What’s your favorite scary movie?
Horror fans will recognize this now iconic question from the terrifying opening minutes of Wes Craven’s Scream, when Ghostface terrifies a high school girl over the phone before slaughtering her and her boyfriend. That the victim was played by Drew Barrymore meant for the audience that all bets were off: You don’t kill off Drew Barrymore 10 minutes into a movie. But Scream did, and 25 years later, it is considered a modern-day classic, and for a generation, their favorite scary movie.
Jamie Kennedy got his big break portraying Randy, the horror film geek who knows all the rules about how to survive in a horror movie (“Never say, ‘I’ll be right back,” because you won’t be back.”). Unfortunately, he did not survive the sequel, Scream 2, but he did have a cameo (albeit on a videotape) in Scream 3.
The former film extra (can you spot him in Dead Poets Society?) and stand-up comedian joined a cast of fellow future stars including Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard and David Arquette. “Friends” star Courtney Cox, as ambitious TV news reporter Gail Weathers, was the cast’s biggest name. Cox Arquette and Campbell will return in a fifth Scream scheduled to be released in January, 2022.
In addition to such films as the Oscar-winning As Good As It Gets, Enemy of the State and Bowfinger, Kennedy went on to create the top-rated TV sketch series, “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” which spawned his signature character, hapless white rapper B-Rad Gluckman, immortalized onscreen in the feature film, Malibu’s Most Wanted.
Scream is available to rent or buy on demand from Redbox. The Paramount Home Video release is also now available in a 25th anniversary edition on 4K Ultra HD and a newly-remastered Blu-ray. Kennedy spoke with Redbox about overcoming studio resistance to casting him, working with Wes Craven, and the very simple reason he is not involved in the 2022 sequel.
Redbox: Before we get to Scream, I have to say that when I read in the news about Tom Hanks’ rapper son, Chet Hanx—with an x—the first thing that comes to mind is Malibu’s Most Wanted himself, B-Rad Gluckman. Any talk of a comeback, or maybe a Son of B-Rad?
Jamie Kennedy: Chet’s picking up he mantle where B-Rad left off. He is Brentwood’s Most Wanted. He’s keeping it real in a condo that Tom and Rita might be paying for.
RB: Scream was your biggest film at that time. Can you remember when you were first recognized from it?
JK: (Emphatically) Yeah! I made what I thought was very good money on this movie, $2,000 a week or something. I had a very cheap apartment, so I saved my money and decided I would take my family skiing. We all went up to a condo in Breckinridge in Colorado. We went to (the restaurant) Sushi’s and the hostess said, ‘Oh, my god, I just saw you at a matinee. You’re that video guy.’ She asked me to sign her ticket. It was the first autograph I ever signed. And my dad says to her, ‘You want his autograph? You need to meet new people.’
RB: How did you get this role? I’ve read you were up against Breckin Meyer, Seth Green and Justin Lee
JK: The casting director, Lisa Beach, and my agent were really instrumental in pushing me through. I got my first audition and it went well. They brought me back and that went well. I had another callback, but my hair was pink (from his role in Romeo + Juliet, also released in 1996). And people were like, ‘What’s up with your hair?’ I said, ‘You can dye it! You can dye it! You can dye it!’ I said I was doing another movie with Leo DiCaprio. This was pre-Titanic, but he was just about to blow up. I’m not going to lie; the studio didn’t want me. They always think a name is more valuable, never mind if the other person is right for the role. Wes Craven, for some reason, thought I was right.
RB: What was Wes Craven like to work with?
JK: Wes’ movies are dark and scary, but I would consider him like a tenured Berkeley professor; bookish, knows about poetry, art and wine. He was a cultured man. He was a very high- minded individual. I rarely heard him curse. I was expecting he’d be a wild freak on set. He loved artistic temperament and he protected us. He was a beautiful mentor.
RB: Did you have any idea that this movie would bring in over $100 million at the box office, become a franchise and impact the culture?
JK: Kevin Williamson’s script was so good. And I knew movies were getting a second life on something called VHS. That’s how I discovered the first A Nightmare on Elm Street. I thought the movie should do okay in theaters, but if it didn’t, people would find it on home video and maybe we’d get a direct-to-video sequel. So, I knew it was going to be really good, but whether people would be able to find it was another thing. Did I know it was going to be a cultural icon? No.
RB: What do you remember about the premiere?
JK: It was in Westwood (the UCLA college town), but it wasn’t at one of the big theaters. There were two screening rooms because there was overflow. I was in the overflow theater. I do remember all the Friends were there for Courtney. They were really supportive.
RB: When the film was a breakout hit, did you think, ‘This is it; I’m in show business now.”
JK: I was in Romeo + Juliet which was released a month before. We had the premiere at (the historic) Mann’s Chinese Theatre. I didn’t think I had it made, but I thought, ‘Okay, people will know me. I will walk into the room with a little more juice.’
RB: Romeo + Juliet and then Scream were two films with future A-list stars. What were those on-set hangs like?
JK: Certain things I’m saving for the book (laughs), but the Romeo + Juliet hangs were wild times. We were in Mexico City. There were big dinners. Wes also put these beautiful dinners together, but we would walk outside and we’d be in beautiful wine country. We’d have a bottle of wine and brie cheese. Romeo + Juliet, we had this amazing tequila. They were both beautiful, artistic hangs.
RB: A new Scream is coming out next year. Are you involved? Did Randy have a twin brother?
JK: (Laughs). I’m dead. I got killed in the ‘90s, bro.
RB: And so, I have to ask: What’s your favorite scary movie?
JK: That’s so hard, but I would probably say the scariest movie to me is The Exorcist.