‘Scream 6’ Directors Reveal Major Changes to the Third Act

Mar 30, 2023

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Scream VI.]The time has come. We have a 30-minute Scream VI spoiler interview for you with Radio Silence, directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and producer Chad Villella!

We covered quite a bit including casting the killers, crafting that incredible Gale (Courteney Cox) vs. Ghostface set piece, what the future could hold for the Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) connection, and more, but a high priority spoiler topic to dig into was the film’s third act set piece and killer reveal.

Scream VI has not two, but three killers — Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), Quinn Bailey (Liana Liberator), and Ethan Landry (Jack Champion) — and they’re not who they claim to be. Ethan isn’t a Blackmore College student randomly selected to be Chad’s (Mason Gooding) roommate and Quinn isn’t any old roommate Sam and Tara (Jenna Ortega) found online for their New York City apartment. Quinn and Ethan are siblings, Detective Bailey is their dad, and they’re all Richie Kirsch’s (Jack Quaid) immediate family.
That shrine to past Ghostface killings? It didn’t belong to Jason (Tony Revolori) and Greg. It was something Detective Bailey lovingly helped his Stab-obsessed son create. But then Sam killed Richie, and now his father and siblings want revenge.

Image via Paramount Pictures

While I did have many specific questions about the killers’ identity in the movie, the topic came up organically when I asked the trio for the scene that changed the most from script to screen. Gillett immediately pinpointed, “That third act,’ and Villella and Bettinelli-Olpin agreed. Gillett continued by explaining how location wound up heavily informing what goes down in the tail end of the movie:

“I think it was written intentionally loose because it was all happening so fast and there was so much work we just knew we were gonna have to do in prep, and a lot of that work was gonna be location specific. It was a warehouse for a minute. It was a warehouse with movie memorabilia in it, not true crime stuff, or was a mix of things … There was no fan film component. We were scouting and our production designer, Michele Laliberte, came to us and was like, ‘There’s this badass old theater in Montreal that we can take over, and we can make it whatever we want.’ That was sort of the seed that then became what that set piece, what that location, what the shrine ultimately is.”

Bettinelli-Olpin jumped in to sing the praises of screenwriters Guy Busick and James Vanderbilt for successfully adjusting elements of the script all along the way:

“There was also a switch on what the killers and the motive was. That also changed during the course of it. And a lot of this is credit to Guy and Jamie. We got the script early, they were still in the process of working it all out, and then every little idea that came to them, they were able to take that seed and plant it and grow something really awesome. But it was an ongoing process.”

Image via Paramount

In fact, sometimes that ongoing process involved on-the-spot adjustments. Gillett explained, “It was like a real-time, ‘Guys, we’re at the theater. What if this happened?’” Bettinelli-Olpin added, “And then they flew up there, remember? Guy and Jamie, they flew up to do a whole walkthrough to be able to then take the ideas that they had had and put it in the warehouse to be like, ‘Well, where can we play this out in this theater?’”

So the change in location influenced how the third act plays out and the killers’ motive, but what about the killers’ identity? Was the plan always for the Scream VI Ghostface killers to be Richie’s family? Bettinelli-Olpin replied, “No,” and Villella added, “We found that in development though.” Gillett continued:

“I think that we knew that the movie up to that big reveal was gonna be pretty bombastic and pretty crazy in terms of its energy level, and I think we just felt like the motive at the end of the day needed to be something super primal and really simple and relatable. And revenge, you know, the love and the loss of a child, that it’s also, for as much as the Core Four story is about family, that the villain story is also about family. It just felt like this really neat and tidy kind of symmetrical handoff of that theme. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t have to be about some larger grand kind of meta thing. It can just be simply about revenge.”

Image via Paramount

While one might be inclined to assume the best course of action is to roll into production with a perfectly refined screenplay, sometimes staying flexible and being open to on-the-spot inspiration can unearth unexpected hidden gems and leave you with a stronger finished film. For example, Villella explained how that third act location change led them to home video footage Jack Quaid actually shot as a kid.

“It shows you how things snowball a little bit too, right? Because it started with the production design and finding a theater and then being like, ‘Oh, we could put fan films up and see what was going on.’ And then we’re like, ‘Well, if it’s Richie’s family, maybe Richie was making these fan films because he loves the Stab movies so much.’ And then we reached out to Jack Quaid and Jack had this treasure trove of him talking directly to camera when he was younger, and we’re like, ‘Oh, this is perfect!’ Now it’s all tied together and the emotionality is all there, and then that unit and theme of family is there at the end.”

As for the change in the killers’ motive, Bettinelli-Olpin recalled a time when the team recognized that something wasn’t working quite as well as it needed to yet:

“There’s a misdirect on the motive the whole time. I remember when we were reading earlier drafts of the script, it’s us, Guy, and Jamie, everybody agreed that something wasn’t quite clicking, but we weren’t really sure what that was. I remember when they were like, ‘We figured it out.’ That’s the motive that gets you there, and then part of the motive is, let’s do a misdirect. It’s all about this and we’ll start these rumors about Sam, and you think it’s about this online mob mentality and the shit that we all talk about in pop culture in real life now, and then one of my favorite moments is when Dermot’s just like, ‘Yeah, whatever. Who gives a shit about any of that?’ Because then you go, ‘Oh, this is about something real,’ This was about family. And I know one of the scenes that never changed much from the early edit was when that hit Sam and Tara, and you go, ‘Oh, fuck, we’re not having a big, let’s talk about big, grand things. It’s just you killed our fucking kid.’”

Gillett added, “It’s that Quinn line, ‘You killed our brother you motherfucker,’ and you’re like, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ The bottom kind of falls out of the scene in that moment.”

Image Via Paramount Pictures

Does that mentality remind you of anything? Perhaps Nancy Loomis’ (Laurie Metcalf) motive in Scream 2? If you got those vibes from the Bailey/Kirsch family (or whatever their true surname might be), it was intentional. Gillett noted:

“We very much were aware and wanted to be living in the sort of direct lineage of 2. And there’s a lot that we love about that movie that we wanted to make sure we were borrowing in very specific ways in this.”

Eager to hear even more from Gillett, Bettinelli-Olpin, and Villella on Scream VI spoilers? You can find just that in the video interview at the top of this article and also be sure to catch Melissa Barrera on Collider Ladies Night in the video below:

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