'Scream' 's Matthew Lillard Recalls 'Weeping Uncontrollably for an Hour' at Wes Craven's Memorial

"It wasn't until I was there that I realized the impact he had on my life," the actor tells PEOPLE of the late director, who he worked with on the first installment in the Scream franchise

Matthew Lillard, Wes Craven
Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty; Andy Kropa/Getty

Wes Craven's death left a profound impact on his Scream star Matthew Lillard.

While recently chatting with PEOPLE alongside Skeet Ulrich in honor of Scream's 25th anniversary, the 51-year-old actor said that attending Craven's public memorial service after his death years ago moved him in ways that he did not expect.

Lillard tells PEOPLE exclusively that the pair had stayed friends after they filmed Scream, noting that he wanted to attend the service "out of respect."

"I sat there ... and I sobbed the entire time in darkness," Lillard — who played one of the killers, Stu Macher, in the Craven-directed film — says. "And it wasn't until I was there that I realized the impact he had on my life."

"We speak about this movie being so seminal in our youth and being part of our childhood in this industry, so I will never forget being like, 'Oh, he was older, he passed, I loved him,' but just weeping uncontrollably for like an hour," Lillard adds. "It was really crazy."

Scream, Matthew Lillard, Rose Mcgowan

Craven, one of the biggest masterminds in the horror genre, died in 2015 at his Los Angeles home after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76.

Also speaking with PEOPLE, Ulrich, 51 — who starred as other killer Billy Loomis in Scream — echoed Lillard's sentiments about the late director, stating that Craven "was everything you could imagine and more."

"He just had such compassion for the project, for all of us as human beings and individuals, and he worked at a deep level. He was always focused on the subtext and what was going on behind the character. And [he was] just such a gentle, beautiful human being," Ulrich says. "He was fun and he had so many cool stories. He was a great captain."

"And outside of the work, he was just so much fun to be around," the former Riverdale star adds. "[At his service], the video they played in this theater prior really encapsulated how impactful this man was on so many different people in so many different walks of life. ... He just makes actors better."

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Scream, Skeet Ulrich, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard

Looking back at Scream's legacy together over two decades later, Lillard and Ulrich say that no one who worked on the project expected it to become the smash hit and cult favorite that it has.

"I don't think anyone in the cast, I don't think Wes or [executive producer] Marianne [Maddalena] got any sense of it," Lillard says. "... The first weekend it came out, Wes called all of us and said, 'Congratulations, you're in a hit movie!' and the movie hadn't done really well in the box office, so I was like, 'What are you talking about it? It didn't do great.'

Noting that Craven told him exits polls were nothing they had ever seen before, Lillard explains, "It wasn't until a month later, when we hit like $100 million, that we really realized that we were on something that was much bigger than anyone expected."

"It was nothing that really crossed our minds, to be honest ... we had no clue," adds Ulrich. "In the making of it, I felt like we were doing really sharp work and everybody was bringing something to it that was a lot of fun and really worked and we were excited by the process of making it — but we had no idea."

RELATED VIDEO: Acclaimed Horror Director Wes Craven Has Died: 'Today the World Lost a Great Man'

The actors also praise Craven for his elaborate script, which saw Scream pay tribute to a slew of other horror films that came before, while setting the rules for movies that would come after.

Calling the script of the film "so clever," Ulrich tells PEOPLE, "It really shocked me like it does many audiences that see it."

"It seemed to make complete sense and yet come out of nowhere at the same time, and it was quite exciting," he continues. "I remember being really viscerally jazzed by that."

Lillard similarly says he saw the magic within the script as well, even though he initially read for the part that would go to Ulrich. "I remember reading the first 20 pages and being terrified, so scared and freaked out, that I closed the script," he says. "And I have a very clear memory of closing the script because I was freaked out about reading it."

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the hit horror film, Scream is set to be released for the first time on 4K Ultra HD and in a newly remastered Blu-ray on Oct. 19 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

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