Wes Craven talks SCREAM 4
It’s been 10 years since his last appearance in Scream 3, but Ghostface is back for more, as is the original Scream team of director Wes Craven, screenwriter Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries), and the acting trio of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette. Dimension Films gave EW.com the first look at the final teaser poster for Scream 4, which will hit theaters April 15, 2011. Horror movie maestro Craven, who’ll start shooting the new sequel this June, kindly set aside a few minutes to chat about the fourth entry in his memorably meta series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how did Scream 4 come together?
WES CRAVEN: Bob Weinstein [the head of Dimension Films] felt that 10 years was enough of a wait. He felt it was time to give the original three films their due, so he called Kevin Williamson, who started coming up with ideas. For some years, Kevin had the notion of the general course of the next three movies. There was a point where Bob came to me and said, “We want to start showing you pages — do you want to do it?” And off we went.
Did you have any trepidation about revisiting the series so many years down the road?
No, I’m fascinated by what this movie is. I can’t think of another film that has not only a true trilogy, where you’re following a single central character over three pictures, but has the complexity to the story and other characters that also have continued along. And then 10 years later, to come back to those same characters and same actors, and continue that story in a way that’s totally organic. It’s kind of unprecedented.
Are Sidney (Campbell), Gale (Cox), and Dewey (Arquette) still going to be the central characters, or are they on the periphery this time?
It’s a total integration of those three and new kids. The story of Sid, Gale, and Dewey is very much a part of the movie.
And Sid’s still having problems with Ghostface?
There have been 10 years of no Ghostface, but there has been the movie-within-a-movieStab. We have fun with the idea of endless sequels, or “sequelitis” as Kevin calls it in the script. Sid goes through these three horrendous things, and Stab was based on those horrible things. And then they’ve been taken by a studio and run into the ground in a series of sequels. She has been off by herself and living her own life, and she’s even written a book that has gotten a lot of critical acclaim. She’s kind of put her life back together in the course of these 10 years. But, certainly, there would be no Scream without Ghostface, so she has to confront him again, but now as a woman who has really come out the darkness of her past.
Can you tease what’s happening with Dewey and Gale by this point?
I don’t think Bob Weinstein would be very happy if I disclosed anything. We have been playing CIA with trying to keep everything secret, and we haven’t put any pages out from the current version of the script, except for things we’ve already discarded. Our first experience with casting this time around, the sides [portions of the script used for auditions] that we used were put on the Internet the same afternoon. It was bad back when we made the other movies, too. On Scream 2, we had the first 40 pages of the script show up on the Internet the night they arrived from Kevin, and we had to do backflips to rewrite the opening.
Speaking of openings, are you at least going to continue with having a couple killed at the beginning of the film?
That’s a strong possibility. [Laughs] Certainly, you will recognize what Bob calls the DNA of the film: a very complex murder mystery, a shocking action picture, wonderful humor based on character, and lots of surprises, as well as a movie that kind of copies itself. It’s a pretty amazing script.
What is your opinion of where the horror genre has gone these past 10 years?
It feels like the end of an era of a certain type of film. There are series of films, a lot of sequels, and a lot of remakes, and part of the humor of Scream 4 is when characters comment on that. “Enough of Saw 25 and all!” [Laughs] A lot of films, directors, and studios are the butts of some of the jokes. In order to figure out what’s happening around them, the characters have to figure out where the genre of horror is. So this is a look at horror after 10 years of a lot of sequels rather than original films coming up year after year. One film is successful, and then they make 25 of them. I think it’s time for something new. I’ve done remakes of my own films, too, with The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, but we feel it’s time for something new and different, and that’s what this film is going to be.
But then is it ironic that this is the fourth film in a series?
Yeah, but I’ve never felt like these are sequels. This is a film about the progress of, at this point, three core characters, and how all of these events have changed their lives, and how the events in their lives have been reflected in the movies around them, which they might like or might really not like at all. I think that makes it really different.
As for the poster’s tagline, “New decade, new rules,” are the new rules going to specifically comment on what’s happened these last 10 years with horror movies?
It’s very much about the last 10 years, and where we are right now. “New decade, new rules” is very much the keynote of the film, that is, trying to figure out what sort of rules (the new Ghostface) is following. How do we fight this killer without a road map? We have to figure out where we are.
Are you returning to Santa Rosa, Calif., to shoot?
We’re actually going to Michigan. We found a wonderful small town that looks very much like the town we had in Northern California. Frankly, the tax breaks in Michigan are enormous, so we’ll be able to put a lot more movie on the screen.
But this Michigan town is still supposed to represent (the series’ fictional town of) Woodsboro?
Yeah. I guess I just gave something away. [Laughs]
Can we count on Scream 4 remaining an R-rated movie with blood and guts and all that fun stuff?
I think that’s safe to say. I’ve very excited about it. At this point in my career, Scream is one of the longest running stories I’ve told. It’s fascinating to still have actors who are very much into continuing their roles and have great chemistry. Part of the reason these three characters are still alive is because they’re so great. We haven’t wanted to kill them.
And, should Scream 4 become a hit, you are signed on for Scream 5 and 6, right?
Yeah, I’m signed on for the duration.
Kevin Williamson talks SCREAM 4
Wondering what’s in store for Sidney, Gale and Dewey when they return to face Ghostface in SCREAM 4, 5 and 6? Could one of them actually get killed? Could one of them become Ghost Face? Could Jamie Kennedy possibly return? Get ready for some answers from Kevin Williamson. Hit the jump now for my conversation with the SCREAM creator and Vampire Diaries producer.
Since your central cast now numbers three, is it tough to maintain the element of danger in Scream 4, as opposed to the first three Screams? Because one would assume you won’t kill off one of those three characters, since they’re now so beloved.
Oh, really? [Laughs.] Now you tell me! [Laughs.] No, I agree with you. It is sort of… I love the characters. I didn’t even realize what I was missing until I sat down to write it and work it out. We’re going out of our way to be sort of respectful of that. But at the same time, Wes and I feel one-hundred percent that we’re gonna need to surprise the audience. If we don’t, there’s no reason to do it. And so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to balance that in a way that’s satisfying to everybody. But it’s like, you can’t confirm or deny. It’s a Scream movie. People have to die. And I’m no stranger to killing people. Even on The Vampire Diaries we’ll take regular characters and just kill ‘em. [Laughs.] I think that what we do know is we’ve got characters that people respond to and care about. And that’s the good news. Because I think the problem with a lot of horror films has always been, and the reason I wrote Scream in the very beginning, is you don’t really get a lot of characterizations of people you’re really emotionally invested in. I want to care about people when I watch a horror film, because that’s when you get involved. What we’re gonna try to do with Scream 4 is let people care about Sidney again, and let people care about Sidney and Gale and Dewey and all the new characters that are circling around them. And have some fun. I get my new characters, I get my old characters, I get to watch them all interact. It’s fun. I get to go back to Woodsboro. It’s exciting.
Any chance we’ll see some familiar faces besides those of David, Courtney and Neve?
No. We’re not that movie. We’re not that universe where you can bring people back from the dead. That would be just a cheat. It’s such a disservice. Everyone’s like, “When’s Randy coming back?” I’m like, “You know what? I would love nothing more than to have Jamie Kennedy in the film. However to have Randy in the film, it sort of just takes it… I mean Scream 2 was a lie, you know? It’s a false move. So I just won’t do it. I can’t do that. I just won’t do it.”
You’re contracted for 4 and 5. Can you say if 5 for you will end in a cliffhanger that leads into 6? Since you’re not yet contracted for 6, are you telling a story that you’d originally planned for three in two films now?
No, there’s three. I am contracted for 4, 5 and 6, but the deal for 6 is not done. I mean I pitched three films. The story is about returning to Woodsboro; and Scream 5 – knock on wood, if we actually get to it, because 4 has to be good in order for us to make a 5 – 5 will be a continuation of 4, but 4 is its own movie. It has a beginning, a middle and its own ending, which will be satisfying hopefully. It has a beginning, middle and end and 5 has a beginning, middle and end; it’s just a continuation of the lives of all the people that live in 4. I can’t start giving 5 away – that gives up too much of 4.
If 4 is successful, could 5 and 6 shoot back to back?
I think that would have to be monumentally successful, right? I don’t know when these decisions get made. Those are all business decisions, and who knows how successful 4 would have to be? I don’t know. That would be a lot of work. I hope not.
Were you always a horror fan?
Oh yeah. I love horror. I was a horror guy. I always watched horror movies. Halloween, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte… Anything dark, anything macabre, anything that was gonna scare you and goose you, I wanted to watch it. I love it.
Of all your characters, whom do you best relate to?
I feel a little piece of me in everything. You know? I have a little bit of Randy because I’m the horror movie geek. And I’m still Dawson, I’m still Joey. [Vampire Diaries’] Stephan and Damon are characters created by L. J. Smith, so they may not be so personal, but I find something personal in them. I’m very connected to the idea of the loner and the outcast, like Stephan.
Can you see a point where Sidney goes through so much that she becomes Ghost Face?
You know, that’s a good question. It’s possible. I think Dewey, Gale or Sidney could become Ghostface.
In real life, what’s your greatest fear?
Divorce lawyers? [Laughs.] By the way, that’s Wes Craven’s answer. I stole it. But I’ve heard him say it several times. I don’t have a great answer… Spiders in the bedsheets.
When the Scream saga began, it was post-modern horror. Now that we’ve come fifteen years, is it tougher to do that type of horror? Have we become so “post” that we’re now back to being earnest and sincere? And if so, do you see a different tone for these sequels?
Well, I do think they’re on a different journey. Scream was sort of a response to where we were in 1996 with regard to horror. And so I’m hoping that this film is gonna have… That’s the challenge – how do you keep it current, fresh and relevant? At the same time I think a slight nostalgic factor would sort of be appreciated, or would hope to be. But at the same time you want to scare the audience, not just repeat yourself. So it’s a huge challenge. If we can even just get halfway there I’ll be really happy. But I do think we’ve got some really good pieces in play. I think the most important thing for me and Wes is to scare the audience, and whether we do it with a bunch of post-modern dialogue or we just do it through a lot of good old-fashioned scares, we’ll just do it, and see what happens. I just think the most important thing is Scream needs to be scary. If we make it scary, then I think we’ll have done our jobs, and it won’t matter whether it’s a post-post-modern revision/deconstruction. We don’t have to worry too much about that. I think most importantly — where we’ve moved in storytelling — I don’t know about the earnestness, but what I would like to see is a story with characters I care about and the fear that they may die. That’s the movie that would interest and excite me, and if I can do that then I’ll be happy.