'We knew it was a crazy risk': Scream filmmakers talk movie's shocks and surprises
Warning: This article contains spoilers about the fifth installment of Scream.
Before the release of the new Scream, the filmmakers behind the horror movie spoke with EW about taking "big swings" with this latest entry in the franchise. Now, fans know that those swings include the deaths of both David Arquette's Dewey Riley and Marley Shelton's Judy Hicks, as well as the return-via-hallucinations of Skeet Ulrich's Billy Loomis, one of the killers in the first film in the Scream saga.
Below, directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and executive producer Chad Villella talk at spoiler-filled length about the movie's twists and turns as well as the future of the franchise.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you first read the script (by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick), what were your thoughts about the deaths of Dewey and Judy and the return of Billy Loomis?
TYLER GILLETT: For Skeet, I think we were so blown away, it was a genuine surprise, and we were so thrilled with the choice. We also knew it was a crazy risk. I will say that, across the board, for all three of these things, we knew that they were huge risks, and we also felt that we had to do them because they were huge risks. The idea of making a safe Scream movie is something that I don't think anyone wants to see. So, we loved the idea that Billy was back; we loved the idea that on such a personal and emotional level for Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), our main character, there was a real legacy story happening in her own life. Then, yeah, with Judy's death, we just loved how it was handled, we loved the idea of a daytime kill, we loved how brutal and how visceral it is. We also just loved the gamesmanship of it, that Ghostface is threatening her about one thing, fully leading her into a different trap. I think we loved how manipulative Ghostface was on the page throughout this, but that was one of the key moments in the script where we were like, oh s---, this Ghostface is kind of playing make-believe at a different level than we've maybe seen before.
And then, yeah, the big one, Dewey, it was f---ing gut-wrenching, reading it in the script! It was like, we loved it, and we hated it, and it was brutal, and we also knew that we had to make a choice like that in this movie. I think what Guy and Jamie did so well is that they structured it in a way that it's essential, right? The only possible thing that could get Sid back to Woodsboro is the loss of a dear friend and a real connection to her roots. For as much as it was just absolutely gutting, quite literally, to shoot that scene, it also felt like it was essential. The movie has to be willing to take risks, and it has to show the audience that no one is safe.
Presumably, Dewey's death was part of the pitch to David when you, or the producers, were trying to get him on-board the film. How did he react to that?
MATT BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Yeah, you're right, William Sherak (Scream producer) teed it up that this was going to happen when they read it, so it wasn't a surprise. I think there was some trepidation. I think there was some nerves about it. I don't think it was wholly embraced, you know, by David, or by us, for sure. There were nerves of, is this the right thing? In our first conversation with David, he said, "Think about it, think about it." But he understood that, in order for it to be a real Scream movie, and for it to have the teeth that Scream has, that this kind of thing needed to happen. He also loved the progression that Dewey had in the story, in the arc that got told over the five movies, and so I think he was on-board, but he was also sad about it like we all are.
What was it like shooting his death scene?
CHAD VILLELLA: That day was something that we'll never experience again on any set, probably ever. There was such a reverence and respect and soberness to everybody on set that day. It was like, everybody came, and honestly, David just went in and gave it everything he had. We knew what was happening that day, but I don't think we knew exactly how big of a day that was and how much each character involved wanted to be a part of it. Because everybody loves David, and they love Dewey more than a lot of characters that have come and gone in the Scream universe. But I think David especially, it meant a lot for him. He was very self-reflexive on the day, and we just wanted to give him the space and let him do his thing. He was just phenomenal on everything we shot that day.
GILLETT: I also just want to add that, and this is to David's credit, he did all of the stunt work in that whole sequence. He's an incredible athlete, but I also feel that on a personal level, he knew that he was saying goodbye to this character, and he wanted to be in the action of that entire hospital sequence, so that's him flipping the stuntman-Ghostface over and all that stuff on the floor. It was a really physical chunk of shooting. I think we did that over the course of two or three days. He just wanted to be in the physicality of it, and kudos to him. We love his performance so damn much in this movie.
What about shooting Judy Hicks' death scene?
GILLETT: That was also one of those really brutal moments. It was hard, but it was interesting structurally, Marley's death. It kind of happens at the beginning of a much longer tense sequence. So, it felt like one that needed to be abrupt and brutal, and you're in it and you're out of it really quick. You don't even have time to process holy s---, they just killed Judy Hicks before you're in the sequence with her son, sneaking around the house.
Was Marley emotional about saying goodbye to her character?
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Not really. I think she came to play, if I'm being honest. She was actually the first person that we talked to from the original movies. She was just kind of excited. I don't think she ever thought she'd play Judy Hicks again. She'd only been in one movie. So, when she got on board, she [was] much more of like, "Fun! I'm going to get killed! This will be cool! I'm going to get a cool Scream kill!" And on the day, it was much lighter than when Dewey got killed.
How did you achieve the return of Skeet's character? I have no idea whether you shot new footage or manipulated old material.
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Skeet popped up right at the end of the shoot for one day, and we shot him against a green screen for all of that stuff. Melissa Barrera was there, so they were reading against each other in real-time, but we just had him there for a real quick moment, and we de-aged him just slightly. Turns out Skeet Ulrich is aging super super-well and is a really good-looking guy! But we loved the idea that Billy is trapped in time, and he would look and sound like [he did in the original Scream]. We even pitched his voice a little bit to put him back in time as much as possible without breaking [into] that uncanny valley feel.
GILLETT: We learned so much trivia on this movie. We could write a book on the Scream trivia that we learned just talking to people in the first four [films]. And one of the things that blew my mind was, [Skeet's] natural hair is not straight like that. That super-cool Skeet we know from the original Scream? He's like, "I had to sit in hair and makeup every day for like hours." So they would straighten his hair every single day. That was not his natural hair, which blew our minds. That's what we did on our set and [you] instantly were like, oh, you look just like Billy now!
I interviewed Skeet for an article in EW's The Ultimate Guide to Scream magazine, and at no point did he hint he might be in the new film.
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: To Skeet's credit, he posted about it yesterday for the first time. He reached out to William, our producer, to be like, "Is it cool? Can I do it now?" We were worried about leaks throughout the entire process from everybody everywhere because people can't do anything now without it leaking. There was stuff out there, but you had to go looking for it and want to find it; it wasn't just in the ether.
In the new Scream, Sidney is married to an unseen character called Mark. One of our editors, Patrick Gomez, has a theory that "Mark" is Patrick Dempsey's character from Scream 3.
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Mark Kincaid!
GILLETT: Yeah. It is. Officially on record! [Laughs]
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Mark Kincaid is Sid's husband.
Since we last spoke, the film has been released and done very well at the box office. Have you had any discussions about being involved in another one?
GILLETT: We know that Guy and Jamie have a really great idea for where this saga goes, and I can say that we had such an amazing time making this one. From start to finish, it was just like a dream come true, and if they'd have us back, we'd do it in a heartbeat.
Scream is currently screening in cinemas. Watch the trailer for the film below.
Pick up a copy of Entertainment Weekly's Ultimate Guide to Scream, available online or wherever magazines are sold.
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The fifth big-screen installment of the beloved slasher series.