It’s hard to believe now that the 1996 horror feature “Scream” is anything short of a classic, but according to a new oral history written on the feature by The Hollywood Reporter, the movie almost lost its own life at several points in its development.
Director Wes Craven had already had to be coaxed into working on the feature, not necessarily wanting to work in the horror genre again. But once Craven came aboard and the feature started shooting he nearly ended up being fired. According to those who worked on the film, production studio Miramax and Bob Weinstein, didn’t like the legendary opening sequence with Drew Barrymore.
“Wes got the phone call from the studio, and I was sitting behind him in my chair, and I just saw his back slump. He just started sliding down the chair. They didn’t think anything about it was good. They didn’t understand the lack of footage and they didn’t see his vision for that sequence at all,” said screenwriter Kevin Williamson. Apparently, Weinstein thought the Ghostface mask was too flat and wasn’t scary. If Craven couldn’t fix things he was set to be fired.
After making some changes, Craven and company reshowed their dailies to Weinstein who signed off on everything. “After we showed Bob the cut sequence of the opening scene, he said, ‘What do I know about dailies? Keep going,’” said producer Marianne Maddalena.
But even once the film was done they still had to deal with the MPAA and the rating the movie would receive. At one point they were almost given an NC-17. According to Williamson, the line spoken by Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) that “Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative” was one that the ratings board had a big problem with. “It’s certainly the line of dialogue that the MPAA went after and wanted removed from the film. It was like, ‘You can’t speak that kind of truth,’” said editor Patrick Lussier.
Other problems the MPAA had included the slow-motion sequence involving Drew Barrymore during the movie’s opening, as well as the multiple stabbings that take place in the kitchen during the finale. Thankfully, all’s well that ends well and “Scream” remains as bloody, fun, and entertaining now as it was in 1996.