Why Jenna Ortega Returning Was More Important Than a Neve Campbell Comeback

Scream VII has recently been under a major, hard-to-recover-from casting shakeup due to Spyglass Entertainment head Garry Barber’s uncompromising actions that cost the franchise not only Neve Campbell but also Melissa Barrera and now Jenna Ortega as well. In fact, Neve Campbell has been a franchise mainstay as Sidney Prescott since the release of the first film in 1996 and only recently took a back seat to the franchise’s new faces, Barrera and Ortega, who gave the franchise one of its highest-grossing installments (Scream 6). Campbell left Scream after failing to negotiate a much-deserved pay upgrade. As for Melisa Barrera, she was accused of antisemitism following her posts on X about the Israeli-Palestinian war situation in which she called for a ceasefire in Gaza and was immediately fired. Shortly after, news broke out that Ortega was also leaving the franchise.


Update December 1, 2023: In light of the new major casting changes, this article has been updated by Yosra Ben lagha to include the new uphill battle the Scream franchise now faces after losing Jenna Ortega.

It seems like the new Scream 7 Ghostface is, in fact Garry Barber, getting rid of most of the franchise’s winning faces. However, the more Barber gets comfortable in that mask, the less likely for Scream VII to even be a possibility. Neve Campbell and Melissa Barrera both openly expressed why they are no longer part of the franchise. Shortly after she was let go, Barrera posted:

First and foremost I condemn antisemitism and Islamophobia. (…) I will continue to speak out for those that need it most and continue to advocate for peace and safety, for human rights and freedom. Silence is not an option for me.

As for Campbell, she said back in June 2022 regarding her Scream situation that: the offer that was presented to me did not equate to the value I have brought to the franchise.It was a huge blow to fans as Campbell’s Sidney has emerged as one of the horror genre’s most popular final girls. But lossing Ortega might be the biggest loss for the studio and the franchise.


Jenna Ortega Blew Up After the Release of 2022’s Scream

Sam and Tara look scared and tired in Scream VI
Paramount Pictures

Jenna Ortega was relatively unknown in most circles when she appeared in 2022’s Scream as Tara Carpenter. The actress’s breakthrough came playing the role of Harley Diaz in the Disney Channel series Stuck in the Middle, followed by appearing in the second season of the popular thriller You. Ortega was on a steady climb, but after her appearance in Scream, her profile blew up exponentially. Following Scream, the actress appeared in Ti West’s critically acclaimed horror film X just a month later while 2022 also saw her building a horror pedigree in movies such as Studio 666 and American Carnage. Due to appearing in so many horror films back to back, many fans and media outlets began dubbing Ortega as a new “Scream Queen.”

Related: Jenna Ortega Divulges Her ‘Secret Sauce’ to Success in Horror Films

Ortega’s dominance was solidified when she began starring as Wednesday Addams on the Netflix horror comedy series Wednesday. The show became instantly popular on the streamer and was one of their biggest hits to date. The series also featured a viral dance moment that increased the profile of the show and Ortega herself. For her work on the series, Ortega has received high praise from critics and even received nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy, a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Comedy Series, and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Lead Actress – Comedy Series.

After the incredible run of Wednesday, Scream VI is released, and in a testament to Ortega’s growing popularity, Deadline singled her out as a possible reason the film would achieve great box office during its opening weekend. After releasing to solid reviews, Scream VI opened to a franchise-best opening of $44.4 million, and by the end of its run, the film grossed $108.2 million domestically and $169 million worldwide on a $35 million budget. At the domestic box office, Scream VI stands as the highest-grossing film of the franchise to date.

As Ortega continues to ascend the Hollywood ladder, it would have been smart to try and ensure her return, and could have made up for the lack of Neve Campbell, the original star of the franchise. When she returned for 2022’s Scream, it brought more interest to the project, and it’s something that Paramount Pictures noticed because they used her heavily in the marketing materials despite her not being the main star of the film. There is no denying that Campbell has pull with the Scream fans, but what the 2022 film proved is that Sidney has already had her happy ending, and bringing her back constantly might appear as if she’s being shoehorned in unless there is a strong narrative reason for her to be there.

The Real Reason Behind Ortega’s Leaving

jenna-ortega-screamvi

Following Melissa Barrera’s dismissal, Spyglass claimed that Ortega had quietly departed the project a few months ago due to scheduling conflicts with Wednesday in this way, denying any association of her departure with what happened to her co-star and screen-sister Barrera. Considering how important Wednesday is for Ortega’s career, it’s reasonable to believe the actress would prioritize it.

However, The Hollywood Reporter reveals that the real reason behind Ortega’s departure is the fact that, unlike Barrera, the rising star did not yet have a deal in place for the sequel. She negotiated a salary increase to seven figures, but Gary Barber failed to meet the actress’s demands. It is possible that it’s the Campbell scenario all over again, especially since Spyglass is known for being “cheap,” especially with its actors. In fact, the situation begs the question: Is Ortega out of line, asking for a seven-figure salary after reviving the dying franchise, giving it one of the highest-grossing installments, and becoming its very heart and soul? Probably not.

Fans have their own take on Ortega’s sudden leave. They point out that Ortega liked a pro-Palestine Instagram post on November 22, supporting Barrera in standing her ground against Spyglass. Another underlying, silent layer to Ortega’s departure could be that she is standing by her co-star Barrera in the aftermath of her accusation and dismissal on the grounds of condoning antisemitism and spreading hate speech. The supposed “like” on which this speculation stands is also backed by Ortega’s timing, which is too coincidental to be considered anything but an act of solidarity. This is all speculation, though, and cannot be proven, and notably, Ortega has not made any public comments..

What Is The Future of Scream VII

Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter in Scream 5 2022
Paramount Pictures

The least that can be said is that these are scary times indeed for the Scream franchise. Unless Christopher Landon has Ortega and Barerra’s doppelgangers, he will probably have to face a full creative reboot, despite the fact that the project of Scream VII was only created because of how well Scream 6 did. In fact, the two last installments were completely based on the sisters’ uphill battle with the killers in the mask, and particularly on Sam’s (Barrera) character development and the building tension surrounding the possibility of her future as the next Ghostface. So the future of the franchise without this dynamic duo that we loved to watch take down the Ghostface, is looking a little bleak. But will letting these actors go prove to be a fatal stab to the Scream Franchise?

Related: What Is the Fate of the Scream Franchise with Jenna Ortega Dropping Out and Melissa Barrera Being Dropped?

The studio is reported to be already on the move to restore its unexpected casualties by reaching out to the once-overlooked original heroine Névé Campbell to resume her role as Sidney Prescott on her own terms. Things are looking better than ever for the actress to get her desired salary and if she accepts, the plot, rumor has it, might center around her and her husband, Mark Kincaid, introduced in Scream 3 as a homicide detective. But if Neve Campbell refuses to return to Scream, the creative team and director will have to go for a redo from scratch in terms of plot, characters, and cast.

It’s a bit of a creative dead-end but with the right writers, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, who asserted they are now working “on a fresh draft to present to filmmakers,” maybe a new story that can compete with the Scream legacy could emerge. The franchise did, in fact, survive a few casting shake-ups and character losses, like losing Dewy and releasing Sidney. It not only survived but achieved unprecedented commercial success and broke its own records. It’s too early to tell if the franchise will simply fall apart after the company’s major cast suspensions and all the negative attention it brought about or if it will bounce back with another top-performing sequel without its beloved Ortega. Yet it is safe to say losing Ortega, one of the biggest rising stars in Hollywood, was a major loss for the franchise and a major public fumble.


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