Wes Craven Talks YEAH! and His Untold Stories
If they put Cursed on YEAH! you’d have a lot of stories, right?
[Laughs] Oh, God. Yeah, three films’ worth.
Three? I only knew about two.
Well, we shot the whole film except for the last act. Then they pulled the plug, we completely rewrote it and shot a new version and a last act. Then Bob [Weinstein] didn’t like the last act so we went out and shot a third last act.
Do you think we’ll ever see the first cut of that film, just as a study?
I’ll tell you, the thing that I’ve often thought of, and to my knowledge nobody’s done it, it would have to happen at the film school level. My last five films, you get your dailies on disc. So there you have the entire film on little CD discs. If you’re later in your career teaching film school, you can just take the discs and make copies and give all your students the same scene, all the dailies and just say, “Go make your own version of it.” It’s totally possible now. I think there will be a time where it will be a little bit like a mashup or like a remix is in music. They’ll say, “The Joe Blow Version of the Last House Materials.” Whatever scene in that will be completely different because it will be completely cut in a different style and it will have different sound effects and music. That to me is very interesting to explore the difference that the editor as an artist can bring to a film because it’s huge.
But in a situation like Cursed where you had some different cast members who didn’t end up in the final movie, would it be possible to release their footage?
Well, the dailies are there so you could cut a version of that first movie. I don’t know whether you would have a third act that would make any sense.
Scream 4 had some rewrites and reshoots as well, right? Not to that extent…
It had a huge amount as a matter of fact. It might be a little too recent to tell too much about it but yeah, there was a lot of rewriting. Kevin [Williamson] was the initial writer and then he had to go back to his television show, and we had Ehren Kruger and a lot of other people worked on it as well. That happened a lot in dealing with Miramax and Dimension.
With a series like Scream were those changes as significant as who turned out to be the killer, or who lived and died?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll give you an example. The initial idea of Scream 3 was the daughter of the principal of a high school has a group of friends and they decide to kill students. That was going to be the basic plot. It would be revealed that the Sidney Prescott sort of character turns out to be the killer. And then Columbine happened. [That story went] completely out the window. On Scream 2 Kevin sent us the first 40 pages. It was fabulous. The next day it was on the internet. When he sent it to LA, somebody in the mailing room or whatever made a copy, completely ruined. It was out there so back to rewriting. I think by the time we were shooting, Kevin again was out of the picture because he was doing “Dawson’s Creek” for the first time. We were chasing him for pages. There would be times when there were six or seven of us in a room, all the producers, myself and a couple writers just trying to figure out how the film ended. Courteney [Cox] and David [Arquette] would be making suggestions. It was wild. All those films were very fluid in the writing. Only the first one was based on a script that was intact from the very beginning.
The Nightmare on Elm Street remake didn’t reboot the franchise it seems. What do you think is the future of that series?
Serves ‘em right. Well, you know, I couldn’t get anybody interested in it except Bob Shaye so when he finally got the money, I had to sell away all rights. I was just glad it was going to get made. I don’t own any part of that picture, and now Bob Shaye, Warner Brothers has taken over that franchise so there wasn’t any communication between me and them, and I never went to see it.
Well, it was nice that you got to do New Nightmare with New Line as part of that series.
Yeah, that was great. I feel like I kind of took it to a new level with the self-awareness. I think in a way that was the springboard for Kevin to, instead of doing a movie about the filmmakers, he was doing a movie about the audience which was much smarter.
As I’ve grown up I’ve thought a lot about why we love characters like Freddy. I think as much as we love his powers and the kills, a lot of it has to do with the survivors who overcome their fears and beat him. He’s important because we need to find our power to face our fears. Do you think I’m on the right track there?
I think you are in the sense of it’s one of the big paradoxes that I think is quite profound and I’ve been trying to figure it out for years. When I was a kid, I used to read National Geographic all the time because you could see naked women, but you would see these indigenous tribes wearing the head of the jaguar in their ceremonies. I think it has to do with somebody representing something very, very scary that in a sense, I think because of his sense of humor, and because of Robert Englund being who he is which is a very warm, open guy, you can kind of take possession of it and cloak yourself in the evil in a way that you feel like you’re the meanest, scariest thing around.
I often quote the old thing G.I.s used to put on their helmet in Vietnam. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because I am the meanest motherf***er in the valley.” It’s that sense of dealing with fear by becoming even tougher than what you’re afraid of. That sort of mask-ness of being able to put on a mask to scare you allows an audience to feel like they’re somehow in control of it. Then Freddy becomes something you can put into not lethal acting outs, but you can feel like you can crack a joke and be kind of tough and nobody’s going to screw with you. That’s the best idea I can put on it.
I remember doing a personal appearance with Robert once in San Francisco. The theme of it turned out to be, once we were sitting in the green room watching the first part of the morning show, they were interviewing this child psychologist saying these things were injurious to children and they were going to be going out and killing their sisters. Then we came out and the parents had been sitting with their children, that was the interesting thing. So the children were totally silent through the whole thing of the psychologist saying they were going to be devastated by Freddy. Then we walked out and all the kids stood up and started chanting, “Freddy! Freddy!” Robert waved and said, “You’re all my children now.” The parents were like just kind of horrified, but at the same time like the kids don’t seem traumatized. What’s the big deal? So it was great.