These days, franchise sequels can take years to come to fruition. Writers toiling over the scripts. Long stints of pre-production in hopes it’ll make gruelling, pressure-packed shoots go off without a hitch. Then there’s post-production, which includes effects, music, you name it. Again, for most big franchises, this takes years. But Scream is not like most big franchises. Scream VI, out this week, is coming out just over a year after Scream V.
How and why did that happen, and is that accelerated timeline a good sign? Gizmodo talked to Radio Silence — directing team Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and producer Chad Villella — about it, and the answer is yes, it’s a good sign. It’s a sign that everyone was so excited to make another Scream movie they just had to jump right back in.
From there, we talked about Neve Campbell not returning this time around, bringing back Hayden Panettiere’s character from Scream IV, the surprising scene that was the hardest they’ve ever shot, the controversy of Ghostface with a shotgun, and more. This interview is spoiler free (as long as you’ve seen the trailers), so read away. We’ll save the spoilers for next week, and boy are there spoilers.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Germain Lussier, Gizmodo: It feels like we did this just a few days ago. That we already have a new Scream movie is really exciting but also surprising. Was Scream VI just like ready to go the second Scream V came out, or what was it that made it happen so fast?
Tyler Gillett: William [Sherak], our producer, always jokes that you have to force every movie into being. Even the ones that feel like there’s an audience for and there’s a lot of momentum behind. You still have to wrestle it to the ground to actually make it. But I think everybody was really — not only were we really happy with how the last movie turned out, but we had such a good time making it together, it felt like to be given the opportunity to do that again right away was something we were all ready to sign up for. Like, it wasn’t a hard thing to say “Yes” to. At all. It was actually really, really easy. The opportunity to go work with your friends on another instalment of a franchise that we love so much. There were just so many reasons to say yes. And of course, there’s the challenge of making sure that it’s surprising and interesting and all of those things. But I don’t know. When we all seem to lock arms, this team: cast, crew, producers, us, good things happen. And so I think we just had a lot of confidence that regardless of where the project was at when we signed on, that we would ultimately make a really cool movie because we just have such a good time doing it together.
Gizmodo: Right. But usually, when you hear about a movie coming out, it takes years. This took just one. So was the script already complete or how much of the movie’s core ideas were already there?
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: I think a significant amount. It evolved a lot during pre-production, but the basic structure and the characters I don’t think changed much at all. It might be a little selective memory, but those major set pieces, they happened exactly where they happened. The opening scene was identical. So there was definitely a process that the script went through with [writers] Guy [Busick] and Jamie [Vanderbilt]. And again, what Tyler was just saying, we just have such trust and respect for those guys that regardless of where the script was when we read it, we knew that we’ll all love it 100% and then some before we started shooting. And so it was that process of just trusting each other and then working together and just keep hitting it until we all fell in love.
Gillett: But those guys are like ideal machines, Guy and Jamie. They are both so prolific and they’re both so thoughtful. And I’m sure they had some idea of where the story might go after five. I don’t think they thought that six would happen that quickly. But I think to their credit, to our credit, to everyone’s credit, there wasn’t time to overthink or second guess anything on this movie. I think that it’s a really intuitive movie for everyone involved. We had to make choices really fast and really commit to those choices. And I think you feel that in the movie. It has a certain energy and vulnerability that I think you only get when you’re making choices in that kind of pressure cooker.
Gizmodo: Absolutely. Now, I think going into the movie, one of the big things was this whole Neve Campbell situation. I think the movie handles it very tactfully — but what can you say about why she’s not in the movie and what kind of happened there?
Bettinelli-Olpin: I mean, that was a choice that she made, and we supported that choice 100%. You know, we really had a wonderful time with her on Scream V. And the stuff that she was able to share with us from the previous movies was invaluable to us on Scream V and Scream VI. And, you know, yeah, the short end of it on our side is that she made a choice and we fully support her for it.
Gillett: I think our job was to make sure that there are echoes of that character throughout this movie. I don’t think there’s a way to make a Scream movie that doesn’t have the spirit of Sidney Prescott alive and well in it. And I think that, as fans, is a job that we take very seriously.
Gizmodo: On the other hand, we do get Kirby back, which is awesome. How important and exciting was it to get Hayden Panettiere back here?
Chad Villella: It definitely was very exciting. And obviously when you dive down the rabbit hole of the Scream fandom and look at all the different conspiracy theories or anything else you can find online — “Justice for Kirby” — making sure that we knew what was going on with Kirby was very important.So much so to us that we put the little Easter egg in Scream V of “talk to Woodsboro survivor Kirby Reed,” and honestly, what Guy and Jamie did with her character. How we jumped 10 years ahead in her personal story, and we showed how she dealt with the trauma of what happened in Woodsboro 10 years ago and how she’s moved on with her life, was just fantastic. And it was just it was a blast to work with Hayden and to bring her into this mix. And obviously, Courteney [Cox] from Scream VI was always present as well, but like to introduce her to this new cast and see how they welcomed her with open arms and really build something special.
Gizmodo: Did you guys think that seeing Ghostface with a shotgun would create the fervor that it did?
Gillett: We definitely knew it was going to be controversial. We had that reaction, right? Our reaction was, “Whoa, can we do that?” And then we did, in large part because we thought it felt kind of unsafe and it wasn’t something that we were sure could, you know, quote-unquote, could exist, which made us go like, “Well, then let’s make it, and then we’ll see how that plays out.”
Bettinelli-Olpin: But I think that’s just one instance of a bunch in the movie that is us testing the audience, right? Pushing on them just a little bit too much maybe to say, “Hey, guys, this is the experience you’re going to have. It’s only going to get more gonzo from here. So buckle up.” And that was a very conscious effort on our part and on Guy and Jamie’s part as well to make sure that we are setting the stage for where the movie ultimately goes. I think we had to give ourselves permission to take some big risks. And that was just one of the moments where it felt like, “Yeah, this is the right path for this movie.” This is one of the ways it’s going to feel different.
Villella: And we didn’t push it too much. We didn’t go full Stab 8 with it where it’s a sleeveless Ghostface with a flame thrower. We’ll save that one for whatever they do next. But Ghostface is always resourceful too, right? I mean the weapon, the way it comes into the movie is something that he’s able to adapt with and bring into the world.
Gizmodo: Yes. Another way the movie surprised me is that it’s not as heavy on the movie references. It felt a little dialed back this time. So was that on purpose? And if so, why was that?
Bettinelli-Olpin: That was a conscious choice. We felt like we had so much fun doing the super, super, super meta thing last time and an abundance of Easter eggs. And we really love that. And there are plenty of those things in this movie for sure. But yeah, we had talked a lot about… almost to the point of, I think maybe being a little bit delusional ourselves of, like, there’s not much of that in this. And then you’re like, we have an entire shrine to the other movies [in this movie]. So yeah, it’s a little bit of both, but part of that was we didn’t want to retread what we had done on five. And then the other part was like, what Tyler was saying earlier, we wanted to make this a real standalone movie, which, you know, see my delusional comment moments ago. This is definitely in the lineage. But to us, we wanted to really just have that slightly different point of view going into it where we can make it a little bit different.
Gizmodo: Another thing is usually in a Scream movie, the ending is the best part. But personally, I felt like this one had multiple set pieces that were just as good and shocking and scary as the ending. Is there one you are particularly proud of?
Bettinelli-Olpin: I’ll wimp out on my answer. But I like that we really took the time to make each of those feel unique and have their own identity. It was really important for us and Guy and Jamie. And I love that. I think we all do. We love that in a movie where you can go like, “Oh, there is set piece X, set piece Y, and set piece Z” and they all have such a unique identity. And sometimes I’m in the mood for the slow bodega crawl and sometimes I’m like it’s the ladder scene all day. But I think at the end of the day, the subway is the one we probably keep going back to. It’s so fun, in large part because the costumes are so wild, but also because the movie just slows down in a nice tension-filled way and there’s just something about it where like, the dread is palpable.
Gillett: It’s such a different flavour at that point in the movie. It was also, just on a craft level, the hardest thing we’ve ever shot. I mean, it was three days of calling on every department to do absolutely like most we’ve ever asked departments to do. That’s set build, the costumes, the AD department coordinating extras and subway stops and who’s getting off and who’s getting on and where the characters are and where Ghostface is hiding and what does that mean. The amount of choreography in that scene to make it feel like it’s a real, natural, and messy subway was really just like a fun thing to design. And really, all the departments just worked tirelessly to achieve what that sequence ultimately is.
Villella: And I just I’ll just add to the subway sequence too is like you feel the tension for all of the core four in that one. Because you don’t know which car is going to be the dangerous car. And we have all of them in there. The ladder sequence would be in a close second.
We’ll have more from the Scream VI team next week, talking some of the film’s biggest spoilers.
While you’re here, why not check out Gizmodo Australia’s guide to what’s streaming this month on Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Stan, Binge and more. We’ve also got one for all the good movies coming out in 2023 if that’s more your thing.
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