A whole new chapter. Kevin Williamson penned the original Scream screenplay nearly 25 years ago — and he couldn’t say no to being part of the new one, which is written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick.
“It’s exciting to sort of turn the franchise over someone else. I didn’t know how I felt about being a part of it with [original director] Wes [Craven] gone. I think all of us had — you could ask Neve [Campbell] and Courteney [Cox] — but we all had this question of, ‘Why should we do this? With Wes gone, is Scream over?’ And, ‘Maybe if they’re going to do Scream again, then she’d just start over with a brand new story line and a true reboot?’” Williamson, 56, told Us Weekly exclusively while celebrating the 25th anniversary of the horror flick. “But once you listened to James Vanderbilt and Guy, when they pitched it to me and when I met with the Ready or Not Radio Silence guys, [I realized] they have such love for the first film. They understood the heart and soul of it, and they understood the emotionalization, that it’s not about horror, it’s about the emotion and really making the audience feel something.”
The Dawson’s Creek creator added that the new team “really understood the DNA of Scream,” and that they spoke the same language as Craven, who passed away in 2015.
“So, I didn’t want it to happen without me,” the writer added. As for the new film, which brings back many original stars as well as an entirely new cast, but don’t call it Scream 5.
“I don’t think they ever seriously were going to call it Scream 5. I don’t think anybody wanted to see the number five after something. You’d have to ask them — Paramount or whoever, but I think taking the 5 off and calling it Scream [works] because it’s brand new,” he told Us. “There’s the legacy cast, and how they infuse this new world and there’s this whole new generation and a new cast of characters that are extremely fun. I think it was a great cast. It’s an amazing group of kids and young talent and they’re very, very good. They pop off the screen, and now our Sidneys and our mature characters who enter into it, they’re the adults. It works really really well. ”
Scroll down for the full Q&A:
Us Weekly: How does it feel to know that it’s been 25 years since Scream came out?
Kevin Williamson: I try not to think about it cause I just feel so old, but as someone pointed out to me, I think I’m the same age today that Wes was when we did Scream, so it’s really interesting that it all sort of full circles. I never envisioned a career lasting this long, and I never envisioned what Scream would do it.
Us: Yeah, absolutely. Take me back to finishing the first draft of the script. What was in that script that we may not have seen?
KW: I was in Palm Springs. I remember I borrowed a friend of a friend’s condo for three days. I had written an outline. It was, like, a 12-page outline and I’d spent two weeks writing. I kept talking about it and didn’t do it. I finally did it. And I remember when I printed it out, held it in my hands, I was so excited. I remember holding it and going, ‘Well this is never going to sell, but maybe there’s enough here that I can get a job. So people hire me to write something.’ … Wes filmed the script. There were not many spare parts. The Eight Is Enough reference in the sex sequence. That got cut out and I believe, it’s not necessary, and it kind of slowed down the pace of the film in the last few reels. And then a scene with the two boys, Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis and Stu. There was a scheme that they were walking away talking about the fun that we’re going to have that night and it kind of gave away. We cut that scene.
Us: I spoke to them about this week and it was so funny to see the chemistry that they still have. It was just casting gold when it came to the two of them.
KW: Yes, Matthew Lillard is also is the best ad-libber of all time and makes you look so good. There are so many lines that he spit out in that movie that I have nothing to do with. It just made me look good. When he picked up the phone and said, ‘Hello, Mom?’ That wasn’t me. When he said, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ that wasn’t me. When he said, ‘Mom and dad are gonna be really mad at me,’ or whatever that was, that was all him.
Us: Now it’s so hard to imagine anyone else ever being Sidney, but what was it about Neve Campbell that made her the perfect one?
KW: At the studio, everyone loved her, but everyone was second-guessing the lead as you do in every single thing you cast. You second-guess everything. You’re like, ‘Well, is this the right person? This is the person that’s going to lead it all.’ I felt her emotion. My brother first said, I remember when we were casting, he had read the script early on and he said, ‘What about the girl from Party of Five?’ I didn’t know her name. I was like, ‘I don’t watch Party of Five! I don’t know.’ Then Neve Campbell came in and I remember, ‘Oh, this is the girl from Party of Five!’ And she was so wonderful. In her screen test, she basically did the phone call when she’s talking to the killer in the very beginning, when she goes out on the front porch and she’s like, ‘Are you out there?’ She did that whole sequence in the screen test and it was so wonderful as you noticed the performance she gave in the movie.
Us: The cast had just insane chemistry. What was it like casting Courteney Cox and David Arquette?
KW: Well, when her name came up, I think we all just paused. One, she was hugely insanely popular from Friends, but it was the role she was playing on Friends as Monica. And two, I just felt she had the energy, she had the right attitude. Her personality is very much Gale Weathers’ — you know, in the fun ways. I saw her in another film, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and I was like, ‘Oh, this is Gale Weathers.’ I was super excited. And then when David was cast, well all know what happened right there. So they fell in love!
Us: It was so perfect that he was able to play Dewey in this silly way, yet still survive.
KW: And in the movie, he originally died.
Us: In your original script?
KW: And we filmed it that way. But what happened during the course of the movie is we realized how his performance was just so witty. Also, we loved him. He played it with such heart, such commitment and everyone kept thinking that. About halfway through it, they were asking me about a sequel because I had already written the outline. They were like, ‘What about the sequel? Why isn’t Dewey in the sequel?’ And so, just in case, we filmed that last sequence, of him getting in the ambulance.
Us: Just in case.
KW: Just in case — and Wes was right about that.
Us: He sure was. So now, you’re doing it again, coming back for another one. What was it like for you filming that in Wilmington?
KW: It was wild. Half the crew were from Dawson’s Creek! It was just like coming home. It was so awesome and to be there filming up my home state, but I was only there for a week because of COVID-19. I flew down there. I had to go in and quarantine for several days and be tested before I was allowed to set. I came and hung out for a few days. I didn’t have a lot of set time and all my participation has been sort of behind the scenes with the writers.
Us: How much pressure were you feeling going into that? Because, after Wes’ passing, people didn’t think that we were going to get a fifth movie.
KW: That’s the good news. I didn’t have any pressure because I didn’t have to do it. 25 years later, it’s exciting to sort of turn the franchise over someone else. I didn’t know how I felt about being a part of it with Wes gone. I think all of us had — you could ask Neve and Courteney — but we all had this question of ‘Why should we do this? With Wes gone, is Scream over?’ And, ‘Maybe if they’re going to do Scream again, then she’d just start over with a brand new story line and a true reboot?’ And, But once you listened to James Vanderbilt and Guy, when they pitched it to me and when I met with the Ready or Not Radio Silence guys, [I realized] they have such love for the first film. They understood the heart and soul of it, and they understood the emotionalization, that it’s not about horror, it’s about the emotion and really making the audience feel something. And they really understood the DNA of Scream. And I think Wes would have been really, really happy with those guys, because they spoke his language. So, I didn’t want it to happen without me.
Us: Of course. Was there a discussion about calling it Scream 5 rather than just Scream?
KW: Well, it was always Scream 5 because it’s the fifth one. So I think we just threw that name out, but I don’t think they ever seriously were going to call it a Scream 5. I don’t think anybody wanted to see the number five after something. You’d have to ask them — Paramount or whoever, but I think taking the 5 off and calling it Scream [works] because it’s brand new. There’s the legacy cast, and how they infuse this new world and there’s this whole new generation and a new cast of characters that are extremely fun. I think it was a great cast. It’s an amazing group of kids and young talent and they’re very, very good. They pop off the screen, and now our Sidneys and our mature characters who enter into it, they’re the adults. It works really really well.
Us: I was very surprised that a Scream poster was not in Dawson’s Creek but an I Know What You Did Last Summer poster was. What was the choice behind that at the time?
KW: Well, I know Dawson’s Creek was the same studio as I Know What You Did Last Summer, so I got permission to do it. I also thought Scream was too winky, because they [came out] on top of each other. Dawson’s bedroom was more important for [Steven] Spielberg. It was more important to see all of the Spielberg posters, and believe it or not, I told them not to put up the I Know What You Did Last Summer poster. I thought it was a little cheesy and the production designer didn’t get the memo. He had it up there and then I saw it in dailies and was like, ‘I hope doesn’t backfire.’ I was hoping no one really commented on it. It was really about Spielberg. I wanted to tell the story of this young kid obsessed with Spielberg. So, I was so happy that Spielberg gave me permission to use his work. I had to write him a letter and basically beg him and he was so kind. He was like, ‘Sure!’
Us: That’s amazing. So, going back to Scream, what do you feel like you learned from that experience?
KW: I learned how to be a professional if there is such a thing in this business. I cut my teeth on Scream early on. It was how I sort of learned to be a writer and working with Wes, he taught me how to be a filmmaker. He showed me the mechanics and the how-tos — how to bring it to life and how to be a storyteller in all ways. I think it was that mentorship that really sort of led me down the road to just becoming better and better.
Us: You know Matthew had said that he feels like Stu never died and he’s alive.
KW: Well, he’s just standing at the frat party in Scream 2. He is an extra! He showed up on set that night. I mean Stu does live forever. It’s interesting. I get more flack for killing Randy in Scream 2. I hear, ‘Why did you kill Randy?’ It’s because you really, really liked him!
Us: So it is the fifth the last? Is this the goodbye to Scream?
KW: Oh, I don’t know. You’d have to ask Radio Silence.
Us: But it’s your baby!
KW: I would love for it to live on forever because I love knowing that this universe is turning and Scream is in it. I love that they keep making Halloween because Scream is an homage to Halloween. I hope they never stopped making Halloween movies. I’m still waiting for another Friday 13th, and I hope that comes soon and I would love to see Scream live on. I think there’s a place for these franchises, and as long as we can tell new, original stories across the board, I still think franchises can live on.
Us: Absolutely. And now you have, I Know What You Did Last Summer becoming a TV show, so you never know what’s going to happen!
KW: I will tell you this. I read the pilot script. And I didn’t know what I’d think. … It made me a believer. I can’t wait to watch. I really liked the twist. I really thought that was cool. And so I’m excited to see that.
Celebrate the 25th anniversary of Scream with a special edition, to be released via a newly remastered Blu-ray on Tuesday, October 19.
Scream 5 debuts in theaters on January 14, 2022.