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Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich Reveal If They’re in New ‘Scream’ Movie and Reflect on Original’s 25th Anniversary

Scream
Paramount

“Do you like scary movies?”

Nearly 25 years ago, “Scream” lit up theaters and revolutionized the horror genre. Directed by bloody maestro Wes Craven, the 1996 slasher flick poked fun at horror tropes of the ’70s and ’80s, delighted audiences with its buckets of blood and churned out four more sequels, the latest of which hits theaters in early 2022 and is aptly named “Scream.”

The original film starred a young cast with bright futures, though not all of their characters survived until the credits rolled. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are series mainstays, but the original “Scream” cast included Drew Barrymore, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy and Rose McGowan as high schoolers terrorized by a killer in a ghostly mask. Throughout the film, the movie-obsessed friends debate the identity of Ghostface and share tips on surviving a horror movie, including don’t have sex, don’t drink or do drugs and never say “I’ll be right back.” In the twist ending, Ulrich’s and Lillard’s characters are revealed to be the killers, having turned psycho from their obsessions with horror films.

Debuting on Dec. 20, 1996, “Scream” had just a budget of $14 million and went on to collect $173 million worldwide throughout its lifetime. The original film is the highest-grossing of its sequels, and the entire series is one of the top-grossing horror franchises of all time, behind greatest hits like “Halloween,” “Saw,” “It” and “The Conjuring” universe. In honor of the big anniversary, Paramount is releasing a 4K Ultra HD version of “Scream” on Blu-ray on October 19.

The latest installment of the “Scream” franchises, slashing its way into theaters on Jan. 14, 2022, sees Campbell, Cox and Arquette return with a host of new characters who must survive a new wave of murders from — who else — another Ghostface.

To celebrate the upcoming 25th anniversary of “Scream,” Variety caught up with Lillard and Ulrich to reflect on the legacy of the film, reminisce on working with the late Craven and reveal if their characters are well and truly dead after meeting their demise in the original film.

When “Scream” first came out, did you ever think you’d be here 25 years later discussing its legacy?

Matthew Lillard: The short answer is no way. I think we’re surprised, but we love it. It holds an emotional place for all of us because we were so young and had an incredible experience shooting the movie. Going into it, none of us had any idea, right?

Skeet Ulrich: No, I couldn’t even think two years in advance, let alone 25 years in advance.

Lillard: I want to say, though, I do think that every movie I’ve ever been in, I always go in and leave the movie like, “This is gonna be incredible. It’s ‘Wing Commander,’ and I think 25 years from now we are still going to be talking about how incredible ‘Wing Commander’ was.” It turns out, it doesn’t always happen that way.

Was there a moment after “Scream” released when you realized it was going to be a big deal?

Ulrich: I was living on a farm in a very small town in Virginia not long after the film came out. Pre-social media, the only thing you had any notion of was box office in terms of a popularity. I think IMDb message boards were just starting to become a thing. There was really no barometer for what this was, certainly for me being in a small town. I imagine if you lived in New York you had an impression walking down the street, and I’m sure Neve got bombarded with people at the time. I really had no idea, except for the fact that it just kept continuing to make money. That was when we kind of had an inkling this thing was very successful. For a long stretch of time, I didn’t think about it much at all. Then I started doing horror conventions six or seven years ago and was introduced to this subculture that’s still rabid about it and passed it down generation to generation. Then I started to realize there was something different about this movie, something that continues to to reach people. I’m no psychologist, but whatever that is, it gets to people still.

What is your favorite memory from working with Wes Craven?

Lillard: Soon after the movie came out, we had a celebratory dinner at his house. He was one of those people who was great at telling stories. Because we were all so young and we went into that movie relatively naive in our careers, there was something very paternal about him. He was definitely a father figure to a lot of us. He loved us so much. I think the original cast represented this rebirth for his career, and he was super proud of it. He was certainly a father figure to me in this business, without a doubt.

Now that you’re both parents, how has the movie changed for you, looking back on it?

Lillard: I never even thought about that, that’s so creepy.

Ulrich: Am I raising a serial killer?

Lillard: Exactly. I remember being young and all of a sudden there were moments where people were doing horrific things and calling on “Scream” and realizing the power that the movie had on people. I don’t really directly relate the movie to my kids in any way.

Ulrich: My kids haven’t even seen it. My son is going to see it for the first time at a screening.

Lillard: That’s super fun, I should make my kids watch daddy. “Go watch daddy. Watch daddy! It’s iconic, god dang it!”

Are either of you on TikTok? A line from the movie kind of went viral recently leading up to Halloween. Do you want to guess which one it was?

Lillard: “We all go a little mad sometimes?”

Ulrich: “My mom and dad are going to be so mad at me?”

It’s actually Rose McGowan’s line, ‘Don’t kill me, Mr. Ghostface, I wanna be in the sequel.’ It was like a meme on TikTok for a little while.

Lillard: That’s so funny.

Ulrich: You’re on TikTok now, Matt.

Lillard: I am! I’m super TikTok-y. But I haven’t seen that. I’m not really good at watching TikTok… I lied, I actually enjoy getting sucked into the vortex that is TikTok, but I try to avoid it at all costs.

How does it feel to have a whole new generation of people discover ‘Scream’ this way?

Lillard: We see the veracity of the fan base. The love for this movie still exists. The amount of tattoos that are out there of Ghostface, our faces, Skeet’s face on many a thigh — many a thigh Skeet’s face is on!

Ulrich: I have pictures.

Lillard: We definitely understand the place this movie still holds in people’s hearts, and it’s humbling and lovely. We love it. It’s still surprising it perseveres after all this time.

[Ulrich pulls out his phone and shows a picture of someone’s leg with his face tattooed on it.]

There’s a new ‘Scream’ coming out in January. Are your characters coming back from the dead to be in it?

Ulrich: We’re the leads of it. They didn’t tell you?

Lillard: Wait till the trailer drops, you’re gonna see our faces. You can print this, please, I am available and ready for “Scream 6.” Or “7” or “9” or “15.”

[Editor’s note: Lillard’s and Ulrich’s faces do not appear in the new “Scream” trailer. Who may be under Ghostface’s mask, though, has many fans theorizing it could be one of their characters.]

What was your first impression of each other during the filming?

Lillard: So fucking beautiful. You can’t take your eyes off of his face. Look at him! My god, he’s gorgeous.

Ulrich: I don’t think we hung out prior to those first few days of filming. I was sort of locked into this very serious study of serial killers and all the angst of the character. It was a documentary in my mind of two high school killers. Then we shot the fountain scene first, if I remember correctly. I remember Jamie and Matt’s approach to the characters and being so confused as to the genre. I was like, ‘This is a serious film. There can’t be humor.’ I was so far off base. I was a little thrown in the first take.

Which of your characters had the better death scene?

Lillard: I’m not dead! I am not dead, strike that! I’m alive, I’m in jail, but I’m about to get out and look for revenge.