With every ‘Scream’ film, there are always many complex and moving parts, so it’s no surprise that every entry had changes from script to screen. Alternate endings. So many movies have them. In the time between page and screen, a film can undergo many rewrites and changed decisions. That’s especially so in horror, and nowhere is this more prevalent than the Scream movies.
There’s a perfectly understandably reason for this. Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, and Radio Silence weren’t just trying to find ways to have their villain presumably die, only to escape for the next sequel. No, their task was something harder. They needed to craft a mystery of not only which characters would live and die, but how the villain would die, and who the villain actually was, for each film is a whodunit mystery with a different killer. Its creators had to figure out how to make each reveal not only make sense, but how to shock audiences who have come to predict everything. In some cases, changes needed to be made just to trick those who aimed to leak early scripts online and ruin the movie for everyone else.
As we know, part of what made Scream work so well was its ending. Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) was so blatantly obvious as the choice of the killer that we believed it couldn’t be him. And when it turned out not to be just him, but a second killer as well in his friend Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard), audiences were shocked. The twist of two killers instead of one was something that had rarely been seen.
In Kevin Williamson’s original script, the bad guys die and the heroes prevail. Who those bad guys were never changed. The fate of two characters did, however, change between script and screen. One huge difference is that Dewey was supposed to die. Kevin Williamson told The Hollywood Reporter, “Dewey died in the first [Scream] script, and Wes said, ‘We’re going to film this one little piece of him getting in the ambulance, just in case.’ And it was the best decision we ever made.”
Another difference sees Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) be braver in one big way. It’s obvious in the film that he has a crush on final girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). In the original draft, he shoots his shot, literally after the shot that kills Billy. Randy asks Sidney if she’d like to go on a date and she says, “Only if it’s a nice Meg Ryan movie.” Roll credits. Randy gets the girl.
‘Scream 2’ (1997)
A year later, when Scream 2 came out, audiences knew the formula. There was going to be a different Ghostface, and we were going to have to figure out who it was. Someone tried to ruin the film long before it was ever made when an early script leaked online, revealing the killers as Sidney’s boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell) and her friend Hallie (Elise Neal). It forced Kevin Williamson to rewrite it, or so we were told, but in an interview with Dread Central, Williamson revealed.
The final Ghostface reveal of the creepy Tarantino film student Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) and Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf) as the mother of Billy Loomis is apparently what the plan always was. There is one big change from the real original script, however. In it, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) snaps at the end and kills Gale (Courteney Cox), and poor Dewey dies again too, 25 years before he actually would in 2022’s Scream. Thankfully, the final version scales back on the carnage and legacy character deaths.
‘Scream 3’ (2000)
Scream 3 is viewed by many as the black sheep of the franchise family. The Ghostface reveal is weak, the kills bloodless, and it leans too much into comedy and away from the scares. Much of this failure comes from the fact that Kevin Williamson wasn’t involved. The writing credit for Scream 3 goes to Ehren Kruger, who was recently nominated for an Oscar for writing Top Gun: Maverick. He tried his best, but with a rushed schedule and studio demands, we were left with a faulty final product.
Though Kevin Williamson wasn’t involved in the end, he was at the beginning. There are a couple different versions of the last film in the original trilogy. In Williamson’s first treatment, the presumed dead Stu from the original film is revealed to be alive at the end. Matthew Lillard told Vulture, “I was supposed do Scream 3. I got paid for 3. Not really well, but I ended up getting paid for something I didn’t do because the idea was that I’d be running high-school killers from jail.” He added in an interview with the Bob Benedick podcast, “From jail, I was kind of masterminding this attack against Sidney and so three weeks before we were supposed to start shooting, Columbine High School broke out, and they changed everything. They kind of took the script and threw it to the side. They bought me out and I never did the third one.”
A national tragedy forced the film to go in a different direction. One direction was just as bonkers as bringing back the dead. Kevin Williamson told Entertainment Tonight, While the final film we saw left something lacking, imagine the outrage if all the kills turned out to be fake. It worked for the 80s slasher gem April Fool’s Day, but would it have been as successful here?
‘Scream 4’ (2011)
Eleven years after the original trilogy, Scream came back with everyone we loved on board. Craven, Williamson, Campbell, Cox, and Arquette were all involved in what was intended to be the beginning of a new trilogy, but a dismal box office return stopped that plan.
The original ending for Scream 4 shows the intended plan for continuation. In the final film, during the climax at Kirby’s (Hayden Panettiere) house, Ghostface attacks and a bloodbath ensues. Sidney arrives at the house and Ghostface is revealed. Once more, we have two killers, the movie obsessed Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Sidney’s niece, Jill (Emma Roberts), who is jealous of her famous ant. Jill kills her accomplice and leaves Sidney for dead before faking her death. At the hospital, Jill discovers that her aunt is still alive and goes to finish her off but ends up getting killed for her troubles.
The original ending wouldn’t have tacked on the hospital scene but would have instead ended at the house, with Jill pretending to be the hero and getting away with it. She would have then come back for Scream 5 as the first Ghostface to appear in more than one movie. Seeing as how a sequel didn’t happen for another eleven years, it’s for the best that the ending was a closed door to Jill’s story.
Last year, the Scream franchise made its return. Sadly, it would be without Wes Craven, who had passed away in 2015. The director’s chair was filled by the Radio Silence team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Kevin Williamson also was not the writer, but rather the credit goes to James Vanderbilt and Gary Busick. Though there were fake scripts handed out to prevent leaks, what the crew come up with is what we got on the screen. The killer reveals of Richie (Jack Quaid) and Amber (Mikey Madison) weren’t changed, but the fate of two characters were.
Toward the end of the movie, Chad (Mason Gooding) is stabbed repeatedly by Ghostface and left for dead. He was actually supposed to die, as he does in the script, but as Bettinelli-Olpin revealed to The Hollywood Reporter, “The conversation as soon as he signed on was, ‘Well we can’t kill Chad. Mason has got to be in the other movies. This guy is the greatest! We’d be crazy to get someone this charismatic and just kill them.'” To fix this, a scene was added at the end showing Chad still alive. “I heard an audible, cathartic, gasp. You could feel people were so glad that he lived. That includes us.”
Then there was the fate of sweet, lovable Dewey, a legacy character who had been there since the beginning. Sadly, he was always meant to die, but when the studio started to get cold feet about the bold choice, they asked the directors to film another scene hinting that Dewey may have lived. “We very begrudgingly got one shot that you could put some voiceover over, like, ‘He woke up from surgery, he’s gonna be fine,’” Gillett said to Variety. “With no intention of ever fucking using it. Just to describe the shot, it was an over-the-shoulder from behind Gale and Sid of a doctor’s legs,” Bettinelli-Olpin added. “It was absolutely not really a usable shot. ‘Shot’ is very generous.”
Though perhaps Dewey had to die to raise the stakes, maybe the directors could have let him live anyway. Sure, those shots from the knife he took didn’t look at all survivable, but it’s not the first time he was stabbed by Ghostface and lived to tell about it. Despite the impossible odds, maybe he’ll pop up in a future sequel. It’s not likely, but one can hope.