Don't Hang Up on These 25 Secrets About Scream

As the fifth movie in the hit horror franchise hits theaters on Jan. 14, we're revealing 25 behind-the-scenes secrets you might not know about the original Scream.

By Tierney Bricker Jan 15, 2022 1:00 PMTags
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What's your favorite scary movie?

It was the question that launched a hit franchise in Scream and, ironically, the 1996 movie went on to become the answer for millions of horror fans. Now, 25 years after the original came out, the fifth installment in the series has stabbed its way into theaters, ready to deliver more scares and self-referential humor. 

Returning to Woodsboro as a Ghostface mask-wearing killer starts terrorizing the town once again are original stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, this time joined by newcomers Melissa Barrera, Dylan Minnette and Jenny Ortega. While OG screenwriter Kevin Williamson is onboard as an executive producer, Scream 5 marks the first film in the franchise to not be directed by master of horror Wes Craven, who died in 2015 at the age of 76 after a battle with brain cancer. His final movie was 2011's Scream 4

See the Original Scream House Available on Airbnb

In honor of Scream 5's premiere, we're revealing 25 secrets about the series, including the A-list stars who were up for the role of Sidney Prescott, the movie's original title and who almost got fired during the first two weeks of filming.

1. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson came up with the idea for the movie while watching a 1994 episode of ABC News' Turning Point about the serial killer dubbed the Gainesville Ripper. House-sitting at the time, Williamson was spooked when he saw a window was open that he was convinced he had closed. 

2. The script caused a bidding war in Hollywood, with Dimension ultimately landing the movie. But finding a director proved to be an unexpected challenge before horror legend Wes Craven signed on after initially passing on the project.

"Every name you could imagine came up [to direct]," Williamson told The Ringer. "Wes's name came up really early. Robert Rodriguez's name came up. Quentin Tarantino's name came up."

Ultimately, it was Craven's then-assistant Julie Plec, who would go on to co-create The Vampire Diaries among other TV hits, who helped convince him to return to the genre after the filmmaker's New Nightmare failed to perform at the box office.

"At the time I was working at Wes's house, so I would have lunch with him every day. And so I said, 'Remember that great script? They're having a hard time finding a director and they really want you to do it,'" Plec recalled to The Ringer. "I was just kind of making quote-unquote innocent small talk. And he said, 'Ah, well they should just make me an offer I can't refuse then.' And I think he was joking, but I went back to [director of development] Lisa [Harrison] and I said, 'He said make him an offer he can't refuse.' And so Dimension did. And he took it."

3. The original title was Scary Movie, with the studio deciding to change it to Scream after production had wrapped, much to the creative team's initial dismay. 

'[Scary Movie] was on all our wrap gifts and all our fanny packs," Plec told The Ringer. "They wanted it to be Scream and we were like, 'That's terrible.' We were all outraged. Turned out to be a good choice.

4. When it came to the lead role of Sidney Prescott, "We basically auditioned every girl in town, whether she was known or unknown," casting director Lisa Beach told The Ringer. "As far as the final three, it was Alicia Witt, Brittany Murphy and Neve Campbell. There was just that certain je ne sais quoi that Neve had."

5. Thanks to Friends' debut in 1995, Courteney Cox was already a household name, but she still had to convince Craven she could play cutthroat news reporter Gale Weathers. "I just had to prove I could go from Monica to that," Cox said. "It's really hard to express. You don't want to say that you're not that nice of a person. But I definitely can be a bitch."

6. Producers initially envisioned David Arquette playing one of the younger characters, the actor was drawn to the role of deputy sheriff Dewey for several reasons, including a crush on one of his co-stars.  

"I felt I was a little older, and I also loved the role of Dewey when I read it and the idea of acting opposite Courteney," Arquette told The Ringer.
"I was a huge fan of hers. I met with Wes and I was like, 'I really like this role.' And he was like, 'Wow, I didn't even consider that,' because he was written as more of, like, the dumb jock character. I read it as a character that's in a position of authority getting no respect."

7. While Arquette went into production with interest in Cox, it wasn't reciprocated at first. 

"When we all got cast, Wes had us out at his house. I saw Courteney and I was like, 'Hey, I'm playing Dewey,'" he recalled. "And she's like, 'Yeah, I heard about you,' or something like that. She gave me some real attitude. I think I tried to follow her home in her car but she had a Porsche and I had a hot rod that wasn't fast enough to take the turns. I wasn't going to follow her to her house, but I was going to try to roll up to her next to a red light and be like, 'Hey.' I don't know what I was thinking."

8. Eventually, the pair began dating and got married in 1999, cutting their honeymoon short to begin filming Scream 3. They welcomed daughter Coco in 2004, but split up in 2010 and finalized their divorce in 2013.

9. Matthew Lillard initially auditioned for Billy Loomis, Sidney's boyfriend and—spoiler alert—one of the killers, though Skeet Ulrich ultimately landed the part. "The casting director was like, 'I love you, you're great, I want to bring you in for this character Stu. Can you come in in a couple of hours and audition for Wes?'" Lillard recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. "So I said 'Sure,' and I sat in the lobby and in my car learning my lines and auditioned two hours later. I think I got the part in the room, which never happens." 

10. Though he went on to become one of the franchise's most beloved characters, Jamie Kennedy wasn't Dimension's first choice to play video store clerk and horror film aficionado Randy.

"Wes had to fight, because the studio liked Jason Lee because he was in Mallrats," Kennedy revealed to THR. "They liked Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, all the guys that I would always go up against—and they're all great, but I was lucky. I'll never forget this. Wes said, 'Johnny Depp didn't have any credits.'" (Depp's first movie was 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street.)

11. Craven initially envisioned Drew Barrymore starring as Sidney, but the E.T. actress was more interested in playing Casey Becker, who gets killed off in the iconic opening scene. 

"I just read the script one night at my house and I just said, 'Oh my God, there hasn't been anything like this for so long,'" Barrymore said in a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly. "I loved that it actually got tongue and cheeky but it was still scary and it was this great game that sort of described genres and revived them at the same time and redefined them all in one script. I went bananas."

12. A massive fan of Psycho, Williamson was thrilled with the casting decision. 

"I was happy to hear that because I always saw it as sort of the Janet Leigh opening," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "You wanted the biggest star to be in the first moment of the movie. That's why the scene is so long because I wanted to keep Casey Becker alive just long enough where you think she's the lead of the movie and that she's going to survive this moment."

13. In order to inspire real fear in Barrymore, Craven used a story the actress had previously told him about a dog being burned by its owner.

"She started crying as she was telling me this, so every time that I needed her to get over that edge into complete tears, I would just say Drew, 'I'm lighting the lighter,'" Craven revealed on the DVD commentary. "And she would just burst into tears. Not everybody would tell you a story that's so close to the heart. Drew is very much an animal lover. That allowed us to get to that place of ultimate horror."

14. Barrymore also made the decision to not meet Roger Jackson, the actor who provided Ghostface's legendary voice, prior to filming, and asked not to see him on set. "It was magical. I was in the rain, and we had the killer, Roger, in another tent talking on the phone outside," Williamson told The Ringer. "She just wanted to hear the voice, which I thought was super smart."

15. While auditioning for Ghostface, Jackson was told the filmmakers were looking for "a new Freddy Krueger." But in reading over the first scene of the movie, the voice actor told The Ringer,  I thought, "This is not Freddy Krueger. This is very subtle. This guy's got to be kind of interesting. He's got to keep her on the phone, keep playing with her, and there's got to be something about him that draws her had to be able to—once you turn the dial—go from being very kind of playful and sexy to much more sinister."

16. Just as important as the villain's voice was the mask, which proved to be a long and, ultimately, expensive mission to find. 

After stumbling upon what would become Ghostface in a boy's bedroom while scouting locations, the studio was determined to make an original mask so they could own the image. "They must've gone through hundreds of faces," Williamson recalled. "And Wes stuck to his guns: He wanted Ghostface. Finally, the studio rolled over and allowed him to have it."

Plec added, "Because we couldn't beat what we had, they had to use something that they did not own and could never capitalize on. I remember that being sort of scandalous."

17. Despite his success in the horror genre with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Craven was close to being fired from the film after executives were disappointed with the dailies they were seeing of Barrymore's death scene from the first two weeks of filming.

"He was very despondent a few days in when he was just like, 'Oh, the studio called up. They're very upset. They don't think it's going to be good. They're sending me the dailies from Nightwatch and telling me it needs to look like this,'  editor Patrick Lussier revealed to The Ringer. "He said they told him he was a TV journeyman and a hack."

18. However, after the opening sequence was edited and sent to the studio, Lussier said, "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."

19. Despite the early pressure from the executives and the level of gore in the film, Craven kept the mood light and fun on set.

"Wes said to me, 'When you're making a horror movie, the experience doesn't have to be horrific,'" Kennedy told THR. "It's one of the greatest quotes I ever heard. We made this crazy movie, but we drank wine at night and had these civilized dinners. Toward the end of the shoot, I was getting really sad that the movie was ending and I started to cry. Courteney was like, 'Oh, honey. Don't cry. This is the way it is. It's summer camp.' I'm like, 'But this is my life.' She goes, 'No, honey. It's only your life for three months, but we all have a bond that we'll never forget.'"

20. Shooting on location in North Carolina, the cast all stayed at the same hotel and hung out together, often in Arquette's room, which had lava lamps and blacklight posters.

"David is nuts, so he bought every toy possible that you can buy in Santa Rosa, and they were hanging from his ceiling," Campbell told The Ringer. "I think it was called 'David's Bar' or 'David's Club' or something. 'Club David.'"

21. Still, the housekeeping staff was less than thrilled to have the actors staying at the hotel. "The maids at the hotel hated us, or hated me, that's for sure, because we ruined a lot of sheets and pillowcases," Ulrich recalled. "No matter how much you scrubbed. I didn't know the trick about shaving cream at the time, that that takes [blood] off pretty easily. But there's always residuals and it always winds up on your pillowcase or sheets."

22. In fact, so much fake blood was used that the wardrobe department "wouldn't wash my costume" Campbell said. "I would take it off in the morning, and then in the evening when I went back to work—because the continuity of the blood had to be the same—they would just wet it. They would dampen the blood. I wanted to burn that costume at the end of the movie, I swear to God."

23. Most of Stu's dialogue after the killer reveal was improvised by Lillard, with Williamson telling THR, "Matt is a dream because no one can ad-lib better than him, and he made me look so good with all his little ad-libs."

For Lillard, those lines—including "You f--king hit me with the phone, d--k!" and "My mom's going to be so mad at me!"—are what he is most proud of "because it's what people repeat back to me."

24. The movie came close to earning a dreaded NC-17 for a few reasons, including Barrymore's slow-motion death sequence, the amount of times Stu and Billy stab each other in the final scene and the line "Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative."

 "That particular line of dialogue they wanted to censor, but they don't word it that way," Lussier explained. "They just say, 'Look at these areas, this is a problem, this is, this is, this is. Thankfully, Wes won the day with them."

While the Barrymore scene was a "big no-no" for the MPAA, who "hated" it because it was "too brutal," Williamson said, "We won that one because we didn't have any other footage. He shot it in slow motion. What you see is all there was. So, they let that one slide." (He also noted they took out some of the knife cuts in Stu and Billy's kitchen confrontation.)

25. Scream premiered in December 1996, a scheduling move that concerned Williamson, who told The Ringer, "They called it counterprogramming. And that had to be explained to me, because I really did not see how it was going to fare in the Oscars market." Despite only earning $6 million in its opening weekend, the film went on to gross $173 million worldwide, spawning four sequels and an MTV series. 

Scream 5 is now playing in theaters. 

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