We won’t spoil the big reveal in Scream, which was released 20 years ago today, but even if you know the ending of Wes Craven’s horror masterpiece, these facts may be able to shock you.
1. THE ORIGINAL TITLE OF THE FILM WAS SCARY MOVIE.
The original title of the film was Scary Movie, but it was changed to Scream by the Weinstein brothers—then the heads of the film’s production company, Miramax—in the middle of production. They allegedly decided on the change because Harvey Weinstein was listening to the Michael Jackson song “Scream” in his car with his brother Bob. They both liked the title for a horror movie.
2. IT WAS PARTIALLY INSPIRED BY A REAL-LIFE STORY.
Screenwriter Kevin Williamson was partially inspired by a real life series of student murders in Gainesville, Florida in 1990, perpetrated by killer Danny Harold Rolling who was later dubbed “The Gainesville Ripper.” Williams was also inspired by John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween, his favorite movie.
3. THE SCRIPT SPARKED A MAJOR BIDDING WAR.
Williamson’s self-referential script sparked a fierce bidding war in Hollywood between five movie studios before Williamson ultimately accepted Dimension Films’ $400,000 offer to buy the screenplay.
4. IT COULD HAVE BEEN DIRECTED BY GEORGE ROMERO, OR SAM RAIMI.
The Weinstein brothers initially approached noted horror directors George A. Romero and Sam Raimi for directorial duties, but they both turned the project down. Wes Craven, who had directed the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, initially passed as well, but he signed on to direct after Drew Barrymore agreed to appear in the film in the lead role of Sidney Prescott.
5. DREW BARRYMORE WAS SET TO STAR, BUT CHANGED HER MIND.
Barrymore changed her mind about playing the lead five weeks before production was set to begin. Barrymore instead suggested she play Casey Becker, the teen terrorized by the killer in the opening scene, to cleverly subvert audience expectations that a star of her stature would survive the movie. Casting directors approached Alicia Witt, Brittany Murphy, and Reese Witherspoon to take over the Sidney Prescott role before eventually casting Neve Campbell.
6. BARRYMORE WORKED FOR LESS THAN A WEEK.
Barrymore shot all of her scenes in the first five days of production.
7. THE FILM'S ICONIC MASK WAS FOUND DURING A LOCATION SCOUT.
The killer’s now-iconic mask was a simple off-the-shelf Halloween mask. Craven and a producer found it at a house they were location scouting.
8. BOB WEINSTEIN WASN'T CONVINCED THAT THE MASK WAS SCARY ENOUGH.
Bob Weinstein initially thought the killer’s mask wasn’t scary enough and considered replacing Craven as director. But Craven and editor Patrick Lussier created a workprint out of dailies of the opening scene that convinced Weinstein to quickly change his mind.
9. THE VOICE BEHIND THE KILLER IS VETERAN VOICE ACTOR ROGER L. JACKSON.
Besides Scream, Jackson’s credits include the role of Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls. Craven separated Jackson from the actors and had him actually talk to them over the phone to make their reactions feel more genuine.
10. LINDA BLAIR HAD A CAMEO.
Linda Blair, the star of The Exorcist, makes a cameo as one of the news reporters outside of the school. She’s the one with the bright orange blouse. Later on, she’s the reporter who confronts Sidney in Dewey’s police car. Craven previously directed Blair in the 1978 TV movie Stranger in Our House.
11. THE HIGH SCHOOL THEY PLANNED TO SHOOT AT CHANGED ITS MIND ABOUT THE PRODUCTION.
The high school scenes were originally supposed to be shot at Santa Rosa High School in Santa Rosa, Calif. But despite getting approval from the school’s administration, the city school board banned the production weeks before the shoot began over concerns that the script glorified violence.
12. THE HIGH SCHOOL IS ACTUALLY A COMMUNITY CENTER.
Eventually, the high school scenes were shot at a community center in nearby Sonoma because it didn’t fall under the jurisdiction of a school board. As a joke, in the “Special Thanks” section of the end credits it says “No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa city school district governing board.”
13. WES CRAVEN HAS A CAMEO.
Director Wes Craven makes a cameo as a janitor. He’s wearing Freddy Krueger’s hat and sweater.
14. THE FINAL SCENE TOOK 21 NIGHTS TO SHOOT.
The 42-minute final act, taking place entirely during the party at Stu’s house, took 21 successive nights to shoot. The cast and crew jokingly called it “The longest night in horror history.”
15. IT WAS INITIALLY SLAPPED WITH AN NC-17 RATING.
The film was originally given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for being too gruesome, and despite the fact that Craven initially refused to cut anything, the movie was edited and resubmitted by the studio nine times before it was given an R rating.