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Matthew Lillard Reflects on ‘Scream’ 20 Years Later; “Nobody Expected It”

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.

Explains Lillard:

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.




  • Joseph Sheldahl

    Yeah, I’m with Lillard on this. I liked it, but I don’t get why it was so huge.

  • CLK

    Rude coward.

    • PsychoMantis18


    • John Squires

      How so? I think it’s more that people who are directly involved in creating the art we love can’t ever really see for themselves how great it is. That’s all.

      • Adam Paquette

        That’s true. Did you know Johnny Depp won’t watch any of his own movies?

        • Mike Morkin

          Who would nowdays…

  • Creepshow

    But Scooby-Doo on the other hand….had instant classic written all over it.

    • PsychoMantis18


    • Grimphantom

      However if it wasn’t for Scooby Doo we wouldn’t get a new voice for Shaggy in the new scooby doo cartoons(Mystery Inc. one of the best) and have James Gunn direct Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy

  • cduns

    I can’t help but feel like he’s being a little, idk, disrespectful towards what that movie did for him. What other really successful movie was he in? And his narrative about Scream being this no big deal horror movie blip on the radar is contradicted by Williamson, Weinstein, and others in Scream: The Inside Stort and Still Screaming. There was a bidding war for Willaimson’s script, and once Drew Barrymore was attached or drew a lot of attention. It by no means was a sure hit, and they certainly had typical production hurdles, but he’s being way too non-chalant about his expectations on set. I’m sure he was very happy at the time to be attached to the project.

    • Grimphantom

      Dude, everyone had their moment of thinking the movie would be a big hit or why it’s popular. Take Kevin Bacon for example with Tremors, he even said it was the worst thing he ever made but later saw why people like it so much and appreciate what he had done, towards why he wants to return to the franchise.

      I bet he thought the same when he appeared on Friday the 13th.

  • Maxime C

    It’s huge for the same reasons we’ve read over and over again since ( and Lillard says it himself ): NOBODY EXPECTED IT.
    Horror was at one of its lowest periods quality-wise, the biggest star of the poster died within the first 10 minutes ( legendary opening ) and the whole movie felt like Wes Craven knew how to please us.
    That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
    That was a time when jump scares weren’t the ultimate scare people were looking for, that’s as simple as that.

  • REC03

    This is the best movie he has ever been in, i mean not quit as good as Summer Catch, 13 Ghosts and Scooby Doo but pretty damn good. he should be more respectful to Wes tbh. RIP!

    • Matt Graupman

      A LOT of people would disagree with me (and I totally get why) but I still think “Hackers” is a great (and dumb) movie; Lillard as Cereal Killer in it was awesome.

  • KSE1977

    I love when a cast member of a beloved piece says something fans don’t like and they attack the actor. Gotta love the internet, where everybody’s opinion matters until it contradicts your personal viewpoint.

  • Grimphantom

    Can’t you blame the guy? I mean that’s probably the key for some who worked in horror movies, don’t think too high about it thinking that “oh it’s gonna be a success, i know it!” Lillard did his job, that’s what he got paid for and nothing else.

    He didn’t have this in mind where the movie will be successful or think that he will be immortalized by playing one of the killers. Lillard is not the only one i mean we have the obvious example like Kevin Bacon with Tremors, Johnny Depp it’s probably he didn’t thought much of Nightmare on Elm Street too heck probably Bruce Campbell with Evil Dead if it wasn’t for being friends with Sam Raimi(it’s possible, not from true source)

    So lets not be too harsh on Lillard, he’s not being disrespectful as he only gives his point of view of the movie.

  • Saturn

    He’s on the mark about Scream (I find it highly over-rated personally) – it had a great intro and a fantastic ending – but the 70 minutes or so inbetween? Meh.
    Is it a great movie, like many believe? To me, no – hell, to me, it’s not even the best slasher movie CALLED Scream.

  • Halloween_Vic

    Scream is fucking epic and one of the best horror films ever made period!!! What Halloween did for Horror and Slasher films in the late 70’s early 80’s, Scream did in the 90’s. But 20 years Damm I feel old I’m about to be 26 and I remember being 6 watching the first one. Good times man, we don’t get movies like that anymore.

  • OmarComin’

    He was such a douche in Dead Man’s Curve.

  • SVSLee

    Great film, and the soundtrack is immense. Loved Lillard’s character too.

    Thought the sequels were awful, mind (the ones I’ve seen).

  • Thrash13

    Well, it’s my favorite movie of all time! I enjoyed his role in it just as I enjoyed the other characters. It had such a great blend of jump-scares, comedy, and the classic “who’s the killer” intrigue all wrapped into one movie. It’s pretty easy to see why it did so well and also why it has such a great legacy in the horror industry.

  • Runciter

    I was expecting people to talk shit about Scream in the comments, I’m glad I was wrong.
    Never understood why The Cabin in the Woods is so appreciated by fans, while a lot of them are calling Scream a dumb teen movie.
    Both movies were spoofing the usual horror movie tropes, but Scream twisted them in a very smart, creative, and fun way, while TCitW (which is still not a bad movie BTW) was basically just listing them one by one, crossing out boxes on a list.

    • Saturn

      I don’t think (well I hope not) that us old skoolers are gonna come out and actually bash Scream per se – but I reckon many of us are going to be of the opinion that it was a pretty good movie, but a little over-rated and not deserving of the hype that it got at the time. But, perhaps it’s the whole “age” thang?
      Maybe it’s the whole “it’s a movie of MY age” thing?

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