Just days after the release of Scream (2022), I had a chance to catch up with one of the producers of the film, Marianne Maddalena, who was Wes Craven's closest and most frequent creative partner and main producer for over 20 years. She knew exactly how to create an effective environment for Wes to create his art, and she personally helped shape some of the most iconic moments and images in Horror, including discovering the mask while location scouting that we now all know as Ghostface.
You produced some of Wes Craven's most iconic films, including Shocker, The People Under the Stairs, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and Wes Craven's New Nightmare. How did you first meet Wes and eventually become his main producer and creative collaborator? What worked that led to that?
I was working in Hollywood with the goal of being a producer. A friend of mine was producing a movie called Deadly Friend, and told me that Wes Craven was directing and needed an assistant. He asked if I would be interested in the job. I said, of course, I would love to come in and meet Wes. So, we set the appointment, and I went to Warner Brothers to meet him. He was very funny, and we clicked. The wonderful thing was that having said that I wanted to be a producer, Wes took it upon himself to include me in every aspect of filmmaking. He took me into casting sessions, to the horror of Marion Dougherty, the casting director, who was a huge casting director at the time. Assistants didn't normally get to be in the room for casting sessions. I was included at the scoring sessions, locations scouts, and he mentored me through the whole movie. We did Deadly Friend and then went on to The Serpent and the Rainbow. While filming on location in Haiti, we had so many emergencies and horrible production problems, and we got through them well together, and I think Wes just felt I had the right stuff. Then he gave me my first producing gig on Shocker.
There's a strong feminist element in many of Wes Craven's films, which helped to define the Final Girl archetype. Often it's a strong female character that ultimately has to destroy the evil in the story. Was this aspect important to you and Wes when deciding what projects to develop?
It was just natural. It wasn't even a discussion. He was attracted to telling stories from a female POV, I think because of me and his daughter, he was very interested in stories about strong powerful women getting through difficult situations.
Was the character of Sidney Prescott being such a great example of this something that stood out when you first read Kevin Williamson's script for Scream?
Absolutely, I mean, don't forget we had just done New Nightmare, and that was very much about Heather Langenkamp's personal journey, and it very much mirrored her personal life. She obviously was, and is, a very strong woman, and with Kevin's script, it was everything we wanted. We loved the story of Sidney, and it had every element that we were attracted to in general.
I, of course, have to ask you to tell the story of how the mask used for Ghostface in Scream was found and ultimately used in the film.
We were working with KNB Effects Group on the mask design in LA before we flew up to Santa Rosa to prep and shoot. As the script described the killer as only wearing a 'ghost mask' with no description of the mask or costume, we had to come up with it. KNB had a lot of design sketches and sculptures, but we had not found the look, and it was getting late. We were scouting a house for Tatum, and I went up to this little bedroom upstairs, and I saw the mask. It was the mask, but it had a white shroud. I took it, and I ran downstairs and showed it to, I think, Bruce Miller, the production designer, Wes, and probably Nick Mastandrea, our first AD. I said 'oh my god, you guys, look at this mask! How about this?', and they said, no, we don't like it. We don't like this mask - We want to create our own mask'. Wes was very much into owning it and creating whatever we were going to use, so I just felt like, 'seriously, you don't like this?' 'You're not even going to consider it?' And he said, 'no, no, no, not at all.' I don't like it.' So, I begrudgingly put it back in the bedroom.
A couple of weeks went by, and we still couldn't come up with anything everyone could agree on, and we were getting very close to shooting - it was getting very tense. So I said, 'why don't we call that lady and see if she's thrown away the mask or still has it and at least see it again?' I thought, who knows, maybe she cleaned the house and threw it away! Bruce Miller sent the location manager over there, and sure enough, he came back with it and I got Wes to take another look at it, and he said, 'let's go with it,' and we finally made a decision! Of course, we had to call and get the rights from Fun World. It was a mass-produced Halloween mask, and the rights cost some money. Cary Granant negotiated the deal with Fun World, and we got the rights. Even at this point Wes still really wanted to make his own version so he said 'okay I like it, but I want to change the shape just a bit', so we did and KNB did make their own sculpture of it with a few alterations. We started shooting the opening sequence with it and realized very quickly that the original mask was perfect so then we went back to the original mask.
Besides you finding the mask, there are so many others involved whose huge and integral contributions really helped make the film what it is today. For example, Bruce Miller designed and built the whole front entrance of the house for the film to better suit the script and designed the famous large stained glass windows.
Yes, he did, and originally the larger windows didn't have the stained glass, but he found a few doors in the house that had small panes of stained glass above them, I think, and decided to bring and expand that element to add more character to the interior and exterior scenes of the house.
Yeah, it's great. It almost subconsciously brings to mind a haunted house. Now in the new film, they've completely recreated it down to every detail. Someone else who I also think deserves more credit for his contributions is Richard Potter, who was the head of the story department at Dimension Films and who was the first to read the script there, right? Was he also involved with getting you and Wes on board?
Yes, he was very much involved, and in fact, we had actually been developing The Haunting with Richard and Bob Weinstein, and I don't really know what happened with that… I think Wes finally just passed on it and said to Richard, 'look, I really want to work with you, but I don't think The Haunting is the one.' So, of course, Richard then kept Wes in mind, and when Scream came along, we all still wanted to work together, and eventually, Wes accepted the job. But, yes, Richard was a huge part of it creatively and really pushed Bob Weinstein to option the script and lit his hair on fire to get everyone to read it very quickly at Dimension. Sometimes you have a studio executive that you don't want anything to do with and don't want to have them on set, but we loved Richard, and he was so helpful and respectful to Wes and had such good ideas. We were lucky to have him with us.
What was Wes's directing style like? Was he quite prepared with a plan as far as exactly what shots he wanted? How did he give direction and feedback to the cast?
Wes was very prepared. He always came up with a shot list and was very meticulous. Wes, in his own life, loved to write manuals for everything in his house. So he was very mechanical in this way, and he made really great shot lists. I mean, when you're working fifty, sixty days straight, you don't always have time, and of course, if the director comes in without a shot list, the AD, the cinematographer, the line producer, and everybody else freaks out. But he usually came prepared with his shot list, and of course, we'd look at it and freak out if it was more than about twenty-three shots. It could, at times, be a little too ambitious.
As far as directing actors, he was very respectful, quiet, and never impatient. Actors really responded to Wes. He really was an actor's director. I remember when he was directing Drew in the opening sequence, they had spent a lot of time in prep, and Wes knew how much Drew loved animals, as she's an advocate for animal safety. He said something really graphic and terrifying to her about, I'm sure you've heard this, an article about a puppy who was mistreated because he had seen what an emotional response this caused her, just talking about it, and that was one part of how he got the performance out of Drew. I remember that night, shooting the exteriors of that home, and I remember the night he did that. I didn't know at the time what he had said until an hour later. It really worked! Obviously, we know that scene is so heart-wrenching, so he knew what to say. He really got to know the actors and figured out how to get the right performances. It can be a manipulative job, being a director, and he would figure it out.
You sent me a great photo of you with Kevin Williamson, and Drew Barrymore is in full bloody mid-murder makeup taken during the filming of the opening sequence. Was Kevin on set throughout the production?
Kevin was on the set the whole time. He was thrilled to death to be there, and we were thrilled to have him. He was extremely helpful as he could rewrite to locations. It was great to have him there.
It's great it worked out that way. It sounds like that initial week or so was quite difficult to get that opening sequence shot and cut so you could finally prove yourselves.
It was really hard! Bob Weinstein tortured us. After the first few days of filming and seeing only dailies, Bob called Wes up and said, 'I don't like the dailies, the footage is workman-like at best, and I hate the mask!' I was dying inside because I thought I was so cool that I'd solved this huge problem. He literally called me up and said, 'I don't care what you do, tomorrow go buy ten different masks and shoot the Henry Winkler scene ten different ways. Now, we couldn't do that, because of course we would have had to clear the rights to all ten masks and there weren't that many stores in Santa Rosa that had masks. Wes was devastated, and he told Drew, and everybody was upset, it was awful. Luckily, we had Patrick Lussier, our editor, who cut the first sequence to camera and had sound effects and music, and we sent Bob the entire scene. Bob said, 'the scene works great, what do I know about dailies?' I was so happy. I was feeling so good, and then feeling so bad when Bob called and said he hated the mask. It was a crazy heart-wrenching week. Funny enough, I was talking to Guillermo del Toro last night, and he told me that while he was working on Mimic, he was in Bob's office, and Bob was saying that he hated Wes' dailies and that Wes was too old and he was just shooting a girl on the phone talking for ten minutes and that he was going to fire Wes!
The final act of the original Scream has some really incredible, powerful performances in it. What were some of your personal favorite moments?
There are so many! I loved shooting the last sequence of Scream. The mania with Stu and Billy and the blood and the feathers from the down pillows from the sofa everywhere. I loved the whole thing. I loved what Courteney was wearing, that leather trench coat, I loved everything about it. We did think Wes had gone mad a little bit. We didn't know that the sofa cushions would have feathers, so once Billy stabbed through them when there was blood everywhere, the feathers were sticking to everything. We did think Wes had gone a little crazy, but we went with it. The first AD, Nick Mastendrea, called the sequence 'people live, people die' on the call sheet. We really just had the best time. It was an epic experience filming that week.
The third act of the new film also takes place at Stu's house and has some very intense moments as well. What was it like reading James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick's script and meeting directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett for the first time when you came on board as executive producer of the new film?
I was so thrilled because I loved their movie Ready Or Not and thought they were the perfect choice. They're so nice and so respectful of our work from the first four movies. They're funny and kind. James and Guy are fabulous writers who developed and wrote such a great script. I was really just so impressed with them and loved working with them.
Were you excited, shocked, or otherwise surprised at some of the more bold choices and directions of the script?
I was concerned about some choices as far as how the audience would react, but you've got to make tough decisions in a scary movie. The writers and directors were so obsessed with Scream and really understood the layering of the history and the characters. They just did such an amazing job and had such an incredible attitude, and again if you really think about the age of the writers and directors, they were kind of thirteen when they first saw Scream, and for many of them, it changed their lives. They were never the same, so how great is that? That you're really working with fans from around age thirteen, who are now big writers and big directors and really taking care of your franchise. So I don't know how we got so lucky to find this group. But I think in the end, it really, really works.
It's 25 years now since the exact time you and Wes were going out and promoting the first film. The premiere for the new film was canceled but did you get to do anything? Did you go to any screenings with the new cast and crew?
Yes! We were so bummed to hear the premiere had been canceled, which was going to be held at Paramount. As everyone knows, things are canceled due to COVID, but we were invited to a small cast screening at Sherman Oaks Galleria. It was very small, we were only allowed one guest, and even though the theatre was maybe an eighth filled, the audience reaction of those plus ones, people who hadn't seen the movie, were so strong. People were clapping and cheering and crying. It was just a great experience and wonderful to be with the new cast as well as Court, David, Skeet, and of course Matthew Lillard, who was there along with Roger Jackson.
On opening night, I went with all the other producers, the writers, the directors, and some of the cast members, and we got to drive around LA and pop into screenings of the movie at Universal, AMC Burbank, Century City. The cast came and they did this great thing where they showed a few trailers and said they were having a technical problem, and then the actors entered and introduced the film. It was so cute, and we met so many people who were such huge fans. One guy had seen it seven times in twenty-four hours. It was crazy. Then we all ended up going to David Arquette's nightclub, Bootsy Bellows, and drank tequila shots. It was just an epic night. Mirroring what I had done with Wes twenty-five years ago to the day for the opening of the first Scream minus the tequila.
I've noticed on your website that leading up to the release of the new film, you have been adding all kinds of media from your films and a lot of rare photos and images related to the creation and origins of the Ghostface that you originally found. It seems to have a more complicated history than most fans realize. Are you still fascinated by the mask to this day? There's a huge community of people who know every last thing about it and all the subtly different sculpts of the design made over the years, many of which were made to keep up with the demand for the mask after the huge success of the films.
Well, it's just a thrill to me because I knew when I first laid eyes on that mask that it was special and magical. I'm fascinated with the origins and if you go to my website you can see some of the earliest designs of what would become the mask and it's still a mystery to uncover just who exactly came up with the original design and how it ultimately ended up being used in Scream and became this cultural icon. I love learning about it, so I'm pretty obsessed with the mask and I'm so glad that so many other people are.
After seeing it, I think it really opened the door to really exciting new possibilities for future Scream movies. Do you think there's the potential to continue the story even further?
I think so. Judging from the box office, I think we'll maybe have some good news soon.
As a huge Wes Craven fan, I was so moved by the really clever ways they paid homage to Wes, not only in the film but even just with all the great things the cast and crew have said during the making of the film. The whole hashtag 'for Wes' really paid off and was so thoughtful and I think really showed their appreciation for Wes and his work. When you remember Wes now, five years after his passing, what memories usually come to mind?
Wes and I just had such a strong friendship, and we just did so much. We worked so hard. We played hard. We traveled all over the world. We really had fun going on the publicity tours doing the press junkets. We went to Australia, Japan, Germany, France, England, Belgium. We had a ball, and he was game for anything. I would find adventures to do in Sydney, or when we were in Melbourne, I got Bruce Springsteen tickets. At the last minute we went sailing in Sydney. In Tokyo, we went out one night drinking sake and eating sashimi, and standing up outside little bars. We just always had a blast. I loved to travel, and Wes was game. He didn't care what we did. I would just arrange everything. So Wes would work all day doing a hundred interviews for a junket, and then I would be negotiating a day off, I would sort of produce the day off, and we'd have fun. Even during the productions of our movies, I would produce dinner parties, wrap parties, and he liked it all and was just like I said, game for anything. We just had a great partnership and we worked really hard. Wes was a really hard worker. He was tireless. He could walk twenty flights of stairs, he could do anything. He knew how to contain himself to save his energy for his work. Eventually, he would start watching movies with headphones on, on the set. That was his way to relax while he waited on set for the camera. Even though he was too young for the war, he was kind of wartime tough, and he could work seven days a week. He loved it and never really complained. As we worked so much, our philosophy was to make it fun. We were a big family.
It just sounds like he found in you someone who simply could help him be the artist he was and create the art he needed to create.
Exactly, I think that's why we clicked as business partners and really good friends because he was quite shy and he had not traveled a great deal in his life. He came from Cleveland, and he hadn't been a gypsy traveler like I had been. But he was game and we just made the most of it. We shot in Haiti, we shot in the Dominican Republic, and we always had a party as much as we were working. We had an incredible crew and had a great time.
Marianne and Roger Jackson
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Marianne
Photos courtesy of Marianne Maddalena. Ryan Hills is a contributor and writer for Scream-Thrillogy as well as administrator for the largest online Scream collecting group, Scream & Ghostface Collectors on Facebook.