Scream first look: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette join franchise newbies (and Ghostface) in fifth film
Do you like scary movies?
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are hoping to scare audiences with the fifth Scream movie, titled simply Scream, when Paramount and Spyglass Media Group release the film on Jan. 14, 2022. But in the spring of 2020, it was the pair who were biting their nails waiting to see if the franchise's longtime stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette would jump aboard the first film in the franchise since 2011's Scream 4 and the first not to be directed by the late Wes Craven. The absence of one or more of the characters portrayed by the actors (Campbell's final girl Sidney Prescott, Cox's journalist Gale Weathers, and Arquette's lawman Dewey Riley) would certainly raise eyebrows among the slasher franchise's devoted army of fans. Moreover, Sidney, Gale, and Dewey were all prominently featured in the script for the movie, about a new killer who puts on the Ghostface mask and begins targeting teenagers to resurrect secrets from Woodsboro's corpse-filled past.
"It was a wildly anxiety-producing situation," Gillett, who previously collaborated with Bettinelli-Olpin on the 2019 horror-comedy hit Ready or Not, tells EW. "They were not disposable roles; they were very, very important and the heartbeat of what was great about the script. We couldn't imagine the movie without any of them and so not having that perfectly locked-in right off the bat was definitely scary."
Fortunately for the directors' stress levels, the three actors did eventually sign on the dotted line, encouraged by both the movie's script, written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, and by the filmmakers' own love for Craven's work. "I genuinely was in two minds," says Campbell. "The idea of making these films without Wes Craven seemed challenging to me. I loved the man very much. But Matt and Tyler wrote me a letter, speaking of their appreciation and great respect for Wes Craven, and speaking of the fact that the very reason that they are directors today was because of these movies and because of Wes, and that meant a great deal to me."
The actors were further reassured by the involvement of Kevin Williamson, who wrote the original 1996 Scream movie and two of the sequels, and is an executive producer on the new film.
"Knowing that Kevin Williamson was an executive producer on it set me at ease," says Arquette. "He really knows the tone. I mean, he set the whole world up!"
The Scream shoot took place last fall in Wilmington, N.C. Campbell, Cox, and Arquette were joined by Marley Shelton, who played Deputy Judy Hicks in Scream 4, as well as franchise newcomers Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, Jack Quaid, and Melissa Barrera. The latter plays the character Sam Carpenter and admits she initially had a hard time keeping a handle on her emotions when it came to acting with the OG Scream-ers.
"I was a huge horror fan when I was young," says Barrera. "I was obsessed with horror movies. I'm such a huge fan of Neve and Courteney. I was trying to be professional, and I would feel like I was dreaming. Neve Campbell is this whole franchise, and I was just very humbled to be coming in and get to share screen time with her."
The directors were similarly taken aback by their experience of working on the film.
"Showing up on set, seeing Neve and David and Courteney for the first time, seeing Ghostface for the first time, it was surreal," says Bettinelli-Olpin. "It felt like we were having this weird, out-of-body fan experience, but we were also doing our adult job at the same time."
Part of that job involved overseeing a production after the outbreak of COVID-19 but before the introduction of vaccines.
"The added pressure COVID on the filmmaking process, which is already full of things you have to solve and surprises and ways that it can go wrong, was certainly weighing on us every day," says Gillett. "I think we also ended up benefitting oddly from the circumstance of the pandemic. Everybody really came together. We couldn't have hoped for a better outcome in terms of just how everyone rallied around the project and really became a family with a really singular goal of making it across the finish line with this project."
Barrera recalls bonding with The Boys star Quaid, whom she seems to have used as her personal Wikipedia.
"I love Jack so much," says the actress. "It was amazing to have him as a partner in a lot of scenes in this movie. I got to spend so much time with him; he's so sweet, so talented, so dedicated. He's also a huge nerd. He's super-smart, and he knows everything about Scream and about scary movies and about the industry and about everything. Any question that I have, I always go to him."
While the directors and new cast members were getting used to working with Campbell, Cox, and Arquette, the trio of legacy actors were finding out what it was like to make a Scream movie without Craven, who died as the result of a brain tumor in 2015.
"From the second I walked on the set, I felt extremely emotional and felt a real missing and longing for him," says Cox. "He had such [a] special, kind, and caring quality about him, not to mention his incredible talent as a filmmaker. I looked up to Wes immensely professionally but also as a friend. I feel Wes would be so happy with the way Matt and Tyler have rebooted this franchise."
"I'm not overly religious or anything, but I definitely was speaking to him, praying about it," says Arquette. "It brought back a ton of memories of Wes, and that was emotional, you know, but it was beautiful. There were little signs. There were certain takes where the wind would blow, and, I don't know, I just felt his energy."
The Scream movies are both knowing horror-comedies, famous for their referencing of the slasher genre, and whodunits with the identity of the person, or people, wearing the iconic mask of the Ghostface a closely-guarded secret ahead of an entry's release. Director Gillett reveals that even cast members were kept in the dark about important plot details, at least during the early days of the shoot.
"We were really careful to protect the big reveal of the movie," says the filmmaker. "We went as far as to withhold those moments in the script from the actors. We wanted everybody involved, to the degree that we could, to be a part of the whodunit. Obviously, you get to a point in the shoot where you have to let the cat out of the bag, but we went pretty far into prep and into production with a surprising amount of secrecy maintained."
At present, the cast members remain very hush-hush about what happens in the film, although Arquette does let one thing slip about his much-injured character. "Dewey's had a rough life of it, and in the fourth Scream, they wanted me to get rid of his limp," he says. "But he's got the limp back; I can give you that much!"
Scream is produced by Vanderbilt, William Sherak, and Paul Neinstein. The film's executive producers are Williamson, Chad Villella, Gary Barber, Peter Oillataguerre, Ron Lynch, Cathy Konrad, and Marianne Maddalena. Scream is a Project X Entertainment production and a Radio Silence Film presented by Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group.
See exclusive first look images from the new Scream film above and below.
Scream will be released on Jan. 14, 2022.
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The fifth big-screen installment of the beloved slasher series.