Interview with Kevin Williamson: “The Scream Movies are Coded for Gay Survival”

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B.In the late 1990s, everyone in American entertainment spoke like Kevin Williamson. Or maybe that’s because he wrote most of it. As the storyteller behind the Scream films and Dawson’s Creek – as well as I know what you did last summer and later, the Vampire Diaries – Williamson invented the postmodern teenager. His characters were neurotic, articulate, and spoke in film references since he was on a diet by Quentin and Tarantino. grew up Weekly entertainment Magazine.

“They were unique for their time,” says Williamson. “Scream was a new way of making a horror film, a deconstruction. And all up Dawson’s Creek talked like pop psychologists, but they talked a lot about real things. Despite the glamor of the nineties, it also has a lot of honesty about it. That was the magic of it. “

That’s why they lived forever. Scream turns 25 this month and a fifth film in the series – confusingly, too Scream – will be released in January. Dawson’s Creek is a Netflix hit, as star Joshua Jackson recently shared The independent one that he’s endlessly harassed by teenage fans who weren’t alive when it was actually shot. The most recent TV reboot of I know what you did last summer just reminded people how much more fun the original is.

Williamson’s characters are often multifaceted, deceptively complex, and written with real care. Dawson’s Creek Understand that teenagers can be incredibly stupid and cruel, but also wise beyond their years. The Scream films – those written by Williamson, at least – defy traditional slasher film cannon fodder and instead drive home the tragedy of life ripped from them. Drew Barrymore and Jada Pinkett Smith appear in the opening scenes of, respectively Scream and Scream 2 only to die horribly, but Williamson gives both characters such a personality that kicking the bucket makes you sick. Those we have followed for 25 years – including Neve Campbell’s tortured heroine Sidney Prescott and Courteney Cox’s ambitious reporter Gale Weathers – have grown and evolved, the weight of maturity and trauma on their shoulders.

Williamson enjoys the renewed appreciation of his early work. On the phone from Los Angeles, the 56-year-old speaks to the jovial manner of an old friend, finds out about the latest British-American Covid protocols and spreads off-the-record gossip in a playful way. He describes himself as a “late bloomer,” and he doesn’t intend to write about teenagers that often. “When I ventured to Hollywood, I was of legal age for the second time. Everything was new, everything was a first. When I was 29, I experienced my first love and all the emotions that young people feel. It just poured out of me. “

Characters and storylines in Dawson’s Creek were known to be autobiographical, but what about Scream? When he was growing up, it was Williamson’s favorite movie Halloween, which Scream apparently indebted to him, but says the plight of Sidney – a teenager with a murdered mother and a friend who may be a psychopath – is also ingrained in his own experiences. “One of the things I’ve struggled with is trust, and Sidney didn’t trust anyone,” he explains. “Did she really know her mother? Is your boyfriend who he claims to be? In the end she didn’t even trust herself. “

Sidney’s enduring strength in the face of horror not only made her the latest incarnation of the slasher film “Final Girl” – aka the smart, virginal teenager who always managed to outsmart the killer – it also brought up Williamson’s own sexuality. “As a gay kid, I was referring to the last girl and her struggle because that’s also what you have to do to survive as a young gay kid. You watch this girl survive the night and survive the trauma she suffers. Subconsciously, I think the Scream films are coded on gay survival. ”However, he adds that their consistent cast is women who are loved by gay men – like Laurie Metcalf, Parker Posey, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Carrie Fisher – was more of a coincidence than a major queer conspiracy. “It just happened!” he laughs. “It’s a gay universe I think.”

Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox on “Scream” next month

(Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group)

In the course of Scream, Williamson became a hot commodity and one of the few screenwriters whose name was featured on movie posters as prominently as the actual stars. He describes himself as a “10 Year Overnight Success” for having drifted through Hollywood for a decade before anyone noticed him. However, when he became famous, he fought. “It was really fast and I wasn’t ready for it. I was also afraid that everything would go away. “He took so many opportunities that he was inevitably burned out.” There were two or three years I didn’t think I slept. I never want to go back to that . “

Meanwhile, the Scream films had become a money machine for Bob Weinstein’s Dimension Films. The first Scream – with its cast of relatively unknowns and a director, Wes Craven, who had his smash hit long behind him A nightmare on Elm Street – was shot without major incident. Production of the sequels was a different story and was defined by speed and chaos.

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“We had a wonderful time doing it Scream 2, but it was just quick, ”Williamson recalls. “Scream 3 was a product of being busy. ”He wrote the script for Halloween H20, Directed the dark comedy Teaching Mrs. Tingle and ran two TV shows and was asked to somehow squeeze another scream into it. “[Dimension] wanted it yesterday. I told them please I think I’ll die if you make me write a new scream. They didn’t want to wait. ”He put together a 30-page storyline sketch that was then developed by Craven and another writer, Ehren Kruger. The resulting film was a critical disappointment and tonal everywhere. It put the series on hold.

Scream 4… “Williamson sighs. “When you have a big successful franchise and money is at stake, suddenly it becomes a studio-owned property. You can touch it and it is no longer your baby. ”Done a decade later Scream 3, the fourth entry in the series was a slight return to form but still had too many cooks in the kitchen. It was a difficult set with Williamson’s script being manipulated by numerous other parties and Craven reportedly unhappy. He died in 2015 and went away Scream 4 his last film. The motif of the film’s killer – a teenager so desperate for instant fame that he usurped Sidney as America’s most popular “celebrity victim” – was Williamson’s motive. It wasn’t much of the rest.

That’s partly why he didn’t want to be involved in a fifth. When he and Craven were discussing a trilogy of new films, he told me, “We said maybe it is time to pass the baton and let a younger, fresher writer, closer to a teenager, write these stories. “So if a fifth Scream – is co-written and staged by the team behind the thriller 2019 Ready or Not – Became a reality, he resisted. “I said no five times,” he laughs. “And then one day I finally woke up and said, ‘Um, can I be there?’ I didn’t want it to happen without me. “

Williamson was received with great enthusiasm by the film’s directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett – they were enormous themselves Scream Fans – hanging out on the set, meeting the cast and crew, and giving advice whenever they needed it. Since then he has seen the new film “seven or eight times”. “I’m very critical,” he says, admitting that he was nervous about not liking it because “they all wanted to know what I think of it”. He loved it, however. “It’s really good and a lot of fun. If you like the first one Scream, I think you will have a great time. “

He even got a little junked over some of it. “It’s amazing – when Sidney Prescott shows up, you’re like aww.” It’s comforting to even know that Scream‘s own creator can’t help but get nostalgic at Neve Campbell.

‘Scream’ hits theaters on January 14th


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