EXCLUSIVE: Wes Craven Talks Scream 4
The iconic horror director has returned to the town of Woodsboro for this latest installment of the popular horror franchise, in theaters April 15th
In 1996, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson redefined the slasher genre with the funny, scary, and quite self-referential horror hit Scream, which spawned its own sub-genre of like-minded films and two sequels. Ghostface, this series' requisite killer, also became an instant icon, and is remembered as the most celebrated teen stalker of the 1990s.
On April 15th, Ghostface is reuniting with Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson for an all-new chapter in terror: Scream 4. The last of the remaining cast is back as well, as Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott reunites with Courteney Cox's Gale Weathers-Riley and David Arquette's Sheriff Dewey Riley on the anniversary of the first slaying for another round of 'guess who's the killer'.
We recently caught up with horror icon Wes Craven to chat with him about his continuation of this on-going franchise. Here is our conversation.
With the last three Scream movies, we didn't have the Social Networking platforms that we have today. In keeping with the theme that these movies are about the current tropes and clichés in modern day horror films, how did you work that element into not only the storyline we see unfolding on screen, but also your struggles to keep this whole enterprise from being leaked before opening weekend? Do you feel the film acts as its own commentary for what it has become?
Wes Craven: This is part and parcel of the idea that screenwriter Kevin Williamson came up with. This was to be very much about all of that. We felt that was one of the most relevant and new things of this particular last decade. The explosion of that. A means of expression. A means of what is going on in the world. A means of communicating between friends. And the use of it to exploit whatever is going on, like the movie itself. This was not something that became a part of Scream 1, 2, or 3. That made this new story fascinating to me.
You dealt with screenplay leaks before. And with Scream 4, we saw a young actress go on the Tonight Show and 'supposedly' give away the ending. How did you deal with actors coming in for auditions? You obviously don't give them the full script. Even if they think they might have that information, is it bothersome to see someone like Charlyne Yi get such a kick out of trying to ruin what you've created in front of thousands of unsuspecting people?
Wes Craven: Those people are not up to speed at all. That particular instance was an actress not knowing, at all, what she was talking about. What we did was, we were too scared to put actual script pages from Scream 4 out there for the audition process. Because we knew we would be seeing hundreds of actors. Any one of them that doesn't get a role would be likely to put those pages they had stuck into their pocket out on the Internet. So we did all of our casting using pages from Scream 1. Believe it or not. The actresses were using Billy Loomis' lines from his scene in the bedroom. It was quite bizarre. Then we were saying, "I think they can do the scene that is actually in our movie!" Everything was circumspect. Every script was watermarked, so that the name of the person it belonged to was on every single page. We never gave scripts out to agencies, because we quickly found out that agencies are a very dangerous place for scripts to be hanging around. Anyone who had sworn on their mother's grave that they would not show it to anyone would immediately show it to their sort-of-good friend, who would turn around and immediately make a copy of it. There is a lot of espionage type behavior on our part. On the other hand, we had three friends and family screenings when we were editing. And we also did three official test screenings. Which, we took everyone's phone, and we made them sign non-disclosure agreements. And one of the producers would go before the audience, and they would say, "We depend on you to keep this whole thing a secret. It hurts us, and it hurts the audience who is going to see the film, if you exploit it. So please don't." By and large, it seems that people honored that. Occasionally, we would have an actor or actress who came in for a cameo, who'd go home and tweet about it. They would give away that they might be a victim, or something like that. But by and large, so far, the secrets of the film have remained undisclosed. That is a great thing. It gives me hope. I have to say, I was getting despondent about the audience out there, just constantly trying to sneak a peek, looking over your shoulder constantly when you are trying to work. A lot of these things are uncomfortable when it comes to the work. It takes more time, and in some ways, it takes away the freedom of actually working.
Don't you find that the fans, especially those that grew up with, and were around, back when the first three movies came out, don't go seeking that information before they get to see the movie? I know most fans don't want to be spoiled before walking into the theater. At least that's my perception.
Wes Craven: Well, that would be great if that were the truth. I certainly don't think it was that way the last time. Beginning around Scream 2, we'd been waiting and waiting. We got about forty pages from Kevin Williamson, we read them, they were terrific, and they showed up on the internet that night. Which made them completely useless. It was one of the most disheartening things, because it revealed way too much to be usable. That began the whole process of printing scripts with names on them, and all of this other craziness that we had to go to. If the audience is at a point of maturing, they have to realize that if that they like what we are doing at all...Please! Give us a break! If that is going to happen, that would be fabulous.
With Scream being so reflective of the trends being utilized in horror at this time, it's interesting to me that you made My Soul to Take in 3D, but intentionally stayed away from it for this new chapter of the Ghostface saga. Are you planning to push that aspect, both on the face of the movie, and within the context of the movie, in Scream 5?
Wes Craven: No. Bob Weinstein, from the get-go, said that Scream would not be in 3D. My Soul to Take was shot in 2D, and was never intended to be in 3D. Right after we finished shooting it, the studio was bought. Suddenly, we were dealing with a new group of people. Very late in the process, around the time we were beginning work on Scream 4, the new studio decided that they wanted My Soul to Take in 3D. Or else we would not be distributed very much at all. It was a hard choice, but we went with it. I shot the film to be in 2D. If I go back and watch My Soul to Take, it will be in 2D and not 3D. Bob Weinstein, who is the godfather of the Scream series, said that this will never be in 3D. It doesn't need it. It's a gimmick. We will just make it in 2D Anamorphic, as we always have.
Even if you don't make Scream 5 in 3D, is that a concept you would play with inside the actual movie itself? Would there be a commentary on that through the Stab series we see in the continuation of this storyline?
Wes Craven: In theory, maybe. But my disposition would be not to go there. Because it brings in this encumbrance of glasses, and special screens. People that worked on My Soul to Take in the 3D world did an amazing job for us. But I just did not find the process of watching the film in 3D very pleasurable at all. I don't have an attraction to it. It is more of a distraction to me. I don't have that desire to go back and do Scream 5 in 3D. But maybe there is commentary in that.
Can you take me through the casting process on Scream 4? With all three first movies, you have really been able to pull together this great team of actors who really push these so-called slasher movies into another realm by themselves, and it looks like you've done that again, here.
Wes Craven: A lot of the actors we choose aren't known for the horror genre. When you see it, you'll find that a lot of the actors we chose this time are known for TV and small movies. But not for horror movies at all. Emma Roberts? She is known for Nancy Drew.
And after that movie, you definitely want to see her get it on screen...
Wes Craven: (Laughs) Yes, she has pet hotel, and things like that. There is a little bell that goes off in my head when I see someone that is really extraordinary. I cast this with my wife. We looked at hundreds of people. We had casting agents on both coasts. We looked at people we knew, because we knew an enormous amount of people. It was a many-tiered process. There are associates of the casting agents who are going to see everybody in every conceivable place, to little off Broadway, to little off-La Cienega theaters, to obscure television shows. We looked at everybody. It's an exhaustive process. More than anything else, its that dogged determination to not compromise. To find someone that is really extraordinary, and someone who thinks it's a good thing to be in this kind of film. By and large, we found that there was an enormous interest from actors to be in Scream 4. I think its because Scream has established itself as a premier showcase. It's not some stupid exploitation movie. It is an interesting movie that gets set-up and well reviewed, and there are great roles in it. Which turned out to be the case for this iteration.
Was there any apprehension about bringing Anthony Anderson into a Scream movie, after he'd already been in the Scary Movie sequels?
Wes Craven: My ignorance in answering that question reveals that I didn't know he was in Scary Movie. I think, more than anything else, with the Scary Movie factor, we very carefully watched the humor in the film so that it was not silly humor, or farcical. We wanted to keep Ghostface real, and lethal. Not goofy, or have him do things that were done in that particular franchise. We were very aware of that part of the legacy. I think that was part of the reason why Bob Weinstein waited so long before doing another straight version of Scream. There had to be enough time gone by since the last Scary Movie.
Last question. We've seen you return to Scream. You were involved with the remake of Last House on the Left. Any chance, now that Platinum Dunes completely failed in their attempts to bring Freddy Krueger back to the screen, that you would ever go back to A Nightmare on Elm Street?
Wes Craven: No! I have no ownership in it. The original people I did it with are all gone. If you have no control or ownership when it comes to those things, and its being taken over by other people, you tend to lose interest. There are much more creative situations that I can get myself into, rather than a situation where I would be working for someone else who is exploiting something I created. It wouldn't be a very happy situation.