"If you want to be honest about what influenced me, I would say Into the Woods, the Broadway play," screenwriter and producer Kevin Williamson tells A.frame. "Because that was a deconstruction of the fairy tale, which is what inspired me to do Scream, which is the deconstruction of horror films."
The 1996 slasher film broke and rewrote the rules of the horror genre, launching Williamson’s Hollywood career as a result. In addition to penning Scream 2 and Scream 4, Williamson is also the screenwriter behind I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty. He is also the creator of the seminal TV series Dawson's Creek and The Vampire Diaries. On Jan. 14, just over 25 years after audiences first met his now iconic slasher film villain Ghostface, Scream is getting a new installment in the franchise, with Williamson serving as an executive producer this time around.
In the early 90s, before managing to break through as a screenwriter, Williamson was an aspiring actor in New York City. "I was a waiter at a restaurant next to the Martin Beck Theatre and Stephen Sondheim used to let the waiters see [Into the Woods] for free," he recalls. "And I must have seen that play 87 times, or at least the second act. I think that's what I counted. That was a very influential piece of work."
Below, Williamson shares the five movies that most influenced his career as a screenwriter, director and producer. "Not in any order because that would be too much of a Sophie's Choice!"
Read about the making of 2022's Scream here.
Jaws was my childhood. I grew up on the water. I was a young kid when I read that book. I held my breath until the movie came out, because I couldn't wait. I was so excited. I stood in line for hours and hours and hours. It was one of those first blockbusters where you were turned away, and you had to go see another movie at the cinemaplex. But I came back the next day, again and again, till I got in there. I saw it five times in the theater. I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. I thought it was the best movie I'd seen, and to this day, I think it holds up and it is still one of the best movies ever made.
Halloween is my favorite of all time. That is the movie I watch – let's face it – at least once a year, certainly on Halloween and probably one other time. So, in terms of the movie I've seen the most, it's been Halloween. It's my favorite film. It's the one that makes me happy. It's my comfort food. I just love it because, once again, it's my childhood. These two movies are singularly responsible for me wanting to be in this business.
I remember it came on on a Sunday afternoon on television, and my mom was like, "Oh, this is a great movie. You have to watch it." And I was like, "I'm not gonna watch a movie that's in black-and-white, mom." My mom had already said that she thought that I was going to be a writer- she predicted it- and I was like, "I don't think so. I want to make movies. I don't want to be a writer." And she said, "Kevin, you have to watch this movie, because it stars Elizabeth Taylor, who is the biggest star of all time and she's not the star of the movie." I said, "Who's the star?" And she goes, "The written word." So, I watched the movie and I thought she was right. The star of that movie is the written word, and very rarely do you see a script today where the star is the writing. That, I think, is something all writers should strive to do, is make the script the star of the movie.
For probably the same reason [as Virginia Woolf]. James Brooks was a master of character and dialogue. And he showed how emotional movies can be. Terms of Endearment is this beautiful melodrama about a mother and daughter, and I still watch it to this day and just cry my eyes out. And the dialogue is so beautiful.
The first four were so easy and then the fifth one could be a tossup. There's so many movies that influenced me. Part of me wants to say a John Hughes film, like The Breakfast Club. The other part of me, this is when I would start citing TV shows. I want to say Ordinary People. I want to say Silence of the Lambs. Even though Silence of the Lambs came in my early 20s, that was a very influential film. I had read the book, and it showed me how you could adapt a book perfectly into a screenplay. And then, from a screenplay perfectly into a brilliant film. I think it's a beautiful example of filmmaking.
Terms of Endearment- that won Best Picture. Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture. I've got a couple of Best Pictures on there. Jaws was nominated, did not win. Virgina Woolf, I don't think won either, but Elizabeth Taylor did. Halloween should have won, but didn't! It just missed it.