For the second consecutive year, I've had the pleasure of talking to horror maestro Wes Craven at the very beginning of Halloween season. (Read my interview with him from October 2010 HERE.) Whereas last year we discussed the relatively low profile MY SOUL TO TAKE, this time we're chatting about SCREAM 4, a different beast altogether. The film opened back in April theatrically (to a so-so reception, which we'll get into), but is currently ready to slash open the home video market when it hits on OCTOBER 4th.
During our all-too-brief chat, Wes and I talked about his relationship with the notorious Weinstein brothers, whether or not he pays attention to the reviews and box office, and what the future holds for the SCREAM series...
Were you ever hesitant to go back to the SCREAM franchise after ten or so years?
Craven: In the interim, from time to time I thought it would be not good for me to do, but that was farther back in time, closer to the end of the first trilogy. It was important for me to go out and do different kinds of films in that interim. But after ten years, I thought it would be an interesting thing, and I'd done it once before in a way with WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE, coming back for the tenth anniversary. This felt like, if the script is good it would be a fun thing to do. I sat down with Kevin and he sketched out the story, and I liked it a lot, quite frankly, so at that point I didn't have any doubts at all.
In a way, this particular movie feels like it needs that length of time between the last one and this one.
Craven: Yes, I think it does very much. I've got to give kudos to Bob [Weinstein], because way back at the end of the third, he said to us, “Just don't think of doing another sequel in a year, I'm not going to do any more, this is a trilogy, and it's going to remain a trilogy, and if I'm going to do another one it's going to be a long time, like ten years or something.” And that's exactly what he did. I think we all felt going into it after ten years that it was a long enough time that we were obviously not just trying to make money off of it, that it would be part of a new series and not just some one-off fourth film.
I'm curious about your input into the script, because obviously you're a writer yourself and have been part of the franchise from the very beginning. How involved are you in terms of crafting the script?
Craven: I'm very much a part of it; in fact, in this movie, there are several scenes that have a lot of moments that I wrote myself. But by and large, the concept is from Kevin's script. And the fact is that eighty percent of this film is Kevin's, and then probably another fifteen percent is Ehren Kruger, and then I did some writing. But I do tons of notes. Every time I get a draft or scene or anything, the first thing I do is write some notes: “I think this is good; I don't think this will work; how about this?” That goes on from the first time I get the script, even before we're going out and doing location scouting. All the way through the shoot, I am writing – either moments or whole scenes, like when we went back and re-shot in Michigan, of the parking garage. It's kind of like, the deal is I'm the director, but I'm a director who is also a writer, so as much as I can help the process by making observations and suggestions, I do. And I can assure you there were hundreds of pages of notes by the end of the film.
You mentioned Bob Weinstein before, and I'm interested in your relationship with the Weinstein brothers. You've worked with them over a number of years and we're always hearing so much about them being very heavily involved with their films and interfering and re-editing... What has your experience been with them over the years?
Craven: Bob is very hands-on, with the script, with casting. What he and I have worked out – because I've been doing this a long time and I'm not going to direct a film if somebody is telling me what to do on key creative things – is we have mutual kill. So, if he hates a scene and I like it, it's not something where I'll walk away from the job, we just won't do it. If I don't like something or if he's telling me to do something and I don't want to do it, I won't do it. There's a lot of discussion, and sometimes yelling. And sometimes I wish Bob would just get the hell out of the way, and there are other times Bob comes up with a brilliant idea. It's very much a three-way between myself and Bob and the writer - and for a long time it was Kevin, and then at a point where Kevin simply couldn't participate anymore because of his television shows, it became Ehren. It's a big back and forth of ideas and suggestions and what-ifs and all that kind of stuff.
When SCREAM 4 came out in April, it opened pretty well, with around $18 million, but it seemed like people were expecting a lot more, and thought it was disappointing. Do you pay attention to box office and reviews?
Craven: I pay attention to box office, because it has a lot to do with the studio's ability to make more films, or even more of the trilogy. And, frankly, the respect you're given in the town, in L.A., whether your films make money or not. I don't read reviews, by and large, because you can stumble upon the most savage and wickedly horrible things said about you that will haunt you for weeks. So I avoid that.
I was disappointed that it didn't do better; the indications all were great, the test audiences were all extremely high, and I thought it would do better than it did. But it did do very well, and worldwide extremely well, so can't complain about that. But I would have loved it if it had gone up to the $100 million it was supposed to have done.
Do you think it was because there were too many years between 3 and 4?
Craven: It could be. It's all speculation. Maybe we needed to be more brutal and kill off the central characters. I don't know. I tend to not try to second guess myself. I try to move on. It could have been tens of thousands of different factors, you never know what's going to be the one that makes people come or not come.
Do you revisit the films beforehand, are you the kind of director who watches his own films?
Craven: Certainly in this case, I think all of us - Neve, Courtney, David, myself and Bob; Bob would watch it over and over and call up and say “I just watched the film again!” - to just get yourself into that world again and pick up the nuances of character and so forth. So that the film will feel like a piece of those other films. By and large, the best thing about watching them again was, these are really, really good films. And I've subsequently gotten married since making those films, so... sitting down and watching her jump and laugh and scream is fun. (Laughs)
The film is perhaps the most self-referential of the series, and it pokes a lot of fun at the idea of a “reboot”, which is a term that seems to pop up so much nowadays. What's your take on the whole reboot craze, because sometimes it just seems like a nice way of saying “remake”?
Craven: The idea of following the template of the first film – or, if you will, within the realities of the films themselves, to repeat the historic events that had happened - was part of the script. There's one scene in the Blu-ray outtakes, where Dewey goes to the first crime scene, and one girl's is hanging from the ceiling and one girl is slouched in a chair, which refers to Drew Barrymore and her boyfriend at the end of act one of SCREAM 1, so there was that idea. But we didn't want to have to feel like we were remaking the original film, so we had to back away from that a little bit, just so it didn't feel like we were doing that, so the film could have its own scenes and not just be a revamped version of the original.
This brings us to the inevitable question: What do you think the future holds for the SCREAM franchise?
SCREAM 4 certainly was conceived as the first of a new trilogy. Kevin [Williamson] sketched out a trilogy arc, that was the original concept. I'm sure the studio would like to do the rest of the trilogy, and it seems like the box office - the foreign sales - has justified doing another one. And then it's a matter of a script that's worthy of being the second installment. From what I hear, that's probably what Bob [Weinstein] is doing right now, trying to get to that second concept for a second film.