Think Ghostface is scary? Try shooting a movie before the script is finished. In this week’s issue, Entertainment Weekly takes an inside look at the bloody battle to make Scream 4.
Fresh blood—it’s what fans of the horror-comedy franchise have been waiting for, for more than a decade. They should feel lucky that a new installment is arriving at all, given how tenuous the production has been. The idea for the film was born almost accidentally; its writer and producer clashed repeatedly and vociferously over details; the script was in flux throughout the shoot; and the marriage of its two best-known stars, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, crumbled as cameras rolled.
Leave it to Scream 4, which opens April 15 and is rated R, to incorporate the 11-year hiatus, at least, into the plot. The film picks up a decade after Scream 3, with Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning home to Woodsboro, where married pals Dewey (Arquette) and Gale (Cox) live. Sidney, now a published author, has written a book about her struggles over the years. “She’s come to a place in her life where she has overcome all of her issues and found a way to come out into the world again and be happy,” says Campbell. In keeping with the previous movies, Scream 4 opens with a wickedly violent 10-minute set piece, the series’ most elaborate to date. And naturally, even more hell breaks loose once Sidney’s back on the scene. Scream 4, which has a higher body count than any of the earlier flicks, is the scariest—and most gruesome—installment since the first. “I’m over the moon about the movie,” says Dimension Films co-chairman Bob Weinstein, who has shepherded the franchise since its beginning. “I wanted to deliver for the fans.”
Released in December 1996, the first Scream was a sleeper hit that grossed just $6 million in its first weekend but went on to rake in $103 million in the U.S. The film yielded two sequels, 1997’s Scream 2 and 2000’s Scream 3, which amassed $101 million and $89 million, respectively. In total, the franchise surpassed more than half a billion dollars internationally. Then nine years passed. By March 2010, Dimension had announced that it had greenlit Scream 4 for a spring shoot and scheduled its release for a little more than a year later. But Kevin Williamson and Weinstein were still haggling over the script. “Everyone was second guessing everything, because everyone wanted it to be so perfect,” Williamson recalls. Their arguments intensified over the months and ultimately came to a head. “Oh, I got in a big fight with Bob,” says Williamson. “We got into a massive fight creatively, and we hugged it out and then we moved on.” Even those closely involved with the production still aren’t sure what happened between the two, but they certainly were aware of the strain. “I’ll be honest: I don’t know what went down,” says Campbell. “I haven’t been given a very straight answer about it.”
Of course, Weinstein and Williamson were not the only couple undergoing a crisis in their relationship. During their six weeks together in Michigan, Cox, 46, and Arquette, 39, were weathering a rough patch in their 11-year marriage (the pair eventually announced in October that they had separated). “Some times were really fun,” says Cox of the shoot. “Sometimes we had a ball there! But it definitely was the beginning of some issues.” In an oddly prescient plot twist, Scream 4 finds Gale and Dewey also going through relationship problems. “I don’t have the fondest memories of [filming] those particular moments,” says Cox. “The movie was just a little bit of a tough time. I would say we’re probably better now than we were during that movie. I love him so much. We are the closest of friends.” Arquette says the Scream films have become incredibly personal for him: “This is a series of films that have spanned 15 years of my life and my marriage, and we have a daughter.” Somehow, the pair managed to keep their marital struggles private on the set. “I was absolutely clueless, and I spent a lot of time around them,” says Hayden Panettiere, who plays Kirby, one of the new Woodsboro teens who is targeted by Ghostface. “It never crept into work or made anyone uncomfortable.” Adds Director Wes Craven: “The only thing that was odd was that when he finished his shooting, he didn’t go home. Then we started to wonder what was going on.”
Despite all the hiccups, almost everyone on the Scream team seems eager to return for a fifth film…that is, if their characters survive Scream 4 (none of the cast members are allowed to admit if they’ve signed up for further movies). “I love this character, and I always want to be a part of it and always wanna do it,” says Arquette. Williamson does have two more installments sketched out, but he wants to see whether audiences dig this latest entry before he commits to working on the next one. “If people really respond to the film, then yes, there are more twists and turns,” he says. Hopefully, they’ll all take place on screen this time.
Remembering the first Scream –The cast and filmmakers look back.
Drew Barrymore on opting to be the now-iconic opening sequence victim: The first scene was really reminiscent of When a Stranger Calls. And it was absolutely my favorite part. But I loved the whole thing. I loved that it got tongue-in- cheeky but was still scary, and it sort of described genres and revived them and redefined them all in one script. Wes and I made this agreement: I was like, “I never want fake tears, I will come up with a mechanism to really make me cry. I will run around until I’m hyperventilating.” He and I had this secret story that made me cry every time I thought about it.
Jamie Kennedy on the budding Arquette/Cox romance: We had a table read, and their characters just had a lot of interaction. And I said, “Jesus, that’s really good chemistry.” It was actually very beautiful. It was nice to see people fall in love.
David Arquette on working with Cox: The first time I met her, I was flirty with her. I was a wild child. On a different level, I saw who she really is. Courteney is no-nonsense and she tells the truth. I loved everything I still love about her immediately.
Courteney Cox on their first date: He did fall asleep on our first date. We were holding hands watching Dead Man Walking, and he fell asleep. This is no remark on the film. I, on the other hand, did not fall asleep.
Neve Campbell on the filming the final scenes of Scream: The last three weeks of the shoot were grueling, but we still had a great amount of fun. We watched the sun rise every morning and we’d get into our cars covered in blood and go back to our hotel. It was hard to get it out of my hair.
Pick up Entertainment Weekly Scream Special on newstands April 15th