Could the Scream franchise be knocking at death’s door all over a refusal to pay the leading ladies what their worth? When news broke that Jenna Ortega wouldn’t be returning for Scream 7, initial reporting stated the issue was a scheduling conflict with the filming of Wednesday season 2, the star’s wildly popular Netflix original series.
Reps insisted that she wasn’t bowing out due to the firing of Melissa Barrera who’d been let go because of her social media posts about the Israel-Hamas war which were deemed antisemitic by the franchise’s studio, Spyglass. Barrera disputed the studio’s claim. However, as The Hollywood Reporter has shared, sources are saying Ortega’s exit had nothing to do with Barrera, or a scheduling conflict, and everything to do with the actress seeking a pay raise.
Ortega’s star has risen exponentially thanks to the success of Wednesday. She’s considered to be among the members of young Hollywood bestowed with the honor of being a part of the A-list. As such, her team is seeking financial compensation from projects that befit her drawing power, name recognition, and demand.
For the previous Scream movies Ortega was paid in the six figures. Ahead of the seventh film, she’s said to have been seeking a seven figure deal though it was anticipated that Spyglass wouldn’t meet that request. As THR points out, the franchise isn’t known for paydays of that size. The general public is already familiar with this story as Neve Campbell exited the film series ahead of the sixth installment over a salary dispute as well.
Campbell told People the following back in Aug. 2022:
"“I did not feel that what I was being offered equated to the value that I bring to this franchise, and have brought to this franchise, for 25 years, and as a woman in this business, I think it’s really important for us to be valued and to fight to be valued.I honestly don’t believe that if I were a man and had done five installments of a huge blockbuster franchise over 25 years, that the number that I was offered would be the number that would be offered to a man. And in my soul, I just couldn’t do that. I couldn’t walk on set feeling that — feeling undervalued and feeling the unfairness, or lack of fairness, around that.”"
According to one insider quoted by THR, the head of Spyglass Gary Barber didn’t need Campbell and doesn’t need Ortega. That’s the supposed consensus since Scream 6 was the most successful movie in the franchise since the original film’s debut in 1996.
I’d be cautious of that mindset. Female leads are not interchangeable or disposable. This isn’t a one Final Girl fits all situation. Purposefully constructing a franchise to switch leads every movie like it’s an interconnecting anthology is one thing, burning your audience because you refuse to pay the women leading the franchise what they’re worth is another thing entirely.
Sure, the franchise can still go on but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be successful. It could wind up hobbling along. Time will tell if that winds up being the case for Scream.