Wes Craven Almost Didn't Direct Scream

"Scream" may not have made it to the final round of our Tournament of Terrors, but that doesn't change the fact that the meta horror flick redefined the slasher genre for modern audiences, and it's probably the most influential horror film of the past few decades. However, "Scream" almost didn't have the key ingredient that made it such an expertly crafted deconstruction of the slasher subgenre, because director Wes Craven originally wanted nothing to do with the movie. In fact, he wanted out of the horror genre entirely.

"He wanted to get out of the horror ghetto..."

The Hollywood Reporter has a fantastic oral history on the origins of "Scream," and you might be surprised to learn that Wes Craven (seen above making a "Nightmare on Elm Street" inspired cameo in the film) was extremely resistant to take the helm of the now-classic movie. 

Writer Kevin Williamson was already in disbelief that Dimension Films was making an offer to buy the script for the film that was then titled "Scary Movie." And he was in even more disbelief when Dimension said that they would get Wes Craven to direct it. Williamson recalled:

"And I was like, 'Yeah, right, sure.' I'm so sorry that Wes is not with us to tell the story. He said, 'No,' to the script. He said, 'No and no and no.'"

Sounds like Wes Craven turned down the script! Producer Marianne Maddalena explained, "I loved the script, but Wes was very adamant about not wanting to do a horror movie next. He wanted to get out of the horror ghetto, as he called it. So, he passed on it right away." 

But Maddalena wouldn't take no for an answer, and she wasn't the only one. Dimension executive Richard Potter added:

"If it wasn't for Marianne and [Wes' then-assistant] Julie Plec, Wes would have passed. I kept trying to get him to say yes, and he kept saying he's done horror, he's done slasher. I think he felt with 'New Nightmare' that he'd sort of done the self-reflective meta thing. They were the ones at his company who kept saying, 'You haven't done this before. Nobody's done this before.' The two of them got him to do the movie."

It took a little more time, but Craven obviously accepted the gig. Maddalena remembered, "A couple of months later, he read it again and they had attached Drew Barrymore and he just felt like, well, why not? He really enjoyed that work and he knew he was good at it, so he never thought twice about it once he accepted the job."

"I think he was reluctant to enter into something so dark."

So what took Craven so long to come around? Editor Patrick Lussier speculated, "I think he was reluctant to enter into something so dark. It was just so uncompromising. Even though the script had a lot of humor to it, it is a very brutal story."

Though "Scream" doesn't necessarily feel like it's quite as dark of a slasher franchise when compared to the horror films of the past decade, for it's time, the blood and gore was much more brutal than the rest of the horror fare out there. The first "Scream" certainly has humor, but it has a serious edge that faded away as the franchise started leaning into more campy territory in the sequels.

In the end, we're more than glad Wes Craven ended up directing "Scream." Who knows if the film would have been nearly as influential if the filmmaker wasn't behind the camera. Soon we'll see how the filmmaker's legacy lives on when "Scream" gets the legacy-quel treatment next year, picking up over 10 years after "Scream 4." Check out the first trailer for the franchise's return right here.