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Exclusive: Wes Craven 'Screams' for Mercy

So there is this new director floating about... I have heard good things about him, and I really think he is going to go far in this industry. His name is Wes Craven. 

Yeah, we all know and love Wes. His most recent film, the long-awaited Scream 4, is out on blu-ray and DVD today. We talk to the horror legend about Scream 4 and... romantic comedies?

What brought you back for the fourth Scream movie?

The idea of more fun. The idea of working with another Kevin [Williamson] script. Working with Courtney [Cox] and David [Arquette] and Neve [Campbell] again. I really liked this storyline. I thought it was exciting. And I love directing. There is nothing else in a business sense that I would like to do. It was one of those opportunities where I thought, "Let's go."

The horror genre keeps pulling you back in. What is it about the genre that keeps you coming back? Or did you get pigeon-holed into this genre?

I put that behind me a long time ago. I think I have been working on stuff that is really unique, and creatively very strong. Rather than worrying that I am not doing my romantic comedy or whatever, I just like working on stuff that does have embedded in it romantic comedy. I mean, Courtney and David's characters are very much romantic comedy. The Scream films have everything, really: it has serious social commentary, it's a murder mystery, it is a film about kids... it is so rich in its content that I have never felt that I'm just doing a horror film [with Scream]. I think that is the reason I am comfortable coming back to it. 

There has been a lot of talk that this is the start of a new Scream trilogy. Is there any merit to that?

The way this has worked from the very beginning is that Bob Weinstein and Kevin will talk ideas back and forth. Sometimes that process will take a year; in this case, it took about... I would say five years before Bob started thinking about a new trilogy. Maybe not even that long. So it is conversations between the writer and Bob until Bob finds a script that he likes. Then Bob will call me up and say, "Hey, are you up for something? Here's what we've got." And then that dialogue becomes between three people instead of two people. So right now, I think Bob is casting about for who the writer might be and what the concept might be. I tend not to get involved until they have at least a basic outline. Sometimes a first act.

There are a lot of deleted scenes included on the blu-ray for Scream 4. Was that because of the MPAA? Was it just timing and flow issues?

It was just to streamline, really, and not have a film that was overly long. By and large, there was nothing that I felt bad about losing... with the exception of the scene at the crime scene - what we call the crime scene. Dewey is at the scene where the one girl is hanging from the ceiling and the other girl is in the chair. Some of us thought it was a really strong scene and should have been in there because it showed that the killer was doing something eerily similar to Scream 1 - the end of the first act of Scream 1 with Drew Barrymore hanging and her boyfriend in the chair. Bob really didn't feel it was needed. The working relationship in general is give-and-take. If one person felt really, really strongly about something, the other person would yield. That was a case were Bob strongly felt it didn't belong in the picture so we took it out. I frankly think it would have been better to leave it in, but I don't think it hurt the picture.

There were alternate openings and endings to Scream 4. Were those there to throw crew members off the scent and prevent internet spoilers?

[Laughs.] No, we don't have the luxury for that. There was an original opening that involved Neve and a dinner party with her and her friends, celebrating the publishing of her book. Then Kevin came up with the alternative which became the opening of the picture. The feeling was it would be stronger to start with characters that were more around the age of the audience, as opposed to a bunch of middle aged people.

There was always that struggle, that we didn't want to just make this picture for the fans of the original Scream films, and make it a film about Sidney. On the other hand, Sidney was a very powerful character, and people would want her to have an active part. Obviously, the plot was built around someone who wanted to become Sidney. It was just looking for that balance. 

What is the division of the audience: is it younger audiences who want to see a slasher flick, or is it older fans who grew up with the Scream franchise?

There was a very strong contingent of people who grew up with the series, but I think we also brought in a lot of new fans. Because of the nature of the cast, with all these young actors and actresses who are well known to younger audiences, I think we got about 50% younger audiences, 40% older - audiences in their 30s and 40s - which is unusual for a genre film.

And what about that missing 10%?

People like me in their 80s and 90s [laughs]. There is a hidden audience [that I have discovered], in all my years of doing this, and talking to kids at conventions or in fan mail. There are a lot of people who watch [horror] at a very young age, once the DVD comes out, because their older brothers or sisters are watching it, and want to scare their younger siblings! A lot of [viewers] are much younger than the MPAA would like to think. They are watching films at seven, eight, nine years old and becoming fans.

The first horror film I ever saw was Nightmare on Elm Street 4 at age 10, and it was all downhill from there, so it holds true.

There ya go! 

What are you working on now?

Right now, my wife, Iya Labunka - who produces with me - and I made a pact to take some time off. Just before Scream 4 we had done My Soul to Take. Both were tough films to make; a lot of pressure, a lot of physical exertion, so we are taking some time off. In the background though, we do have a deal in the works with a company to make three comic books based on a concept of mine, then possibly making movies - or a movie - based on said comic books. That is underway, but at the very beginning of getting things figured out. I'm also outlining a book on what I like to call the first 40 years of my career, and I am also working on a children's book. Again, those are in the very early stages, but I am certainly thinking about them all the time. I'm also doing a TED Conference speech in October on what fear is, the elements of fear, and how that can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.