Yes, it really has been 20 years.
It was in 1996 that writer Kevin Williamson, director Wes Craven, and a cast of young stars made horror movie history with Scream, a meta slasher film that deconstructed the genre and, in many ways, changed the whole damn game. Scream is one of the most iconic and fondly remembered horror films of all time, but like all classic movies, it has the humblest of origin stories.
Speaking with Consequences of Sound in celebration of Scream‘s 20th anniversary, Matthew Lillard recalls that he thought very little of the movie at the time it was being made.
He told the site:
It was a tiny, little horror movie that’s gonna mean nothing. That was my mindset. This is not a big moment. This is not an important film. This is not anything special. I remember being on set and watching Wes pull these masks out of boxes because they didn’t have a mask for the movie. The movie had already started shooting, and they were scrambling to find a fucking mask.
Courtney Cox was a celebrity, but not a box office draw. Nobody had ever heard of Skeet [Ulrich], and Neve [Campbell] was that girl from Party of Five. [But] that lends itself to the success of the film. Nobody expected it. There was no thumb on it. There was nobody testing it 12 times. There’s not a battery of people rewriting the ending or executives who went to Harvard telling us how to write and do a movie. It was Wes Craven, who had done it his whole life, making the best movie he could.
Lillard, who of course played the villainous Stu Macher in the film, recalled that studios at the time were making a conscious effort to not date their movies to that specific period of time, but Scream dared to do quite the opposite. And that’s what made it so special.
Right before Scream, there was a real push to make movies ‘evergreen,’ meaning don’t date them and stay away from popular references so that if I turn it on in 20 years, I could think it was today. One of the things that [screenwriter] Kevin [Williamson] did was to throw out this idea of ‘let it be forevermore,’ and let’s fucking tag it for right now and lean into the moment of right now.
Even today, Lillard seems fairly unsure why Scream has become so beloved, and he doesn’t even think all that highly of the film. During the interview he calls it “rather pedestrian” aside from the great opening sequence and the final act, and chalks the enduring love up to nostalgia.
“I have no idea why Scream is such a big deal,” he admits.