“Scream VI” is currently in theaters, after opening to the biggest first weekend in the franchise’s history.
Set in New York City and following the survivors of 2022’s “Scream” (including Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) as they encounter yet another crazed madman (or madmen) in a Ghostface mask. But what is this killer’s connection to earlier murders and what do previous survivors Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) have to do with this mystery?
TheWrap talked with directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett about your burning questions, including going in depth on the opening sequence, the absence of Neve Campbell (over a salary dispute) and how heavily “Scream 2” loomed over this movie.
Major spoilers for “Scream 6” follow; if you haven’t watched the movie yet, turn back now.
Let’s start at the beginning with the cold open. Can you take me through the process of developing that sequence?
Tyler Gillett: What is surprising and entertaining in the viewing of it, that was the experience we had reading it. Because the standard has been set so high, the bar is so high for what the opening has to achieve in terms of being surprising and terrifying. And also setting up the permissions for what the movie is going to be afterwards. And it read so f—ing amazing on the page. We were floored by how bizarre and interesting and how much of a risk it was, but how it also felt like it was exactly what it should be. It felt surprising and inevitable at the same time. And I think very, very little was changed.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: The voice!
Tyler Gillett: Yeah, the voice was the big thing. For a while in post we were temping with Roger Jackson [the voice of Ghostface] on the other end of the phone call with Tamara Weaving’s character. And it dawned on us after I don’t know how many weeks in we were that it would be more interesting to play that opening as a rom-com and really, really steer into the misdirect of, Oh, shit this young woman on the phone is going to actually stumble onto a Ghostface attack and not be attacked. But then use that as a means of surprising the audience and the catfishing of what that whole situation is. And then have the real first call with Ghostface be Ghostfaces talking to each other. We just loved that idea and felt like there was so many fun, interesting, new layers in the opening that was it was really exciting. But it really didn’t change at all in terms of its structure from that draft.
This movie is indebted to “Scream 2” in a lot of ways, particularly the killer, but does that mean the next movie will be indebted to “Scream 3?” And more importantly, are Jay and Silent Bob still a part of the “Scream” universe?
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Holy shit I hope so. They are part of the “Scream” universe, full stop.
What about “Scream 2?”
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Drawing on “Scream 2” was on some level conscious and on some level unconscious or subconscious. I think there was like a little bit of both at play there. I actually just watched it a few nights ago. I hadn’t watched it since before we started shooting. And even like I had the moment of discovery going, Oh, there are some more parallels here than even I thought. Which is awesome. Because I think so much of the last three years of our life has been watching “Scream,” re-rewatching “Scream,” living in the world in such a real way. And you know, that just through osmosis it gets in you. But I think besides some of the more obvious things like the killers, there’s also just the design of the set pieces and the overall structure. We haven’t talked to [writers] Guy [Busick] and Jamie [Vanderbilt] about it. But for us, it was really influential on this. The set pieces from “2” are the ones we kept talking about of like, we have to do stuff that makes you on the edge of your seat. How far can we ratchet this scene up?
Let’s talk about the movie’s big set piece, which is the subway sequence.
Tyler Gillett: I think that that probably the sequence that we had the most conversations about in terms of just how to how to pull it off. Everything was just based on finding a location that would work. And there were so many iterations of that even.
There was one point in time where we were going to travel a decommissioned subway car up from New Jersey to Montreal and then learned quickly via our special effects and engineering team that it was so heavy that it would actually buckle the floor of the stage. Then it was, “Oh, is there a Montreal subway car that we can use?” But they’re just so different from anything New York has that at the end of the day, we would have just been stripping it for parts anyway and rebuilding it from the ground up. We eventually landed on fabricating the car and then the question was how do you make it feel like it’s moving was a big thing? Is it green screen? Is it an LED stage? There were so many things in play. Ultimately, it’s all practical camera tricks. It’s chase lights that our gaffer aims outside of the windows of the car. And the subway platform was something that we were able to change over, stop to stop. They built that subway car to actually be pulled in and out of the station so that we could shoot all of that movement practically.
And then the extras work and the costume work is another piece of it, outside of the engineering of the set. The engineering of the people was, I think we knew, intellectually, that it was going to be a big challenge. But then seeing, during those three or four days of shooting, it was just truly the coolest set we’ve ever been on. Every department had to approach that set piece from a different angle and I mean it’s truly remarkable that it turned out at all.
Can you talk about losing Neve? What was that like? Was it during the shoot?
Tyler Gillett: No, it wasn’t during the shoot. That process was playing out early enough in prep. To say it wasn’t stressful or a headache would be would just would be a lie, for the most part because we love Neve and obviously love Sidney, but I think, credit to Guy and Jamie, the structure of the script was really so f—ing solid. It was, foundationally, just in a really, really good place. And so not a ton had to change and I think ultimately, if anything changed, it was just that we had we were conscious of using any real estate that her vacancy created to focus on Sam and Tara and Chad and Mindy. To make sure that the core four was the center of the story. But it really wasn’t a huge tweak, it didn’t shake things up.
The big sequence in Gale’s apartment is the first time in the franchise Gale and Ghostface have been on the phone together right?
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: It was fun to read that because as fans we’ve been waiting. And then you know, I don’t think we were as prepared for how excited Courteney was going to be. She was very excited for this. And we had Roger Jackson call in so they were actually talking and you could tell that it was something that she was ready to do. And there’s a longer scene to where they actually talk in person because we’ve created the in-mask voice changer. But that ended up getting cut because it just felt like it didn’t fit in the world of the movie. And that was also, to go back to your earlier question, like in “Scream 2” Courteney had this epic set piece with Ghostface.
Last time we talked, it was a similar conversation. And I’m pretty sure you already had the script for “Scream VI” but were being coy. Do you already have a script for “Scream VII?”
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: We don’t have a script for “VII.” We’re not being coy.
But would it be something you’re interested in?
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: I mean, we love “Scream.” We would love to do more “Scream.” It’s been so wonderful doing this for the past few years. I think we were expecting something special. I don’t think we expected it to be this special. On a personal level.
Would you want to keep going or wrap things up?
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: I mean, I think we’ve always loved the idea, because we’re kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s, [of a trilogy]. Like trilogies are like the coolest thing ever, you know?
Tyler Gillett: But those dudes [Guy and Jamie], their process, I think, to the benefit of the movies, is pretty siloed. I think that they want a really clean, dry read. They go off and they design things. And I think one of the ways that we’re kindred spirits with them too is they want the movies to be a whole meal and to not to leave you leave you wanting more. Because the experience of what the movie is, as a complete thought, is so satisfying. You know, we talk a lot about like, if you have a great idea, let’s use it. Don’t save it. The worst thing for a “Scream” movie to be as a trailer for the next for the next movie instead of just being a great “Scream” movie. And I think that those guys have really achieved that in “5” and “VI.”
“Scream VI” is great and it’s in theaters now.