The Original Scream Movies: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Hit Horror Franchise

Ghostface from Scream
(Image credit: Paramount)

One of the things that has made Scream - the 1996 hit that both deconstructed and revitalized the slasher genre - and its sequels one of the most fun and enduring horror movie franchises is their clever, suspenseful, Agatha Christie-style plots. In fact, outside of Ghostface’s identity in each installment, the series is not without its secret from behind the scenes… until now.

In honor of the release of Radio Silence’s fifth installment of the scary series, also simply titled Scream, we have taken a deeper look at the first four horror movies to find some of their juiciest, bloodiest, and even funniest behind-the-scenes facts. Just like Ghostface likes to do on the phone, test your knowledge about the Scream movies with these killer bits of trivia.

Ghostface from Scary Movie

(Image credit: Dimension)

Kevin Williamson Wrote The Scream Script With The Working Title, Scary Movie

The first Scream is still remembered today as one of the best horror movies of all time - or, at least (and more indisputably) one of the most iconic. One key element to its fame is how heavily it was made fun of in the classic 2000 spoof Scary Movie, which - actually has a little more in common with the film parodies that a lot of people may have realized.

According an oral history conducted by The Ringer in honor of Scream’s 25th anniversary, screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s original title for the film actually was Scary Movie, in reference to its tongue-in-cheek on the genre’s most common tropes. Dimension Studios decided to change it, which, apparently, other cast and crew members were not as fond of. However, as director Wes Craven’s former assistant Julie Plec notes, it was a good choice in retrospect, especially with the Ghostface mask’s resemblance to Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream.

Ghostface mask from Scream

(Image credit: Paramount)

The Ghostface Mask Was Found On Accident During Location Scouting

Speaking of the Ghostface mask, its origin is almost as good of a story as the way Michael Myers’ mask was created for Halloween in 1978 (a Star Trek’s Captain Kirk mask spray-painted white). While one might assume that unmistakable, ghostly scowl was the invention of Dimension’s costuming department, as Kevin Williamson recalls on a featurette released on IGN’s YouTube channel for Scream’s 25th anniversary, the mask was designed years before he even dreamed up the idea for the film.

Williamson, Wes Craven, and others were on a tour scouting locations for the movie when, while scoping out one possible house, they saw a “box of stuff” that happened to contain the mask which would become the face of a blockbuster franchise. After multiple rejected attempts to create a similar design, Dimension decided to get the the rights to use the mask from its owner - a novelty company called FunWorld, according to Huffington Post - creating a more authentically amateurish feel to the otherwise deadly antagonist.

Neve Campbell in Scream

(Image credit: Paramount / Dimension)

The Original Scream Cast Never Met Ghostface’s Phone Voice Actor

Speaking of authenticity, in my opinion, the key to the lasting impact of Scream’s terrifying opening sequence is, among other things, Drew Barrymore’s brilliant performance as the ill-fated Casey Becker. The secret to her frighteningly believable performance when speaking to a homicidal stalker on the phone is that there was, technically, an actual stranger on the other line.

The actor who provided Ghostface’s voice is Roger L. Jackson, who revealed during an interview with Vice that his dialogue with the E.T. the Extra-terrestrial star was live and that he was kept hidden from her on-set before and while the scene was shot. The same method was used for any other time the characters had a phone conversation with the killer prior to unmasking.

Casey Becker answers the phone in Scream

(Image credit: YouTube)

Drew Barrymore Requested To Play Casey Becker 

Speaking of Drew Barrymore, the actress’ early death scene in Scream came as quite a surprise to moviegoers who, based on her stardom and image in the film’s marketing, assumed she would be the lead. In fact, she was offered Sidney Prescott before Neve Campbell secured the role and her place among horror’s greatest Scream Queens, but she turned it down because she preferred the idea of playing Ghostface’s first victim instead.

In August 2020, Barrymore told Hot Ones host Sean Evans that she asked if she could play Casey Becker to guarantee the audience that no one, not even an A-lister like her, was safe from harm in Scream. Additionally, the tragic opener served as a notable callback to Janet Leigh’s early death scene in Psycho, which was also heavily marketed with her image.

Jada Pinkett Smith in Scream 2

(Image credit: Paramount / Dimension)

Jada Pinkett Smith Requested A Long, Painful Death In Scream 2 

Scream 2 pulled the same trick by placing Jada Pinkett Smith (née Pinkett, at the time) on the poster before killing her off in the opening scene, which was set during a sneak preview of the movie-within-a-movie, Stab. Apparently, the actress also had a specific request for her brief, but memorable, appearance in the 1997 sequel as Maureen.

As Entertainment Weekly reports, Pinkett Smith was on the PeopleTV original series Couch Surfing when she recalled asking Wes Craven to give her “the most horrific death that has ever happened in a horror film.” Well, fans could debate on the top slasher movie death scene forever, but there is no denying that seeing Ghostface, disguised as her boyfriend (Omar Epps), stab her multiple times as she struggles to make it to the front of the auditorium is not an easy watch.

Timothy Olyphant as Mickey in Scream 2

(Image credit: Dimension Films)

One of Scream 2's Various Alternate Ending Drafts Was Leaked Online

The ending of Scream 2 is notable for being a major breakthrough for Timothy Olyphant, whose character, “freak Tarantino film student” Mickey, was revealed to be in cahoots with Billy Loomis’ vengeful mother (Laurie Metcalf) as the sequel’s main villains. The especially interesting thing about this twist is that it was not the one some viewers expected to see because it was different from the one they found online.

For Scream 2’s twentieth anniversary, Dread Central looked back on the time the film’s ending was leaked to the internet, or so it seemed. Mickey and Mrs. Loomis were always meant to be the killers, but to combat audience hype, Kevin Williamson wrote several fake endings just in case and the leaked alternate had Jerry O’Connell’s Derek and Elise Neal as Hallie sharing slasher duties. On a behind-the-scenes doc that first aired on the SyFy Channel in 1997 (when it was spelled properly), O’Connell recalled never knowing the true finale until the day of shooting it when he received the detail on paper that could not be recopied. 

Scott Foley as Ghostface in Scream 3

(Image credit: Dimension Films )

Scott Foley Learned He Was Scream 3’s Killer Late Into Production

Like the Scream villains before him, Scott Foley also received a breakthrough by making his major motion picture debut in Scream 3 as Roman Bridger - the director of the doomed Stab 3 who actually turns out to be Sidney’s vengeful half-brother and the mastermind behind the murder of the previous films. However, also like the Scream villains before him, the former Scandal cast member learned about his character’s true identity a little late. While on Sirius XM’s The Jess Cagle Show, Foley had this to say about it:

Going into that when I was cast, I had no idea I was the killer and they didn't tell me until about two weeks into production when the producer, a woman who worked with Wes Craven for years, Marianne Maddalena, said 'Hey, you know right?' and I was like, 'I know what? Are there hot dogs and craft service? What do I know?' And she said, 'You're the killer,' and I was like 'Oh! That's great!' and I went back to my room and thought, 'Oh, man! Oh, man! That's so cool!' Like if you're in a Scream film, like, be the killer!

It is also possible Foley’s delayed discovery was due to the fact he was not originally meant to be the killer...

Matthew Lillard in Scream

(Image credit: Paramount / Dimension)

Matthew Lillard Was Originally Intended To Return As Scream 3’s Killer

After the fifth movie was greenlit, original Scream cast member Matthew Lillard (who played one of the two Ghostface killers) expressed interest in reprising his role as Stu Macher, which seemed ludicrous to some but totally plausible to others based on a theory that he actually survived taking a TV to the face. Apparently, Kevin Williamson was of the same mind and originally intended to make that the final reveal of Scream 3. On the Pop My Culture podcast in 2010, Lillard gave the following explanation as to why that never happened with the following:

The idea was to have me … orchestrating mayhem from prison. Like, people attacking high schools. It was before Columbine. So, Columbine broke out six weeks before production and they sacked the whole story and changed the whole thing.

As amazing as this twist might have been, the story's similarities to an unspeakable and still relevant tragedy makes us actually thankful for the change in retrospect. At the end of the day, the Scream movies are meant to be fun, which the late, great Wes Craven was sure to remind his cast on the set of the next installment.

Hayden Panettiere in Scream 4

(Image credit: Dimension Films)

Wes Craven Had A Crew Member Dress As Ghostface To Prank The Scream 4 Cast

It is not uncommon for actors to suffer for their art from behind the scenes of horror movies. However, on the set of Scream 4, some of the cast members endured a few scares that they were able to look back in laughter. 

During a press conference also featuring Scream 4 stars Emma Roberts, Anthony Anderson, and Rory Culkin, Hayden Panettiere described a time when she was startled by a prop master who ran at her dressed as Ghostface while shooting a scene when the film’s villain was not meant to appear. It all turned out to be a wicked prank courtesy of Wes Craven.

David Arquette and Courteney Cox in Scream 4

(Image credit: Dimension Films)

Kevin Williamson Had ‘Massive’ Creative Arguments With Bob Weinstein Over Scream 4

Not everyone had as much fun making Scream 4, such as the original franchise creator, Kevin Williamson. Of course, as he would reveal to Entertainment Weekly, he did not really have much time on the set anyway after walking away from the project.

When clarifying rumors that he was fired from the sequel to the magazine in 2011, Williamson explained that he and producer Bob Weinstein had majorly differing opinions over the story that resulted in just one of many they have had during their professional relationship. However, the true reason he walked away from Scream 4 was his contractural obligation to The Vampire Diaries on CW as its co-showrunner.

A similar situation actually happened to Kevin Williamson over Scream 3, for which he was replaced with Ehren Kruger when, according to his claims to Post Mortem podcast host Mick Garris, Dimension’s eager demand for a script conflicted with his obligation to several other projects (including the studio’s own Halloween reboot). Williamson did not write the latest Scream movie either, but he seems to love the new script from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, and that’s all a fan of the franchise could ask for.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.