By MICHAEL GINGOLD
When filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett took over direction of the SCREAM franchise with last year’s reboot, the result was a hit that reinvigorated the Ghostface saga. This past weekend, the duo’s SCREAM VI became an even bigger hit, setting a series box-office record with a gross of $44.4 million in its first three days. RUE MORGUE spoke to the duo about the particular challenges of this sequel, from its setting to an absent star.
SCREAM VI, scripted by Guy Busick (part of the Radio Silence team with Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett) and James Vanderbilt, brings the “Core Four” survivors of the previous film from suburban Woodsboro to New York City, only for them to be plagued by a new round of Ghostface killings. Courteney Cox also returns as journalist/author Gale Weathers (see our review of the movie here), though Neve Campbell declined to come back due to a salary dispute. SCREAM VI takes the story to places it has never gone before (including Montreal, which doubled for Manhattan), which was a challenge the directing duo welcomed…
Working on a bigger canvas and with a bigger story than the previous SCREAM movies, how did you decide how much was too much, and keep the film at the right scale?
MATT BETTINELLI-OLPIN: You know, for us, going into this one, I think there was really no such thing as too much [laughs]. We didn’t get the “too much” memo! The script Guy and Jamie wrote was bananas, and we were like, great, let’s go make a bananas movie that’s over the top, and know that in the edit, we can recalibrate that within the guardrails we set for ourselves in terms of what that means and where the heightenedness of this one lives. But we really wanted to go for it on this one.
Was there any thought about actually shooting in New York City, and then, how did you go about turning Montreal into Manhattan?
TYLER GILLETT: There was a ton of thought. We know that New York is not only such a character, but is a city that people are very familiar with; it’s not a small town in the middle of nowhere. It’s a wildly iconic place, so there was definitely a push to shoot there. But that’s just really challenging; it’s expensive to shoot in New York, and logistically it’s very difficult, and there’s not a ton of stage space. There are just a lot of different challenges, and we knew that Montreal has doubled for New York a handful of times, and that the crews up there are incredible in their own right, and they’ve done that before–it was an assignment that all of them have achieved successfully. So we felt like we were in good hands.
We also knew that we wanted to represent a version of the city that feels real and true to everyday life in New York, and not just the iconic tourist locations–the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty. We wanted very specifically to steer away from those places, in order to make the movie feel a little bit more like it was about our characters’ day-to-day lives; that they’re not tourists in this city, they have actually moved there to move on from their lives in Woodsboro. So all of that stuff combined allowed us to achieve what we did in Montreal, and we’re so thrilled with how the movie looks and feels.
Expanding on that, there’s a difference between being scared in a small town and being scared in a big city, so how did you approach that different level of fear in SCREAM VI?
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: You know, we really let the setting inform a lot of those scares. The bodega scene happening in public, being stuck in a tall apartment building, the subway–these are all unique to major cities, and we really tried to lean into that, in a way that would make it feel like the setting played hand in hand with the horror. I mean, right now, I don’t know if you can hear it, but there are sirens going by behind us [both laugh]. So that thing of constantly being in public really informed this one in a way that changed it dramatically from the Woodsboro idea of small-town safety getting uprooted.
At what point in the development process did you find out Neve Campbell would not be involved, and how much a part of the story was she at that point?
GILLETT: It was early in the process. It was a challenge, you know? We’re huge fans of Neve, and of course, Sidney is one of the most important characters ever created, so it was a challenge to figure out what the path forward was. I think in her absence, the responsibility that was on our shoulders was to make sure that we really dug deep into the new characters and their relationships, and make sure that we were bringing a level of connection to those people that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson built with the original three. I fully support Neve and love her dearly, but it was early enough that we were able to focus the movie in on the returning cast, the “Core Four.”
Was it also a challenge, on the sixth SCREAM, to come up with an identity reveal that was surprising and was also motivated and made sense?
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: Yeah, that’s the fun of these movies; it’s the fun of any whodunit. We’re big whodunit fans anyway, and you watch all the different iterations of what that means and who it is… We, Guy and Jamie, and everybody involved have strong opinions on how to do that, and how to hide the ball and then tell you exactly who it is and then take that away from you and present it again. You just keep playing those csrds over and over, and hopefully you can stay ahead of the audience long enough to get to that final moment. The thing we always say is, it should be unexpected but inevitable, so when you get there, you go, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming, but of course…” That’s our favorite kind of response. That’s what these movies are about, so we have a lot of fun with that.
What are your thoughts about the recent leaking of the ending on-line, and that whole controversy?
GILLETT: So many thoughts, so many thoughts… [Laughs] We hope that audiences take some personal accountability with what they ingest and what they seek out on-line, right? We are the kind of people who don’t like to watch trailers for things, because we love going into an experience knowing as little as possible. That for us is very valuable in the experience of watching something. But we also know that when things like that happen, it’s really just a sign of how interested the fan base is, and there are really good ways that that shows up and really unfortunate ways that that shows up. Leaking, for us, is always the most unfortunate thing, because it not only hurts the movie but can ruin the experience for other people. I just hope people are a little more kind about the community, and are willing to let people have their own opinions and have their own experiences with the movie. That’s just a little tiny bit of the large amount of thinking we’ve done on it, but yeah, it’s always a bummer when that happens.
How do you seek to evoke or homage Wes Craven when you make these films?
GILLETT: I feel like his movies taught us so much about how we want to approach what we do. So much of what we love about the tone we’ve created is just drafted off of what he and Kevin have done, so it feels like in so many ways, he is spiritually present in our process, regardless of whether we’re making SCREAM or something else. I believe we’ve tried to follow his blueprint, in some way, shape or form, in everything we’ve done. And I think we’re better creatively for it.
Now that you’ve done two SCREAMs, do you have any thoughts about where you’d like to go with a third one?
BETTINELLI-OLPIN: You know, we don’t know what that is. Guy and Jamie might have some ideas, but we get involved after that. They’re great at cracking that, and then sharing it with us down the road if that’s where it heads, but we’re excited for wherever it goes.