The MPAA Wanted to Cut One of the Best Lines in ‘Scream,’ But Wes Craven Won That Battle


“Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative.” That line, spit out with creepy conviction by Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) in the blood-drenched third act of Scream, is taken for granted as a fan favorite today. But if not for director Wes Craven, it may well not have made the movie.

“That was the line that I had written on a notecard and taped to my wall, and the whole movie was written toward that line,” Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson recalls in The Hollywood Reporter‘s new oral history of the 1996 slasher classic.

Williamson says his dialogue was aimed at then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who at that time was leading a conservative crusade against on-screen violence that included Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino as its scapegoats. “I wanted to answer that in my secret little way,” he explains. “I don’t know if I did or not, but at the end of the day I thought it was a great line.”

Also Read: Why the Cast of Scream (2022) Didn’t Know the Plot When Filming Started

The line clearly struck a nerve—so much so that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) did their damnedest to make it go away for good.

“It’s certainly the line of dialogue that the MPAA went after and wanted removed from the film,” Scream editor Patrick Lussier tells THR. “It was like, ‘You can’t speak that kind of truth.’ That particular line of dialogue they wanted to censor, but they don’t word it that way. They just say, ‘Look at these areas, this is a problem, this is, this is, this is…'”

But ultimately, the line remained intact, and Lussier credits Craven with protecting the integrity of the script. “Thankfully, Wes won the day with them,” he adds.

Watch the scene Craven fought for:

Still, while Craven struck down the MPAA to save that immortal line, the Scream team was not as successful in their fights over some of the film’s grislier moments.

When Billy and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) stab each other in the scene where the line is said, there were a few stabs that appeared on camera, but were cut to avoid an NC-17 rating. “They took them off because the MPAA were like, ‘There’s just too much,'” Williamson says.

The MPAA also hated Scream‘s opening scene, in which Drew Barrymore’s character, Casey Becker, is viciously killed in slow motion. According to Williamson, that sequence was permitted to stay in the film for purely practical reasons, and the ratings board got their revenge later by cutting those stabs from the third act.

“They said it was just too brutal, but we won that one because we didn’t have any other footage,” Williamson explains. “[Wes] shot it in slow motion. What you see is all there was. So, they let that one slide, and I think the tradeoff was the [removal of the] stabs at the end.”

In his conversation with THR, Dimension executive Richard Potter rightly points out how absurdly arbitrary the MPAA’s decision-making process can be.

“That was insanity because they’re not super specific about what’s bothering them,” Potter says. “It’s just ‘too much blood, too much gore.’ It’s subjective. There are movies that are bloodier and gorier than that original cut of Scream that will get a lower rating because they see the artistic value in it. I’ve always said that the difference between a horror movie and a thriller is whether or not the person you’re talking to liked it. If they liked it, it’s a thriller. If they didn’t like it, it was horror.”



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