New Faces Take Over ‘Scream’ Franchise; Will The Alum Be Cleared Out In The Opening Scene?

With the “Scream 4” production’s July start date fast approaching, Wes Craven is getting down to business and trying to nab some hot young stars so the “Scream” alum can hand off the franchise to a new generation. As we reported earlier, Lake Bell is currently in negotiations to join the cast and Ashley Greene, Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin have all been offered key parts.

With Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox set to reprise their roles from the original three films, these new characters clearly must have a connection to one, if not all, of our old friends from Woodsboro. If the deals go through, the most direct of the bunch will be Greene’s character, Jill. Not only is she Sidney Prescott’s cousin, but she’ll also be assuming the role of the film’s leading lady. Panettiere’s role is Jill’s best friend, a major movie geek, and Culkin would play Jill’s love interest. The closest to sealing the deal is Bell, who will play a police officer Sidney knows from her high school days.

See the parallels? First and foremost, it’s quite obvious that Greene is the new Campbell. Then we have Panettiere, who could pull double duty filling the shoes of Sidney’s ill-fated best bud Tatum (Rose McGowan) and the trilogy’s film buff Randy (Jamie Kennedy). Could Culkin go Billy Loomis on us and be the boy toy with a secret grudge? We can’t know for sure, but if Bell’s cop character is anything like Arquette’s Deputy Dewey, Jill’s in big trouble.

What the correlations point to more than anything is the much talked about early axing of the former franchise stars. It’s been suggested that all three will finally fall victim to the killer’s knife in the “Scream 4” opening sequence. Writer Kevin Williamson better have come up with something good. The trio had some incredibly close calls in the first three films, so it’ll be tough to make a quick kill plausible and meaningful enough to justify switching gears and putting the attention on our new stars.

We can speculate all we want, but, odds are, we’ll have to wait until the film hits theaters on April 15th, 2011 to find out exactly how Craven and Williamson manage this whole passing-of-the-torch effort. Craven is so concerned about keeping the plot details top secret that he isn’t even sending the script to agencies, only the character descriptions, which is making it particularly difficult for the actors to commit.

The uncertainty is understandable, but I’d like to think that Craven — a veteran filmmaker with classics like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Hills Have Eyes” in his past — knows what he’s doing when revitalizing an iconic franchise. Based on this first casting leap, he certainly seems to have some interesting ideas. Rather than go for heaps of unknowns in an effort to make the biggest haul at the box office for the cheapest expense, he’s ponying up for more familiar faces.

I really can’t imagine Panettiere and Greene turning down the offered roles, especially given the popularity of this franchise. With “Heroes” getting the ax, Panettiere will be look to get herself out there again. And once the “Twilight” team powers through the final two films, Greene will be free for a new franchise. With Williamson already booked for two “Scream 4″ follow-ups, it’s likely that’ll happen… provided they both survive, that is.

Are you looking forward to another “Scream” film? Do you approve of Wes Craven’s casting choices?