May 27, 2024

Not even Ghostface could see this twist coming.

The “Scream” franchise lost two stars this week, putting the seventh film in the series in a creative conundrum, according to sources familiar with the project.

Variety broke the news that Melissa Barrera was fired by Spyglass, the film’s producer, in recent days over social media messages that it deemed to be antisemitic (specifically, posts regarding the Israel-Hamas war). That decision was made after the company was notified that Jenna Ortega, whose star has risen considerably since she joined the beloved Wes Craven horror series, would not return due to a scheduling conflict with the second season of her smash Netflix hit “Wednesday.” Barrera and Ortega play sisters in the films.

Backlash to Barrera’s ouster has been intense, with the film’s director Christopher Landon reacting to the events surrounding her exit. He posted and deleted a statement on X on Tuesday that read, “Everything sucks. Stop yelling. This was not my decision to make.”

It seemed to some fans like the planned sequel was collapsing in real time. However, even before Barrera was fired, plans for the next “Scream” were being retooled. Ortega’s exit had required the creative team to make some alterations, according to individuals with knowledge, but there were still hopes that the actress might be convinced to come back for some sort of cameo. That no longer seems to be in the cards. Another source familiar with the franchise disputed this, saying Ortega was never in the mix for the new film.

James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, the writers of the previous two “Scream” installments, will now work on a fresh draft to present to filmmakers. Some set pieces and twists may be preserved, but the movie will need to find new protagonists. Ortega and Barrera signed on for two “Scream” movies and fulfilled those obligations with installments five and six, another source noted. They would have needed new deals for the seventh chapter.

So who will have to do battle with the masked killer? The “Scream” movies have a bench of characters who are still alive or who could be reanimated (it’s a horror movie, after all, and the joy of “Scream” is that it does not bury its dead too deep). These include Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox, the original stars of the series. Campbell appeared in 2022’s “Scream,” but opted not to return for 2023’s “Scream VI” over a salary dispute. Producers are keen to see her reclaim her iconic character Sidney Prescott. Another possibility could be Patrick Dempsey, who had a scene-stealing turn in 2000’s “Scream 3.” None of these actors have been in active negotiations thus far.

Spyglass had no comment.

The hope had been for “Scream 7” to hit theaters in 2025. Although the producers are essentially starting from scratch, that release date still seems feasible if Landon and the writers can find another scary story to tell. “Scream” films don’t require extensive visual effects and can be produced quickly.

All it takes is a bloody good idea.

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