Scream Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin And Tyler Gillett's Only Option Is To Keep Taking Risks With The Franchise [Interview]

Taking the reins on a legacy project is, in a word, daunting. There are so many things that could go wrong: casting, script, general lack of respect for the prior installments. We've seen it happen time and time again — especially in the horror genre — and we're used to it. But that doesn't make it hurt less when it happens. In fact, it tends to hurt more and more each unnecessary time.

Naturally, fans were scared to death of 2022's addition to the "Scream" franchise. It could have easily been total swill, a cash-grab with little substance or love for its predecessors. In other words, it could've been a total disaster — and a lot of fans were bracing for that. But directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett had other plans for our beloved fifth film.

The duo — who are two-thirds of the horror directing collective Radio Silence — took a tight script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and shaped it into a three-dimensional force to be reckoned with. A film rife with nostalgia, but one that doesn't rest on its laurels but capitalizes on them with the same spirit its namesake would. I spoke with Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett about the difficulties of living up to Wes Craven's work, their hopes for the franchise as they begin work on the upcoming sixth installment, and their connections to the legacy characters they were chosen to shepherd. These guys are just as crazy for the "Scream" world as we are — and it shows.

Potential spoilers for "Scream" follow.

'Paramount+, if you're listening...'

One of the cornerstones of the franchise and the world of these movies is the meta aspect of it. So I have to ask, would you guys ever consider going full meta and doing a "Stab" movie within this franchise?

Matt: Oh yeah. I mean, we joked about it a lot. We keep saying we should figure out a way to make "Stab" movies because it would be the ultimate ... fulfilling the idea of the meta-ness of "Scream," right? I don't know, we think it'd be really fun. So lots of jokes about it, but ...

Tyler: The idea that you could make two franchises simultaneously, or based on each other, is so insane. And so it's so self-congratulatory, I love it so much.

Matt: I would be there in a minute for a "Stab" movie.

Me too! 100%. I think that's something that audiences would truly, truly love just because it is such a legacy aspect of the franchise as well now, it's been part of things since the sequel, so it's very much a part of this world. Just hint, hint, nudge, nudge. We would love it.

Tyler: Paramount+, if you're listening ...

Exactly! But speaking of legacy stuff, I need to ask you guys who your favorite legacy character is, individually, because it's tough.

Tyler: It's tough because the relationship between the three of them, it's just such a — We've grown up with them in such a meaningful way. It's hard to separate. The real Sophie's Choice.

Matt: It'd be easy to [take] the three OGs out and be like, who's your favorite secondary [character]? But I think one of the things that Tyler's saying is that in each movie, [it's] whatever your mood is. You know what I mean? Sometimes I'm really in a Dewey mood, sometimes I'm really in a Sidney mood. Sometimes, I'm feeling like Gale, which also speaks to the bigger thing that's so great about all of the "Scream" movies. Sometimes you just want to watch "Scream 3." Sometimes you just want to watch "Scream 1." They're different, but they're tied. And that's what makes it so special.

Tyler: And by the way, this also goes on a "working with them" level. You know, we got to meet our heroes and you're always like, "Oh man, is it going to be difficult? How are we going to navigate this?" And then every single moment of working with them was just, the level of generosity and love and kindness that they showed us ... and that you can just tell they feel for Wes and Kevin [Willaimson] and what these movies are, what they've done for them. It was just a truly, truly incredible experience getting to know them. And I know that's a PR thing that you hear a lot of people say. [But] it genuinely was. It was like we became a family on this movie in a way that I think you only ever dream of, and you very rarely get to experience. And we got that on this. It was really, really amazing.

'Every movie has to be a reinvention.'

How do you guys approach working with your legacy characters and kind of just shaping that next bit of their story, showing their growth, dusting them off. What was that like, to work with them on an actor level? What was the environment like on set when you were working with them?

Matt: They were so generous. I think [with] any good actor, it's all about being generous, listening, and they're all pros and they all know these characters inside and out. So they, in the best way possible, read the script, and then they had thoughts to make it better, and to help us make it true to those characters and not do our impression of what we think they might be.

Tyler: Not a facsimile of a Gale or a Sid or a Dewey.

Matt: They wanted to make sure that this was real, that Sid was Sid, that Gale was Gale, that Dewey was Dewey. And they talked to us a lot about it. They put a lot of work into it, you know? I think it shows, I mean, hopefully, it shows. It really felt like nobody was phoning it in. They came to be like ... well, this is the next "Scream." This is the next evolution of these characters. And I think also Jamie and Guy, the writers, did such a great job of evolving these characters in a really nice way over 10 years, where they've all gone their separate ways, but now you get to see them come back together and see how that plays out. It's a real dance and it's a real tricky tightrope to walk. And I think that the script did it great. And David and Neve and Courtney really just f***ing brought it home.

Tyler: I think the thing that Guy and Jamie did, too, and that sort of seems obvious when you see the movie and it's working, but you believe that those three characters are where they're at in their lives. That ... we're not just putting them in some situation that doesn't feel like it makes logical emotional sense, given what we know they've all experienced over four movies. And that's where I think that was a real, real tricky thing to do. And it's complicated, right? Not everyone's better for what they've experienced and that, to us, is just so, so interesting and so real and so true. The way that we deal with hardship is very varied and very different from person to person, and we love that all shades of that are really represented in that trio.

Obviously, these films deal a lot with the identity of horror movies and your other horror movies are incredibly original. One of the main points that Jack Quaid's character makes at some point in this film is that "Hollywood is out of ideas." So I want to ask you guys, what other horror franchise or popular horror film would you guys want to take a stab at rebooting or remaking? What's another fantasy job for you guys?

Matt: Are you leading the witness with the, take a stab at ...

I just realized that! [Laughs]

Matt: I don't know, it's funny. We have an aversion, this is going to sound crazy, but we have an aversion to franchises and that kind of thing. Not as fans. We love them as fans, but taking it on. Because of what you're saying, we love the idea of creating a wholly original work. It's so exciting and honestly, "Scream," even up until the moment we read the script, we were like, "Oh gosh, is this the worst idea ever? Oh, my God." And then we read the script and we're like, "Oh my God, we love it. How soon can we do it?" So live and learn, things change. But I do think there's a fun thing that's happening right now with this reemergence of franchises we've loved from the past. They're being made by people who grew up with those franchises. So none of them feel like cash grabs. None of them feel like that kind of sloppy, like "Oh, whatever, it's just the next one. Who gives a s**t."

Tyler: Real love letters.

Matt: Yeah, because they're all made with love and care. So you have this whole thing ... I mean Guy, who wrote this movie, he's writing the new "Final Destination." That's public information. I can say that. Which is awesome. We know nothing about it, but we know Guy as a writer really well, and we know that he's going to give it the love and respect it deserves. So I think there's something really exciting about all of these new franchises and that they're happening parallel to the really exciting original works that are coming out. I mean, we were just talking about "Nope" coming out in a few months, and the fact that "Nope" will probably be one of the biggest movies of the year, and that it's a horror movie that is [not an] IP. That is incredible. That is the power of the genre, and that is just so special to be able to do both those things in one genre. It's unheard of.

Tyler: I think the thing that's crazy about "Scream" and how it sort of fits into this conversation in a slightly different way, is that by design, they also have to reinvent themselves. Every movie has to be a reinvention. The second that it feels like you're in retread, for some reason with "Scream" in particular, it's just like, ugh. And I think that when we were reading [the] script for the first time, we were just bracing ourselves for that feeling of "Oh God, it's just nostalgia to be nostalgia." And then, reading the script and going, "Holy s**t." It's part that, and it feels like it came out of the same amazing horror laboratory and was designed for a "Scream" fan, but it's also totally taking risks and is its own thing. What a crazy thing to achieve. And I think that, for us, is what we loved so much and ultimately I think had us feeling confident about taking on the franchise. [It's] something that has to be risky. It has to be self-aware. It has to redefine itself. That was something that was so exciting for us. We knew it'd be original for no other reason than it had to hit those marks.

'What's a "Scream" movie when the wheels have fallen off?'

What was the hardest scene for you guys to shoot? Maybe not even logistically, but directorially. Working as a team as well, that's so different than working alone.

Tyler: The kitchen stuff at the end was hard. And I think part of that is knowing that to some extent, we're always going to be in the shadow of that original kitchen scene, which is one of the great killer reveals of all time in any movie. But also, just logistically, the size of that kitchen is not as big as it looks on screen, having the number of characters in that kitchen that we have at the end.

Matt: It's just a normal kitchen!

Tyler: It's challenging. It was like, "Hey, legacy cast, you're going to be spending a good portion of the next three days of your life laying on a floor." That's a hard thing to just ask of your actors. But all of that, logistically, blocking wise, conceptually, the big "How do you make a scene that's full of exposition feel like it still has energy and it still has a place that it wants to go and never feels like it's really mired in that mustache twirly stuff that I think we all have an aversion to?" That was really tricky. Those days were hard in that kitchen.

I loved that scene. It was incredibly fun, really, really playful, and definitely very reminiscent of movie one, which was so lovely to see. We're so excited for the sequel, and there are a lot of avenues we could go down for it. What's one thing that you guys really want to bring to the new installment, or if you know where you guys are headed in the new installment, one thing that you might be able to tease us with? I am baiting this time and it's very obvious.

Matt: We're going to do the first "Scream" with no Ghostface. No, I think one of the things that we want to do, which we also apply to this one ... it gets to what Tyler was saying earlier that just the DNA of "Scream," the foundation of what "Scream" is that it has to subvert your expectations and it has to surprise you. And so it has to take a risk. And I think we had a lot of fun on this one being like, "How do we make sure that we have one foot firmly planted in the legacy and in the history of 'Scream,' but then also try to take a step forward and try to play with your expectations a little bit?" And I think one of the things in this next one that we'll hopefully be able to do is just make sure that it doesn't feel like something you've seen. I think it just has to feel fresh and it has to feel new. And I think we want to, as fans and as filmmakers, give and watch something that is what we want, but we want it given to us in a way that's not expected. And I think that's always got to be the goal. Cause yeah, you want Ghostface, you want the killings, you want a whodunit. It's all the stuff, it's gotta be in there. Just in a new way.

Tyler: And look, it's not lost on us that the bar is really high. We've heard a lot from reps and fans —

Matt: "It's movie six, man, no one cares." [Laughs]

Tyler: — "I don't know what you guys are going to do. Like, what a crazy challenge." And we're like, "Great, watch this." Let's do that! Let's figure out what that thing is that is the challenge. And how do we rise to that? That, for us, is exciting. That's what makes us go, "Great. What's a 'Scream' movie when the wheels have fallen off? What does that look like?"

Matt: Well, now that we've ruined the franchise, where do we go from here?

So, a two-hour "Stab" movie coming up, I'm very excited. [Laughs]

Matt: Two-hour "Stab" movie! [Laughs]

Tyler: "Stab 9!" [Laughs]

"Scream" is now available to purchase digitally.