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There are a few key elements that make Scream an iconic piece of horror history, from the deadly bait-and-switch opening sequences to the metatextual commentary on other horror films to the Ghostface mask and the climactic reveals of each killer in the franchise's timeline. Then, of course, there's Ghostface's voice, provided by actor Roger Jackson in each film in the series. When that voice — equal parts charming and terrifying — delivers a line like "What's your favorite scary movie?" or "Hello, Sidney," you know you're in for a thrill ride.
These days, Jackson's voice is inextricably linked to Ghostface as a character, even though he's never actually played the killer in the flesh and is technically only providing the voice for an electronic scrambler each killer uses to disguise themselves. Back when the original Scream was shooting, though, he was just a guy doing a job, which led to director Wes Craven taking a couple of extra steps to ensure that Jackson's performance would remain frightening to the film's young cast.
In an expansive new oral history of the film at The Hollywood Reporter, celebrating its 25th anniversary, Scream's cast and crew recall that Craven and his team actually kept Jackson hidden from the rest of the cast. He was on the set to act across from his co-stars in real time, but because all of his scenes took place over the phone, he was always in a different room.
"We hid him," producer Marianne Maddalena recalled. "We had separate rooms. He was never around. He was never at craft services. He was absolutely incognito. It made it scary for the actors and Wes just got better performances out of them. It’s a completely different thing than a script supervisor reading the lines. He has an amazing voice, but I don’t know how many menacing he would be in person, you know?"
As editor Patrick Lussier recalled, every single phone scene featuring Jackson's voice was performed "live" by the actor, adding an immediacy to the scenes. Unfortunately, the hidden nature of his character did mean a few uncomfortable moments for Jackson himself, particularly during the legendary opening sequence.
"The first night when we were filming the bulk of the scene with Ms. Barrymore, I was outside the window under a little canopy trying to keep dry because it was raining," Jackson recalled. "I’m looking at her through the window while I’m talking to her on the phone, but she couldn’t see outside. Then on the second night they moved me to the garage of the house and set me up with a monitor so I could watch the camera feed. That made it much better, not being wet."
Of course, no one in the Scream cast was ever in any actual danger — co-star Jamie Kennedy recalled Wes Craven telling him "When you’re making a horror movie, the experience doesn’t have to be horrific” — but it's a little chilling to know that when Barrymore, Neve Campbell, and other actors were talking on the phone to a mysterious killer who was watching them from the shadows, they really were talking to a mystery man who could see them when they couldn't see him. It adds to the aura of the scenes, and makes one of our favorite scary movies even scarier.