There have been many stories of battles between movie directors and film studios about what a film should look like but you would think by the time Scream arrived in 1996, Wes Craven had done enough to gain the trust of the top brass of Dimension Films and avoid any kind of tussle over who was best placed to dictate how the movie panned out on screen. After all, by this time he had created A Nightmare on Elm Street– the movie that essentially saved New Line Cinema from going out of business a decade earlier – and only a year before Scream has reinvigorated Freddy Kruger with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. However, clearly none of that was enough to stop Dimension Films bosses from almost firing Craven over the opening sequence involving Drew Barrymore.
At the time when Scream was released, Drew Barrymore was the biggest name on the cast list, so to make the decision to have her brutally slaughtered in the opening ten minutes of the film was a decision that Craven made intentionally. However, as producer Patrick Lussier revealed in an oral history from The Hollywood Reporter in celebration of Scream’s 25th anniversary, when Bob Weinstein was shown the first footage from the movie, which was the infamous opening scene, he was less than impressed with the direction things were going.
“The studio hated the dailies,” Lussier said. “They sent him dailies from their remake of Nightwatch and said, “You’ve got to look at this. This is how a movie’s made.”
It was less than a week into the production when Wes Craven was made aware of the complaints from the studio, and writer Kevin Williamson recalled, “”Wes got the phone call from the studio, and I was sitting behind him in my chair, and I just saw his back slump. He just started sliding down the chair. They didn’t think anything about it was good. They didn’t understand the lack of footage and they didn’t see his vision for that sequence at all.”
That sequence for anyone who has managed to not see it in the last 25 years, finds Barrymore’s character Casey receiving a call from a stranger who asks if she likes scary movies. After initially believing it to be some kind of prank, the conversation turns sinister and soon Casey finds herself attempting to save the life of her boyfriend by answering questions about the horror genre. It’s almost like a two player game in a Saw movie. By the end of the sequence, both Casey and her boyfriend have been murdered by “Ghostface” and Casey is left hanging outside the house for her parents to return home and find.
While it looked like the production was set to fail from that moment on, Craven continued on with the filming, brushing aside comments that the Ghostface mask wasn’t scary enough, and that the production was “wormanlike at best” and when the final cut of the opening scene was finally delivered to Weinstein, according to producers Cathy Konrad and Marianne Maddalena, he admitted that he has been wrong and told Craven, “What do I know about dailies? Keep going.” And that is just what Craven did.
Of course we know by now that the director clearly knew best, and when Scream became a huge hit and an injection of new blood to the genre, it was only a matter of time before we saw a franchise being born. Now, 25 years on, Scream is about to see a fourth sequel released in January, with a mixture of original stars in Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell and David Arquette, and a host of new actors and characters about to be teased by the infamous killer, Ghostface, ensuring that Craven’s legacy lives on. This news originated at CBR.com.