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SYFY WIRE I Know What You Did Last Summer

Why I Know What You Did Last Summer Director Says 1998 Sequel "Killed the Franchise"

Here's why Jim Gillespie bowed out from directing a sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.

By Josh Weiss
Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) look in fear as Barry William Cox (Ryan Phillippe) points a flashlight to the ground.

In the late 1990s, just when everyone thought the slasher genre was dead and buried, screenwriter Kevin Williamson swooped in and saved the day with a pair of back-to-back hits: 1996's Scream and 1997's I Know What You Did Last Summer (based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan, the latter is now streaming on Peacock).

As we all know, the meta antics of Ghostface successfully launched an entire franchise that continues to this day (a seventh installment is currently in the works from Happy Death Day alum Christopher Landon). But what happened to Williamson's second slasher triumph? Why did the I Know What You Did Last Summer series peter out after a single sequel?

I Know What You Did Last Summer director thinks 1998 sequel "killed the franchise"

Looking back on the OG movie for its 20th anniversary back in 2017, I Know What You Did Last Summer director Jim Gillespie told Digital Spy that he initially said yes to directing a follow-up. However, since the studio wanted to release the second installment the following year, there was no time to develop a proper script.

RELATED: 5 more '90s horror flicks that deserve a revival alongside 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'

"They wanted me to commit to a page-and-a-half outline, and I didn't like the outline," he recalled. "I thought it wasn't the right story. I didn't like the premise. It kind of killed the franchise a little bit. They had a chance to do something a bit different and for me it didn't work. That's why I said no, I couldn't commit to a page and a half with no guarantee that when we got to the script, I was going to like it."

Gillespie made the difficult decision to bow out, which led to the hiring of Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd, Geostorm), who forged ahead on production with a screenplay by Mercy Point co-creator Trey Callaway. Despite losing the original director and writer, 1998's I Still Know What You Did Last Summer featured the return of cast members Jennifer Love Hewitt (Julie Barnes), Freddie Prinze Jr. (Ray Bronson), and Muse Watson (Ben Willis).

"It was disappointing because Love Hewitt was signed on, I think she was contracted to do it [the sequel]," Gillespie continued. "She signed on because she thought I was directing it, and then I didn't. That upset her a bit. Which was fine, we were okay after that, but I know she was upset it wasn't going to be the same team. They put a lot more gore in the second one, deliberately so."

How was I Still Know What You Did Last Summer received by the public?

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer failed to reach the box office heights of its predecessor and a critically-lambasted direct-to-video threequel (2006's I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) didn't do the franchise any favors. Amazon revived the IP as a television series in 2021 before canceling the project after a single season.

But that's not the end of the story. With legacy sequels like Halloween (2018) and Scream (2022) softly rebooting classic properties to critical and financial success, Sony is looking to take another hook-handed stab at I Know What You Did Last Summer. Earlier this year, Deadline reported that Love Hewitt and Prinze Jr. were in talks to reprise their characters for a "passing of the torch-type" revival directed by Thor: Love and Thunder co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. 

I Know What You Did Last Summer is now streaming on Peacock alongside its two sequels, Scream 4, and Kevin Williamson's COVID-inspired slasher SICK.