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Rian Johnson Was Almost Cast as Himself in ‘Scream 5’

The "Knives Out" director was meant to take a stab at playing a fictionalized version of himself in "Scream." Spoilers ahead.

Rian Johnson arrives at the 92nd Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at the Loews Hotel on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Rian Johnson

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Editor’s Note: The following story contains spoilers for “Scream 5.”

A “Knives Out” meets “Scream” crossover? We’d love to see it.

In an interview with Variety, “Scream” screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick revealed that they had tried to cast Rian Johnson as a fictionalized version of himself to play the “Stab 8” director. Johnson, the writer-director of “The Last Jedi,” is only referenced in “Scream” as “the guy who made ‘Knives Out'” but Vanderbilt and Busick were hoping Johnson could be onscreen for a winking cameo.

“We reached out and wanted to do a fake, ‘ET’/’Extra’ press junket thing with him,” co-director Tyler Gillett explained. “He was off making ‘Knives Out 2.’ So he had bigger fish to fry than our ‘Scream’ sequel.”

The fifth “Scream” installment, released in theaters Jan. 14, also has a nod to Johnson’s infamous “requel” (slang for an entry in a franchise that serves as less of a sequel than a continuation) “The Last Jedi,” by killing off a major character. Spoilers: Dewey (David Arquette) bites the dust, much like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Johnson’s “Star Wars” film. Also a nod to “The Last Jedi” are the criticisms within “Scream” of “Stab 8” being a cheap deviation from the original franchise that ignored all its canonical rules — which was similarly a rampant fan criticism of Johnson’s “Star Wars” film.

“For us, we kept telling ourselves, ‘We are fans literally making a fan film about a movie franchise that we love,'” co-director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, who comprises Radio Silence along with Gillett and executive producer Chad Villella, said. “This is as much about us as it is about anybody else. This isn’t just about that niche culture of fandom, or whatever that is. Being fans of movies is the reason we’re making movies. It’s also about something personal to us.”

Gillett added, “I think we just love the idea that you can love something dearly and take your love of something very seriously but also not take yourself so seriously. At the end of the day, we’re in make-believe. The movie is making fun of itself as much as it’s trying to shed light on what we think is something we should all really be having a conversation about, and how we interact with the things that we love. It’s supposed to be fun and entertaining, and that’s okay. It can be about real things and also not take itself super seriously.”

IndieWire’s Jude Dry called out the many references in “Scream,” citing that “it’s impossible to forget you’re watching a fictional film” with “plenty of other horror flicks, both lowbrow and high” name-checked.

“In this way, it cleverly sidesteps any fears that fresh audiences wouldn’t be able to keep up, while also flattering longtime fans who’ve been paying attention the whole time,” Dry wrote. “With lines like, ‘If you ask me, this whole franchise goes off the rails in number five,’ they’ve beat any critics to the punch. The fans even make an appearance with overt references to ‘toxic fan culture,’ though it’s unclear if they’re being skewered or let in on the joke.”

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