The untold truth of Scary Movie

The 2000 horror spoof Scary Movie was a game changer when it came to genre-melding, and managed to bring a heavy dose of the absurd to a genre that had started to get a bit long in the tooth by the time it rolled around. You've probably seen the movie at some point, but that doesn't mean you know everything about the Wayans brothers' blood-soaked laugh fest.

It turned unknown Anna Faris into a movie star, spawned a whole lot of sequels, and featured an absolutely absurd amount of cameos—and there's even more to the story than that. Here is the untold truth of Scary Movie

The film's original title was even more ridiculous

From the jump, Scary Movie was conceived as a wacky spoof of pretty much everything that makes the horror genre great—and writers Shawn and Marlon Wayans made that abundantly clear with the film's original title. To make sure potential viewers knew what the project was all about, they'd intended to call it the homage-filled mouthful Last Summer I Screamed Because Friday the 13th Fell on Halloween. Of course, that would've made for a goofy mashup of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. Another wacky, working title from a parallel script was also considered: Scream if I Know What You Did Last Halloween. 

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed as the film continued through the development, and this overly-long titles were shelved in favor of something much shorter. That doesn't mean they gave up on the homages, though. Scary Movie was actually the original working title for Scream, so they kept the spirit alive, just with a much shorter and catchier title.

It took 10 drafts to get the script right

Looking at the film's development in an interview at the time, director Keenen Ivory Wayans revealed it took a while to get the project from the brainstorming stage to a workable film. He said Shawn and Marlon pitched him the idea, he saw the potential in it, then "10 drafts later" they finally got the movie made. 

Interesting enough, a different horror parody was being developed in parallel, written by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. The studio bought that script to avoid any potential legal hassles. Dimension Films chief Bob Weinstein said both scripts "had funny points," though the studio "favored the Wayans script a little more." 

The Wayans brothers' manager Eric Gold said they didn't use much from the alternate script, though some "structural things" were helpful from that project. Despite that, Friedberg and Seltzer were credited as writers due to a Writers Guild of America (WGA) ruling because of the similarities and how the projects came together.

It was meant to save the horror genre

Director Keenen Ivory Wayans said in an interview around the time of the film's release that he immediately saw the potential in the pitch, and felt a project like Scary Movie could be just the thing to breathe some fresh life into a genre that had been mired in tired tropes and cliches for decades. He likened it to how Airplane turned the disaster movie genre on its head, saying, "In horror, you've had the Jason series, the Freddy series, the Scream series. This genre's been played to death." 

In Scary Movie, he saw a way to play with those elements and breathe some fresh life into the concepts by poking fun at them. Critics never really fell in love with Scary Movie, and the films are little more than a footnote these days, but there's no doubt its box office and cultural success had a lasting impact by melding horror and humor, just as Wayans had wanted.

Anna Faris worried Scary Movie might pigeonhole her

One of the things that made Scary Movie so successful was the performance of the at-the-time-unknown actress Anna Faris. She brought a fresh, very funny face to a new franchise that was breaking with convention and trying some of the silliest stuff ever attempted on film. It took a special type of actress to pull off all that zaniness and make it work, and Faris had the chops. 

During an interview early in the franchise's tenure, Faris credited the Scary Movie films for giving her a career and opening some doors for her, but admits she was "very naive" at the beginning and thought her success in the gross-out comedy would make things easier. Instead, she said she had to branch out to projects like Lost in Translation in an effort to garner some "legitimacy" as an actress to prove she had versatility and range outside of running away from goofballs killers in rubber masks.

Faris also had her doubts after signing on

Looking back on her career in 2009, star Anna Faris told The AV Club she had a moment while filming the first Scary Movie where she questioned her decision to sign on. Faris said she never really considered herself a funny person, and while filming Scary Movie she "felt really unattractive and really concerned." She said she found the process to be harder than she'd thought to make a movie where she's "getting shot to the ceiling in love juice," and it took a pep talk from Keenen Ivory Wayans to get her back on track. His advice, according to Faris? "There's no vanity in comedy." Faris said that philosophy stuck with her, and helped carry her through her lengthy comedy career.

It was originally touted to not have a sequel

In promoting Scary Movie, the studio looked to play on the sequelitis that typically plagues horror franchises, releasing posters with the tagline "No mercy. No shame. No sequel."— a clear signal this wasn't your typical horror flick. Well, all that went out the window with the first Scary Movie banked $278 million worldwide off a comparatively tiny production budget of $19 million. 

The studio knew it had a hit on its hand at that point, and not surprisingly, that tagline was retired in subsequent home releases once it was clear the film would indeed spawn a sequel, or four. The Scary Movie franchise would go on to encompass five total films and endure for more than a decade. Collectively, the entire franchise has managed to gross just short of a billion dollars, clocking in at $895 million worldwide.

The Wayans brothers left the franchise after a falling out with the studio

The Wayans brothers may have created the Scary Movie franchise, but it still belongs to Dimension Films. In a 2013 interview, Marlon Wayans looked back on his time with the franchise, saying the studio rushed them to crank out the (critically panned) Scary Movie 2. He didn't even realize a third film was in the works until he read about it in Hollywood trade publications. 

He claims the studio "basically stole" their pitch for a third film, before actually inviting them back to take on Scary Movie 5. But by that time, Wayans said they had moved on from the franchise because they "had [their] time and did what [they] could with the franchise." He went on to say he thinks the franchise itself is "tired" at this point. Considering we haven't seen anything since 2013's Scary Movie 5, Wayans is probably right.

It was rated to admit 14-year-olds in British Columbia

The first Scary Movie is R-rated, and for good reason. It features adult language, adult themes and a whole lot of stuff that's only appropriate for adults. In the U.S., that wasn't a problem—but it was in British Columbia. There, the film was reportedly re-rated by the Motion Picture and Liquor Appeal Board there to a 14A rating, which allowed 14-year-olds to see the film. At the time, several parents reportedly wrote letters to the complaining about the decision, and after getting flack, theater owners also expressed some concerns, as well.

It spoofed an absurd amount of movies

Scary Movie is a big, silly spoof, with pretty much the entire structure framed around poking fun at other movies. So how many movies did it actually take aim at? Vulture parsed through the franchise and found the first film spoofed a hefty 15 different films, led by Scream, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, The Exorcist, Halloween, American Pie, The Blair Witch Project, and The Shining. That might seem like a lot, but it doesn't even hold a candle to the 26 films spoofed in Scary Movie 2

Though parodies were nothing particularly new by the time Scary Movie opened, it represented one of the first times a film crammed so many parodies into one project. By comparison, something like Spaceballs parodied around a half-dozen films (though it did feature one heck of a great dancing alien chest-burster scene). 

It also didn't limit itself only to horror movies as its source material, with a spoof of teen drama Dawson's Creek and references to The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in its final fight scene.

It spawned a whole genre of spoof movies

Along with its four sequels, Scary Movie also spawned its own little sub-genre of spoof films for a few years and they're more connected than you might realize. Not Another Teen Movie, from Scary Movie co-writer Phil Beaumanhit in 2001, spoofing films like She's All That, Cruel Intentions, and Pretty in PinkDate Movie hit in 2006, written by Friedberg and Seltzer, the original writers of the parallel script to Scary Movie. That project took aim at films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Pretty Woman, and Meet the Fockers

In 2007, Friedberg and Seltzer wrote and directed the critically reviled Epic Movie, spoofing projects such as the Harry Potter franchise, the X-Men, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The sub-genre would also spawn a bevy of B-movies and straight-to-DVD projects, such as Superhero Movie, Disaster Movie, Vampires Suck, and Meet the Spartans. After all those critical duds, the sub-genre was pretty much falling apart, and 2013's Scary Movie 5 seems to have been the nail in the coffin.