Los Angeles (CHUD) — Long-lived Hollywood sound effect The Wilhelm Scream announced its retirement at a press conference at the Beverly Hilton today. The Scream, which has appeared in hundreds of movies, said that the time had come to move on and allow other up and coming shrieks, hollers and cries a chance at stardom.
“You have to know when to go,” The Scream told reporters. “You don’t want to outstay your welcome. In my time I’ve gone from being a weirdly particular cry to film-lover’s in-joke and I don’t want to end up as a distraction or just a rote, meaningless reference.”
The Scream chose May 4th to mark its retirement because of the international celebration of “Star Wars day,” the anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars film in 1977. Many movie history experts say that it was The Scream’s appearance in the Star Wars films that catapulted it to prominence.
The Wilhelm Scream began its career in obscurity; The Scream was first recorded in 1951 for the film Distant Drums, and it was a cry that went along with a soldier being eaten by an alligator. The Scream got its name after being used again in 1953’s Charge at Feather River, where it was used when a character named Private Wilhelm was shot with an arrow.
The Scream was resurrected by Ben Burtt, the sound designer of the Star Wars films. Burtt is widely held to be one of the great geniuses of Hollywood filmmaking, and is the winner of a number of Oscars, as well as being the voice of the robot Wall-E in the film Wall-E. Burtt found The Wilhelm Scream in a sound vault under the title ‘Man Being Eaten By Alligator,’ and used it for the cry of a stormtrooper falling down a Death Star chasm in Star Wars.
From there The Wilhelm Scream took off. Burtt himself used it in many of his films, and other filmmakers picked up on the cry and began integrating it. A conservative estimate has The Scream featured in well over 200 films, but most Hollywood insiders would say that number is very low.
“I’ve been thinking about calling it quits for a while now,” said The Scream. “When there was some band named after me in the 90s I though maybe enough was enough, but George [Lucas] convinced me to stick around for his Prequel movies. Well, you know how that turned out.”
The Scream also said it considered retiring when Sheb Wooley died in 2003. Wooley is most famous for his song Purple People Eater, but in his time doing voice over work he created The Scream. “When old Sheb kicked it I also thought of calling it a night,” said The Scream. “It just seemed right. But then Steve [Spielberg] asked me to hold out a couple more years because he had a new Indiana Jones movie coming. And we all know how that turned out.”
While The Wilhelm Scream is turning in its yelp, you can expect to hear more of it in the near future. The Scream appears in a number of upcoming movies, including this weekend’s Iron Man 2. “[Jon] Favreau asked me to come in as a favor,” explained The Scream. “When word got around that I was packing it in, lots of people starting calling me. It was when [Brett] Ratner told me he needed me to really hang on a little while longer that I knew I had to be done.”
The Wilhelm Scream worked with director Brett Ratner on 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand.