises. Was that an advantage or did it make your mission more daunting?
VILLELLA: It was an absolute advantage dipping into the Scream lineage and the way that worlds were connected through all four films. The conversation we all had, and Guy and Jamie [dealt with] wonderfully in the script, was, what is it like ten years later? Like, let's just go and lean into the real world of Woodsboro, and what it is like ten years later, and hopefully continue this wonderful storyline that Wes and Kevin Williamson created 25 years ago.
As Scream fans, what was it like to step on to set and find yourself directing Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott?
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Surreal. Just very, very unbelievable. Neve was invaluable in the pre-production process, kind of keeping it within the guard rails of what Scream is. She had a lot of great thoughts that all got worked into the script. Then, on set, Neve, Courteney (Cox), David (Arquette), they really helped guide us along the way in terms of what it was like during the original movies. We tried very hard to kind of marry our process to the process that they all went through in the first four movies, with Wes Craven, and the father-like figure that he was on set.
The new Scream is dedicated to Wes. Could you talk about how you pay homage to him in the film?
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Our starting point was this has to be, on some level, a love letter to Wes Craven, Scream, and his other work. I would say throughout the making of the movie and within the finished product itself there's so many little nods to Wes, there's big nods to Wes. At the end of the day, the entire thing is ultimately a love letter to Wes from us. He's one of the greatest directors, period, of his generation. To go into the movie already as fans, I think we all came out on the other side even bigger fans because we've gotten to know people [who knew him]. Everything we've heard and everyone we talked to about him has just been, he was the nicest, most supportive, loving man. So it's daunting to pick up where he left off on Scream but it also was a real blessing for us.
Would you gentlemen be up for making another Scream film?
VILLELLA: I mean, we love Scream. This is why we're filmmakers, we love being a part of this franchise. If everyone decides to have us back we would happily talk about the story and where it could possibly go.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Watch the trailer for the new Scream film below.
For interviews with cast and crew, behind-the-scenes tidbits and photos, and much more, pick up a copy of Entertainment Weekly's Guide to Scream, available online or wherever magazines are sold.
The fifth big-screen installment of the beloved slasher series.