Twenty years ago, Wes Craven’s Scream 2 managed to break box office records, opening with a domestic total of $39.2 million. Despite heavy competition against Titanic and Tomorrow Never Dies, the film went on to gross over $172 million worldwide. Due to the runaway success of the original film, anticipation for its sequel was high and come December 12th, 1997, audiences flocked to the theatre to follow the continued exploits of traumatized survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell); Woodsboro’s sheepish deputy Dewey (David Arquette); and his media-obsessed flame Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox).
While few would argue that any of the Scream sequels could top the original, Scream 2 comes pretty close; the series only consists of four films, so there’s not much room for competition (with each having their own strengths) — but Scream 2 has consistently rated as a fan favorite. The film takes the self-referential commentary to the next level with its dissection of horror sequels, as well as the introduction of the film-within-a-film Stab (based on the events of Scream).
Aside from its pop culture references, part of the appeal of the Scream franchise is that it isn’t your typical slasher series. Rather groundbreaking at the time, the films incorporate elements from all genres — horror, comedy, action, drama — all wrapped within an Agatha Christie-esque ‘whodunit?’ mystery thriller. The guessing game as to who is behind the Ghostface mask is what makes these films all the more enjoyable.
One of the more notorious killers of the series is Scream 2‘s Debbie Salt. Initially thought to be a pesky reporter looking to ride on Gale Weathers’ coattails… In a Friday the 13th-inspired(?) twist, it is revealed that Debbie Salt is none other than Mrs. Loomis — the mother of the previous film’s killer — seeking revenge on Sidney and Gale for the murder of her son. While Mrs. Loomis was always set to orchestrate the events at Windsor College… rather than “freaky Tarantino film student” Mickey (Timothy Olyphant), one particular draft implies the enraged mother was intended to have a different set of accomplices…
In response to the hype for Scream 2, major precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the film’s ending. Despite this, it is well known that a draft of the script was leaked onto the internet before production began. In the 2011 documentary Still Screaming, the late Wes Craven remarked, “[Writer] Kevin [Williamson] sent us, I think, something like thirty pages by email. We read it, it was fabulous — it was on the internet, in its entirety, that night.”
“One of the endings was definitely posted on the internet,” added producer Marianne Magdalena. Indeed! There is an online version of the script which features none other than Sidney’s boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell) and best friend Hallie (Elise Neal) as the killers.
On whether he was aware of this, Jerry O’Connell tells us, “I didn’t know about that until after — like years after. Somebody told me — I think at a comic con or something… because we never got the ending. When we first got the script, I got everything but the last twenty pages. I think they rewrote the ending — I’m not sure if it got leaked or what, but the script had a weird non-copyable pattern on it that you couldn’t make xerox copies of it.
It’s funny. Revisiting the film, I guess I could see that but Timothy Olyphant was so good in that — in that turn — it was sort of fun to see him do that.”
Initially believing this script to be real — with the change in killers an effort to combat the script’s leak — we caught up with writer Kevin Williamson to discuss this purported draft. As he revealed, this script (which has been circulating the web since 1997) isn’t real at all — but it’s not entirely fake either. “The Hallie and Derek ending was a dummy draft. At the time the script was written, the studio was determined to keep the plot details under wraps.
They were worried the killer’s identity would be leaked, so we wrote several endings. Three in all, if memory serves, and when actors and potential crew members asked to read the script, we would send the script with the dummy ending.”
As it turns out, Mickey was always intended to be Mrs. Loomis’ accomplice… but one can’t help but ponder the idea of different killers. “There was even a fake ending where Dewey was the killer. They existed as a decoy and nothing more. Extreme measures, but we really wanted to keep the killer’s identity a secret!”
The details of this particular script are rather interesting — it reads fairly similar to the final film, but contains a few extra scenes and reversed character roles. As in the film, Sidney is taken into protective custody after Randy’s death — but in this version, Hallie does not accompany her; she and Joel had to Windsor’s film department to retrieve footage for her film class. After watching Mickey fall prey during an attack with Ghostface, Sidney heads for the campus theatre, closely followed by Gale — who has just survived her own encounter with the killer; Dewey, on the other hand, not so much…
Inside the theatre, Sidney finds the bodies of Joel, Hallie, and Dewey — all strung up in the same manner as Derek in the film. Terrified, she tries to escape but comes across Cotton Weary — his arms and legs bound by tape. She attempts to help before Derek enters, revealing himself to be the killer.
This would have been an odd choice to consider — the Derek we know in the film is a genuinely likable character. Considering her poor taste in previous boyfriends, Derek as an innocent adds warmth to Sidney’s story (she would carry his gifted fraternity letters in Scream 3). But in this script, he’s totally whacked in the head…
The revelation scene follows closely to the final version. Derek begins taunting Sidney as she contemplates whether or not to unbind Cotton. Knowing that her boyfriend couldn’t have acted alone, Sidney fears Cotton might be his accomplice… until one of the nearby bodies springs to life. Hallie emerges from behind, grabs Sidney, and cackles.
Personally, I would’ve loved to have seen Elise Neal as the Ghostface killer… In the final film, when Dewey considers this, he notes, “Serial killers are typically white males,” to which Randy retorts, “But that’s why it’s perfect! It’s sort of against the rules, but not really!”
According to this script, Derek and Hallie had met on a horror movie chat board. Both serial killer fanatics, the two had forged a relationship and initiated themselves into Sidney’s life. O’Connell’s response? “That’s hilarious. My own relationship with Elise is still great. It’s super fun to see her career — everyone’s career — do well after that. I’ve really stayed in touch with Elise over the years and that would’ve been a lot of fun. She’s a great actress.”
The motive isn’t particularly fleshed out. Like Mickey, neither were preoccupied with being apprehended for the crimes. The only goal was to reap the rewards(?) of a high-profile media trial. Soon after, Mrs. Loomis arrives with Gale at gunpoint. She proceeds to shoot her helpful but worthless sidekicks, revealing she intends to frame Cotton Weary for the murders — the same man who was erroneously charged with the murder of Sidney’s mother.
Unbeknownst to Mrs. Loomis, Cotton has managed to free himself from his ties and lunges at the crazed woman, knife in hand. He repeatedly stabs her until the madness ceases. But Cotton has truly considered Mrs. Loomis’ words; he stabs Gale and tosses her body into the theatre’s orchestra pit. And with that, we now have Scream 2‘s pseudo-fourth(!) killer…
If we were to consider this version, having Sidney’s boyfriend serve as the killer again might’ve proved repetitive… but in turn, might’ve also served as a greater red herring — one wouldn’t have expected Kevin Williamson to tread down that road again. McConnell is equally dismissive of the possibility:
“No, I mean, I love that final ending. It’s a little disturbing — spoiler alert, everybody — to see a hole get blown through my chest. It was thrilling, sort of like an iconic ending — and a lot of people argue that the sequel was just as good as the first one. So it’s sort of fun to be a part of that whole crucifixtion ending… It’s fun to be a part of an iconic death scene. Between that and Piranha, I’m doing pretty well in the horror world.
But yeah, I would’ve had fun playing the killer! But I’m not here to tell Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven what they should be doing with their stories… If they felt I was dying at the end, then that was it, I was dying at the end!”
In any case, had this draft come to fruition, it would’ve been notable for featuring not two… not three… but four(!) killers, as well as the first (and so far only) African-American killer. Diversity? I don’t know… but I still say Elise Neal would’ve killed in that role — literally.
In honor of the 20th anniversary, O’Connell also reminisced on the film’s success, saying, “I think it was the first film that really set the tone — so a lot of praise has to go to that first film — and it was a combination of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. Wes — God rest his soul — was just such a cool cat. And one of the most confident, kind, nice – one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. Literally, every time I walk on a set, I really say a small prayer for him because he was the best. The best. And I think it was just him and Williamson getting together – it just made for a great team.
Also, it was a really fun, young cast. We had a lot of fun off set, we had a lot of fun on set… Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary) was there to goof around with everyone as well. It was just… everything fell into place.
Big props have to also go to a guy named Richard Potter, who’s sort of an unsung hero of it. He worked at Dimension at the time and he had a lot to do with the story — I believe he was the Dimension executive on the project. He had a lot to do with everything as well, so Richard Potter was a dude that was really elementary. And also Julie Plec [Wes Craven’s assistant].
I know Richard had a lot to do with Scream and the decisions — the first film, the second film, the third film — he and Julie Plec were the real sort of advocates for the whole Scream world.
I love Scream 2 and anytime anybody wants to talk about it? It’s a real favorite of mine. I’m really proud of the film.”