Throwback Interview: 8 DAYS Spoke To Wes Craven In 2011 About Scream 4 And His Love-Hate Relationship With The Internet
‘Scream 4’ was the last film directed by the Master of Horror, who died in 2015.
In 2011, 8 DAYS got on the phone (if only Zoom existed back then) with Wes Craven to talk about Scream 4, the highly-anticipated, er, fourth entry to genre-deconstructing whodunit series that started in 1996. The success of the first Scream not only spawned sequels, it also allowed the Master of Horror to branch out to do something that, well, different: Music of the Heart, a true-life drama about a violin teacher (played by Meryl Streep) struggling to keep afloat her music programme for the under-privileged inner-city kids (turns out budget-slashing bureaucrats are the new bogeymen). During the intervening period, Craven took on the Cillian Murphy-starring psychological thriller Red Eye, and revealed his romantic side in the anthology Paris, je t'aime — works that proved he was a good director, and not just a good horror director. But he had not forsaken his blood-curdling fanbase. Besides Scream 2 and 3, he also made the werewolf-themed Cursed, and My Soul to Take, a slasher about teens targeted by an urban legend — neither were critical nor commercial hits. Perhaps that was why he returned to Scream 4 — to show that he hasn’t lost his edge (Scream 4 reviews were mixed but it made money, though not as much as its predecessors). I have the honour of speaking to Craven on three occasions — each in a different decade (yes, I’m that young), each for a different publication. The man who created Freddy Krueger was a soft-spoken, erudite gentleman; it was like talking to this sagely teacher who’s grading my overdue essay (Craven was once a humanities college professor before quitting to be a filmmaker). I vaguely remember ending the 8 DAYS interview by suggesting we should do this again for Scream 5. Not too sure if I imagined that moment. But it didn’t matter. Turns out Scream 4 was the last film Craven directed; he died four years later from brain cancer at the age of 76. With the new Scream now out in cinemas, here’s a throwback to that last interview he gave to 8 DAYS. And, Wes, thanks for the nightmares.
The following story was first published in the 1071, Apr 21, 2011, edition of 8 DAYS:
Wes Side Story: Horror maestro Wes Craven on Scream 4, Scary Movie and how (some) Netizens can be a pain in the ass.
Three is a holy digit you don’t mess with. “Three has tension — it’s a dramatic number — whereas four is an even number,” Robert Zemeckis once said. And that’s precisely why we will never see a fourth Back to the Future in his lifetime. Unlike
Zemeckis, however, Wes Craven thinks four is a lucky number. “It’s the number of bases in a baseball field,” the soft-spoken 71-year-old humanities professor-turned-horror auteur tells 8 DAYS on the phone from Los Angeles. “It’s the number for a home run.” And he hopes to score with Scream 4 where heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is once again targeted by a Ghostface-masked sicko (or sickos) armed with a sharp knife and an encyclopaedic knowledge of horror film history. Professionally, Craven could use a home run, too: his previous film, My Soul To Take, a lightweight Nightmare on Elm Street
retread, came and went with little fanfare. Artistically, the father of bogeyman Freddy Kruger hopes to restore some blood-curdling fear back in the dormant franchise, which he admits lost some of the sparkle in Scream 3 a decade ago. “I enjoy watching it [from] time to time, but we know that Scream 1 and 2 were the better films. We very much want to keep Scream 4 on the same level as those.”
WES CRAVEN: Not immediately, certainly. Shortly after Scream 3, [Dimension boss] Bob Weinstein said, we are not going to make a fourth one. It was a trilogy, so if we ever do a Scream 4, it’d be a long time in the future, which turns out to be 10 years.
David Arquette and Courtney Cox got hitched after making the first Scream. But they were separated during the making of Scream 4. Was it weird to direct them since they’re playing a married couple in the movie?
Nobody was aware of what was going on between them. They’re very professional. I was doubly astonished [by their split] because I sensed nothing was going on. It isn’t the sort of separation that’s accompanied by a lot of hurt and anger. The two are very loving to each other. My perception of it is that their relationship, in one form or another, will continue to be very close.
Scream and stay calm: Director Wes Craven joking around with David Arquette and Courteney Cox between takes on the set of 'Scream 3'.
We’re really glad that Scream 4 isn’t in 3D.
Neither am I a fan of 3D, frankly. From the very beginning, [it was decided that the movie] wasn’t going to be in 3D. It wasn’t my choice to make my last film, My Soul to Take, in 3D. Either do what the studio [say] or they won’t release it widely. I’d be fine if it just came out in 2D.
Do you think the Scary Movies tarnish the legacy of the Scream films?
[Those movies] made it necessary for us to wait for a while before starting on Scream 4. When I was directing Scream 4, I had to be careful not to have Ghostface appear silly or cute. There’s a lot of humour in the film, but not that kind of broad, slapstick humour. [I find it] a little hard to watch those films that make fun of Scream.
Scream was a small movie made under the radar. Scream 4, on the other hand, was scrutinised the second it was announced. How does the incessant monitoring affect you as a filmmaker?
Yes, it affects me a lot, especially when you’re doing a murder mystery, which is essentially what all the Screams are. It started with Scream 2 when we received the first 40 pages of the script from [writer] Kevin [Williamson]. They were brilliant. But later in the day, we were told that the script was on the Internet. We went to the site and there it was — the first 40 pages of the script staring right at us. It cost us a brilliant opening and forced us to start from scratch.
But you use Twitter as well. Some filmmakers are reluctant to divulge info online.
I like the fans, except the ones who give away the secrets. It’s a fun way to keep in touch with them. I have a web page, but that isn’t the same as tweeting something and you get responses within 15 seconds from Germany. Whoa!
Now that you’ve made a drama [Music of the Heart] and a thriller [Red Eye], do you still find it difficult to do a non-horror movie?
If you think about the name Wes Craven, what comes to your mind first? Horror. It’s very difficult to get a studio to do a Wes Craven romantic comedy. I’m a brand name in a specific genre. It’s limiting in some ways, but I’m perfectly happy to be making a lot of films and having a lot of fun. I’m not complaining loudly.
There were talks for a while. But I went through a moment of realisation: Remaking your old films isn’t healthy for my own body of work. I’m kinda done with that.
What did you make of last year’s remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street?
I didn’t see it. I don’t own that property at all. I have no participation in it. We did the other remakes because we finally own those scripts again after 30 years of being owned by different people. We have complete artistic control over them. I never got a phone call about Nightmare.