Matt Sayles/Invision/AP/Shutterstock; Dimension Films/courtesy Everett Collection
A new oral history celebrating Scream's 25th anniversary reveals legendary director Wes Craven was almost fired from the iconic horror film.
Film editor Patrick Lussier recalls the studio behind the movie, Dimension Films, disliking the dailies (unedited footage collected at the end of each shooting day) of the film's memorable opening in which Drew Barrymore is taunted and killed by the movie's villain, Ghostface. Craven's job was on the line, Lussier said.
"The first sequence that was shot was the Drew Barrymore sequence. The studio hated the dailies. 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,'" Lussier told The Hollywood Reporter.
Screenwriter Kevin Williamson also spoke about Craven's almost-firing, telling the outlet, "I'll never forget, we were sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store and we were filming the news footage of Liev Schreiber walking out and being put into a car and ushered away."
"Wes got the phone call from the studio, and I was sitting behind him in my chair, and I just saw his back slump," said Williamson. "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."
The film's executives, most notably Bob Weinstein, demanded changes be made to the opening sequence, per THR. Producers on Scream set to work on proving the Barrymore opening would work with Lussier editing the footage together to show Weinstein exactly how the scene would play out on a big screen.
The gamble paid off with producer Marianne Maddalena saying, "After we showed Bob the cut sequence of the opening scene, he said, 'What do I know about dailies? Keep going.'"
Lussier added, "They immediately called out and said, 'We are so wrong. This works so incredibly well. We can't believe how suspenseful and terrifying this is. We clearly had no idea how to look at what you were doing.' Suddenly there was money for an orchestra, there was money for all sorts of things."
Actor Earl Brown, who played Kenny Jones in the film, said, "It's one of the classic movie scenes, not just horror genre scenes. The opening of the film is just phenomenal — and that's what Wes almost got fired over. I said something to him toward the end of production, and he said, 'Yeah, those first few weeks were kind of tense.'"
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The latest and fifth chapter in the Scream saga is set to debut in theaters in January with several members of the original cast such as Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette returning.
Fresh new faces include Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, Jack Quaid and Melissa Barrera. Marley Shelton is also returning as Deputy Judy Hicks.
Paramount Pictures Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox in the upcoming Scream
Speaking to by Entertainment Weekly, Campbell said she was reassured by the new film's directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not, V/H/S), who are longtime fans of Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson's original creation.
"I genuinely was in two minds," Campbell told EW. "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."
Scream is in theaters on January 14, 2022.