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‘Scream’ Filmmakers on Rian Johnson’s Scrapped Cameo, Drew Barrymore’s Secret Role and More (Spoiler Interview)

We go deep on Ghostface

“Scream” isn’t even a week old yet and we’re dying to discuss it in detail.

Even though we had just chatted with Radio Silence, the filmmaking collective of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and producer Chad Villella. They let loose on the identity of the killers, the return of a legacy character that has been kept out of the marketing materials, and Drew Barrymore’s secret cameo (among other things). Plus, they give us an update on where they are with the follow-up film, a fair thing to be in consideration considering the movie’s big opening weekend. Just for transparency, the Guy and Jamie they refer to throughout are Guy Busick and Jamie Vanderbilt, the writers of the new “Scream.”

Obviously MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD, TURN BACK NOW. We start talking about stuff from the jump. You’ve been warned.

scream-2022-jenna-ortega
Paramount Pictures/Spyglass

First off: the return of Billy Loomis. When this idea came in and how hard it was to get him back in the fold?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: This, idea was in the script that we read. So it was there from the minute we got involved. The two things that were up for debate throughout the process were Billy and the Dewey death. And the Billy one I would say was, I think everybody kind of knew the Dewey one wasn’t going to change, even though we always had that conversation, but the Billy one was one that even when we were in the edit, it was a lot of like, is this really going to make it? Is this going to be too jarring? Is it outside the bounds of “Scream”?

And in the process, in pre-production at some point, Kevin Williamson said that Billy in the movie is the one thing that doesn’t feel like “Scream.” And that’s why I think you guys need to do it. I think he told that to Jamie. And we were like, yes, agreed. And for us we loved it and thought it just makes the whole story so rich and it helps inform Sam in such a big way. And then in terms of getting him involved, he came out for one day. The last thing we shot was with Billy, with Skeet and, he came out and he was just into it, he just loved it. And his hair doesn’t naturally do that. That’s not his real hair.

They apparently even on the original “Scream,” that was him sitting in the chair every day, getting it to do that cool 90s thing. We did that on him and instantly you’re like, oh, you kind of already looked like Billy, this is wild. You shave him. And he hadn’t shaved for like five years and we put him in the costume and it was surreal. Cause we were shooting crime scene photos. We have new canon crime scene photos. It was a trip, but Skeet was incredible and he also managed to keep it a secret for the last almost year, a year and a half however long. And he didn’t say anything until I think yesterday.

Tyler Gillett: It was also one of those things. And I remember feeling like we’re already star struck by him because he’s such an incredible actor, but then he shows up as Billy Loomis and there’s a whole other level of, whoa, you’re an icon, you’re playing the thing that I know you as that is imprinted in my teenage brain.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: It’s like meeting Norman Bates.

Chad Villella: Truly, truly.

Tyler Gillett: Seeing him in costume, blood, bullet holes, one in the forehead. I mean, it was just, what are we making?

Chad Villella: And then seeing him on set, walking through the kitchen of the Macher house where, this a whole other layer of meta. It’s like, talk about us walking into a movie, that is close as you can possibly get.

You brought up Dewey. What was the discussion around it?

Tyler Gillett: No, I think we all knew that we were going to do what we had to do. I just think that it was that feeling of, you’re Wile E. Coyote-ing towards the edge of the cliff and then you start backing up. As you start to commit to a choice that has that much gravity, I think it’s natural to want to gut check yourself and go, fuck, is this the right thing? I think that we all knew in our hearts though that it was, for so many reasons, right. I feel like the stakes of the movie depend so greatly on us being able to express that there isn’t really a safe place to hide in our film.

It’s what I think that people forget that that’s how the first movie felt. And it’s one of the reasons why it’s so great and so compelling, is that opening scene, it strips you of every expectation. And I think for us, obviously 25 years later in fifth movie in a franchise that has done so much subverting of expectations, the one thing that it’s never really done is go for it with a legacy cast member and specifically Dewey who is historically unkillable. And I think the challenge for us was to not treat it in a way that felt mean or cruel though obviously it’s very, very brutal. I think for us we wanted to make it as iconic and sort of heroic as that character is, the two knives. The idea that the only way that you could possibly kill Dewey is to get him with two knives.

The thread of Gale in that scene that makes it feel a little bit romantic. And there’s maybe a little bit of hope for him at the end when he looks at the phone and he sees that she’s calling. All of these ingredients to make it feel like it is emotionally complicated and not just, this sort of quick brutal kill.

And even Ghostface saying, “It’s an honor.” The killer in that moment recognizes the gravity of what the movie is doing and what they’re doing. And ultimately on a meta level, what they are doing for the movie that will be made based on the events of this movie, there were a lot of things sort of at work, but I think we felt a real reverence for what that had to be. And I mean, look, it’s one of the bigger risks of the movie, but we also knew it had to happen. The movie after that happens is so based in the consequence of his death that we just had to be willing to go there.

Were there other cast members that you thought about bringing back? One thing is that Hayden Panettiere survived the events of “Scream 4,” right? Did you ever think about bringing her back?

Chad Villella: Yeah, we did talk about it and, and we really wanted to. We had a Zoom with Hayden and we really wanted to try to find a way to get her into the movie. In fact, in that YouTube section of the movie, that was initially going to be a clip of Rian Johnson, talking about making “Stab 8” with Woodsboro survivor Kirby.

But we weren’t able to get all the pieces in place in time to get it into the movie. So we had to quickly pivot and Hayden was totally understandable about all that. But, so we wanted to get some nod to Kirby being in the movie and then we did get her voice to lend to the two west toast. We went out to not only Hayden, but a whole bunch of other original cast members just to lend their voices to that toast, since it was in essence, in honor of Wes Craven and to toast to him and his legacy. And we just wanted to get all the people that are any part of the scream family into that one part.

Whose voices are in there too?

Chad Villella: It’s everybody who’s ever been. It’s all the original cast members. We got Drew Barrymore, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard, Henry Winkler. We got Patrick Lussier who was the editor of the original “Scream.” We got Aya, Wes’ widow. Marco Beltrami [composer of the original films]. Adam Brody, and Hayden from “Scream 4.”

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Julie Plec.

Chad Villella: Julie Plec. Yes. Kevin Williamson. I mean, even us, it was everybody who owes anything to Wes.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: All of the cast of this movie.

Chad Villella: Yeah. We wanted to get everybody involved.

Tyler Gillett: And they also cameo and other places in the movie too. Drew is the voice of the principal. When we’re introing the high school scene and the kids are sitting at the picnic table, that principal announcement is Drew Barrymore. Lillard does the voice of flame thrower on Ghostface and has a voice in the house party at the end. And Jamie Kennedy does “Someone’s goofy ass dad is kicking us out” at the party at the end. They were just really fun ways to get them involved. And again, to call out the meta, the fabric of what these movies are in such a fun way.

Is there an Easter egg that people haven’t spotted yet that you would like to reveal here?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Whew, good question.

Tyler Gillett: I think the Easter eggs, some of the ones that are just unspottable, one of my favorites is in the scene where Mindy’s on the couch, talking to movie-Randy and having the exact same experience as movie “Stab,” Randy is having, the Ghostface that creeps up behind her is actually Jack Quaid. It’s the only time in the movie Jack was wearing the Ghostface costume and the sort of fun symmetry of that is in the first movie when Ghostface is sneaking up on Randy, on Jamie Kennedy, That’s the only time in the movie Skeet was in the Ghostface costume.

Did you work out when each killer is doing the killing, like people have tried to do in the other movies?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: It’s basically Amber, it’s basically one killer and then also sort of another killer. I mean, we talked about it a lot, but there’s a couple that could be both of them, like simultaneously, like in the Drew Barrymore scene, how it could be Skeet and Matthew. It’s that kind of thing where there’s, I think for the Hicks and for Tara, it could be both of them. It’s Amber for basically the others. Yeah. I mean, I’m not being verbatim right now, but it is a large portion of the murder is Amber.

Was there ever anything more with the girls’ mom?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: We had a scene with her originally in the script. Jamie wrote a scene when Sam came back to town, and she had it out with her mom in the scene and it was a great but it took us away from the sister story too much. It became more of a sister/mother/family thing.

It didn’t fit the vibe. It didn’t fit the story right. It just got us off course just enough, so we took it out. And then you even when we were shooting, she was in the bar scene. The kids saw her and acknowledged that she’s sitting there getting drunk, but in the edit, we were like, this doesn’t work. It makes the world too big. You know, and part of the magic trick with “Scream” is that, here’s this little friends group who do this thing together and this is the world. And as soon as that world gets broken out into something bigger, I think it is a house of cards a little bit.

Tyler Gillett: Do you fully service that character or not?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: It was distracting and not in a good way.

Neve recently confirmed that her husband is indeed Patrick Dempsey from “Scream 3.”

Tyler Gillett: Hell yeah. Mark Kincaid.

Was there ever any inclination on your part to explore that, to see her home life and to do something with him?

Tyler Gillett: There was a version of her introduction that took place in her house at her home. The original sit intro was her getting the kids ready to go to school. And, though Mark Kincaid, was never actually a part of that.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: He was off camera. Packing the kids into a car.

Tyler Gillett: Actually, we were having a conversation with Brett, our DP, and we were talking about, one of the things we wanted to dig into was how do we bring the legacy characters back into the movie in a way that’s visually interesting and visually compelling. And Brett had this cool idea of, for a character that’s been on the run. Maybe it’s really cool if she’s out for a run and we see this person jogging and we’re not really sure who it is.

And then we see that they’re pushing a stroller and then we see it’s Sidney. And it’s not a run. It’s not that she’s running from something, it’s that she’s actually running to something like she has this life that she’s living in and she’s out in the world. And she’s living in a way that’s fearless. And we just really loved that idea. And it just happened to work really well, too, that where we were shooting had such a variety of landscapes that we could successfully communicate that Sidney is not in Woodsboro and is in fact somewhere else geographically in the world and has moved on with her life.

Was this called anything else, by the way? Did you ever think of sequel names?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: They floated around, but I don’t think they ever landed. I think the first draft we read was called “Scream Forever,” which is now online. That’s the only reason I’m being so public about it. But the title was always kind of a moving target and it landed on “Scream.”

This movie did very well over the weekend. Have you started to talk about further adventures?

Chad Villella: Yeah.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Yeah, I mean we’re really hoping. Chad, you’re up.

Chad Villella: Yeah. We’re hoping that they’ll bring us back for it. And honestly, I think our friends at Project X and, and also with Guy and Jamie, they definitely have stories to tell, they know where they want go with the story and as things progress, we’ll see how that evolves and who we can bring back and if they’ll bring us back. We’ll see soon enough.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: The short answer is yeah we really want to do it.

Chad Villella: Yes. We want to do it.

When we talked last week we talked a little bit about how hard it was to get some of these legacy cast members back. Do you feel like the legacy cast members are done or is there an opportunity to continue with them?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: I mean, we would love it to continue. We feel like that it’s not so much a baton pass as it is a welcome to the family. The “Scream” family just got bigger. And I think for us, Neve, and Courtney are the DNA of “Scream” and that you’d be wonderful to have that carry on.

Tyler Gillett: And maybe Ghost Dewey, Ghost David. My favorite pitch so far is that he has a twin brother who is also a detective somewhere else who comes back.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: John Cena is his twin brother.

Do you guys have a list of ideas? We talked about “Last Jedi” last time and about how it’s so refreshing because it does explode the mythology of “Star Wars.” And would you be interested in doing something like that, that really takes “Scream” to a crazy new level?

Tyler Gillett: I think the big question now for us, post this movie and certainly going into this movie, we had no idea what the reception would be and if it would work and land with people. We’re so thrilled that it has. And I think, the challenge now is we’re five movies in, it feels like this last one folded in on itself. And in, on the universe of the “Scream” movies in such an elaborate way that the challenge and for us, I think the most exciting thing creatively, is the what’s next question? Where do you go now that you’ve subverted so many… the expectations are so big and you’ve subverted them in so many weird meta ways, what’s next? What other ammo do you have? And we in Guy and Jamie, we trust.

“Scream” is playing in theaters now.

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