Released in December 1996, Scream was a sleeper hit that grossed just $6 million in its first weekend but went on to rake in $103 million in the U.S. The winking, self-aware thriller, directed by A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Wes Craven, followed a group of teens well versed in the rules of horror films — and spoke to a young audience just as savvy about the genre’s clichés. It yielded two sequels, which amassed $101 million and $89 million, respectively. In total, the franchise surpassed more than half a billion dollars internationally. On April 15, after eleven long years, it’s finally returning to theaters, along with original cast members Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell.
Fans should feel lucky that there’s another installment arriving at all, given how easily Scream 4 could have fallen apart. As they reveal in this week’s cover story, screenwriter Kevin Williamson and Dimension Films co-chairman Bob Weinstein clashed repeatedly and vociferously over details, resulting in a script that was in flux throughout the shoot. “I always prided myself on coming to the set with a shot list,” says Craven. “But quite often we’d literally get pages the night before, sometimes the day of. That part was very stressful.”
“Everyone was second-guessing everything, because everyone wanted it to be so perfect,” Williamson recalls. His arguments with Weinstein intensified over the months and ultimately came to a head. “Oh, I got in a big fight with Bob,” says Williamson. “We got into a massive fight creatively, and we hugged it out and then we moved on.” Weinstein, however, claims that the bitter disagreements had to do with looming deadlines. “It was a time crunch,” he says. “I think the only real fight was not creative, but, ‘We gotta get this goin’! It’s a train. It’s moving.’ From my point of view, that was our only source of tension.” (He and Williamson have not spoken since. At the time he was interviewed, Williamson still had not seen the finished film. But both men insist there’s no bad blood between them.)
Of course, Weinstein and Williamson were not the only couple undergoing a crisis in their relationship. During their six weeks together on set in Michigan, Cox and Arquette were weathering a rough patch in their 11-year marriage (the pair eventually announced in October that they had separated). Somehow, they managed to keep their struggles private. “I was absolutely clueless, and I spent a lot of time around them,” says Hayden Panettiere, who plays a teen targeted by the Ghostface killer back in the fictional town of Woodsboro (the franchise’s original setting). “It never crept into work or made anyone uncomfortable.” Adds Craven: “The only thing that was odd was that when he finished his shooting, he didn’t go home. Then we started to wonder what was going on.”
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For more on the battle over Scream 4 plus a look back at the original Scream with memories from Arquette, Cox, Campbell and Drew Barrymore, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands this Friday.