Drew Barrymore must be kicking herself. But when she agreed to be bloodily offed in the opening sequence of Scream, how could she possibly have known that Wes Craven’s $14 million hommage to the teens-in-peril genre would chug along to become the little slasher flick that could?
Forget the return of Julia or the Force; Scream has become the movie story of the year: a $102.6 million-grossing franchise spawner that has enabled Miramax to cross over from rarefied art house to sequel-happy grind house. Six months after its opening, not only is the film still doing respectable business in more than 400 theaters ($181,000 the weekend of June 27-29), but Craven and Scream’s stars (Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox, among others) reunited in Atlanta June 16 to begin shooting Scream 2.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Scream phenomenon is the feeding frenzy the sequel has sparked among Hollywood agents, all of whom are itching to get their rising stars the same hip exposure that Barrymore, Campbell, Cox, Arquette, and Skeet Ulrich garnered from the first film. Says a spokesman for Ulrich, ”The visibility of Scream definitely affected his career.” The jockeying for parts in the sequel was so cutthroat, says screenwriter Kevin Williamson, that ”we had people come in and audition for the film who don’t usually audition.” Adds Craven: ”Everybody wanted to be in the sequel. We were able to cast bit parts with big stars.” Consequently, Scream 2 has become a who’s-who list of up-and-coming Gen-Xers: Jada Pinkett, Sliders’ Jerry O’Connell, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sarah Michelle Gellar have all been cast. (According to a Miramax source, rising stars who tried to join but didn’t make the cut included Lost Highway’s Natasha Wagner, Welcome to the Dollhouse’s Eric Mabius, and Chicago Sons’ Paula Marshall.)
Another sign that Scream has become the project du jour: Craven & Co. have been upgraded to a $23 million budget, and Miramax cochairman Bob Weinstein says he’s gunning for a Dec. 12 opening, which would put Scream 2 in the path of such heavyweights as the next James Bond flick, Tomorrow Never Dies, and James Cameron’s Titanic, both due Dec. 19. Says Weinstein confidently, ”We already have a built-in audience for the sequel.”
But those other films won’t be the first demons to haunt Scream. In the wake of the film’s unexpected success, rival studios and industry naysayers have taken aim. Last April, Sony appealed to the MPAA, contending that the title Scream was too close to the name of its 1996 sci-fi dud Screamers. The grievance was later settled quietly. While neither Miramax nor Sony would comment in detail, insiders say no money changed hands but concessions were made on both sides in order to allow Craven to use the title Scream 2. Says the director: ”The movies couldn’t be more different, so it never made sense. This was just part of a power struggle between Disney [Miramax’s parent company] and Sony.”