'Scream' Star Jenna Ortega on the Pressures of Filming That Opening Scene (Exclusive)

The slasher franchise newcomer talks to ET about getting bloody and bruised for the new sequel.

Like it did in 1996, Scream starts with a wrong number. But this time it’s Jenna Ortega on the receiving end instead of Drew Barrymore, who famously starred in one of the most shocking moments in cinematic history. “The Drew Barrymore ‘Casey Becker’ scene is one of my favorite scenes of all time across the board in cinema,” Ortega, who plays Tara Carpenter in the newest installment, told ET’s Matt Cohen.
Over 25 years ago, a then 21-year-old Barrymore, who had been promoted as the original film’s lead, was brutally murdered on-screen after just 13 minutes, proving anything can happen in a Scream movie and no character is safe.
Now, a new generation of young characters – Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barerra), Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette), Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and others – find themselves the target of the Ghostface killer in the highly anticipated fifth entry to the $600 million franchise, aptly titled, Scream. A remake, reboot and sequel all in one, the 2022 movie reunites the original surviving trio of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) as it follows the gang of newcomers trying to unmask their latest tormentor.

Paramount Pictures

At the center of Ghostface’s first phone call, continuing a long tradition of stunning cold open attacks, is Ortega, who completely understood the pressure of reimagining the original sequence for longtime fans and newcomers alike. “It could not have been done more perfectly so it’s hard because I know that all the Scream films since have been sort of a reiteration or kind of play on that scene so it’s wanting to make this one somewhat different,” the 19-year-old actress said.
“I wanted to make it my own but I also wanted to make sure that the acknowledgement and respect for Drew, Wes [Craven] and Kevin [Williamson] was there,” Ortega remarked of the original film’s director and screenwriter. Craven directed the first four entries in the franchise before his death in 2015. Williamson served as an executive producer on the new entry.
ET sat down with Barrymore back in 1996 ahead of the original film’s release and she clearly knew how iconic that opening scene was from the very beginning. "It was one of the best written scenes I’ve ever read in my life. I mean what Kevin Williamson did with this script is just, it’s a masterpiece," she gushed.
The latest Scream aims to pay homage to that opening scene as evidenced by the film’s trailer. Ortega plays a local Woodsboro teen who is home alone when she receives a menacing phone call from none other than Ghostface (voiced by Roger Jackson). What follows is a brutal cat-and-mouse chase through the home – including a tech-savy killer who can virtually unlock her security system – until she is dragged away by the killer.

Audiences will have to see the film in theaters to learn Tara’s fate, but Ortega knows just how important this scene is to the fans. “I know that people are very critical because that set such a standard being the first scene of the franchise and it being so iconic, that’s something that I think the Scream community critiques a lot and is very hardcore. I just really didn’t wanna let anyone down,” she humbly admitted.
If fans have any doubts that Ortega put her all into this, the physical toll the scene took on her body should offer some reassurance. “I had some of the biggest bruises of my life, I had this bruise on my hip that kind of looked like a tennis ball from the side because it was so swollen… I had matching bruises on each of my elbow bones… I had a couple on the side of my thigh and some on my knees, but that’s all,” Ortega quipped.
Don’t expect Ortega to complain about those onset injuries though. “I like getting bruised up when you do stunts like that because then you really give it your all and any reaction you have, if you do end up hurting yourself, is authentic and real,” she shared.
While nothing can live up to the original, Ortega feels confident everyone brought their A-game to this project. "We all had so much respect for the work [that Craven] had done. Everyone wanted to put their best foot forward and make someone proud, I think it really gave us the best possible outcome of the film and knowing everyone tried and knowing love was there, it affects the atmosphere on set and really makes or breaks a film."

Scream slashes into theaters January 14.