HEAT VISION

Neve Campbell on 'Castle in the Ground' and Bittersweet 'Scream 5' Talks

The actor recalls getting a "really respectful letter" from the filmmakers behind the new installment, the first since the death of franchise helmer Wes Craven.
Neve Campbell   |   Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
The actor recalls getting a "really respectful letter" from the filmmakers behind the new installment, the first since the death of franchise helmer Wes Craven.

In the mid-2000s, Neve Campbell took a step back from Hollywood and moved to London in order to recalibrate her life and career. Tired of the endless stream of horror movies being offered to her, she knew that a major change was needed if she wanted to reshape the industry’s perception of her. As it turned out, Campbell’s instincts were correct as the industry eventually stopped viewing her as an “ingénue” thanks to subsequent roles on Mad Men and House of Cards. Campbell’s career shift also includes her latest role in Castle in the Ground as Rebecca — a terminally ill mother who depends on opioids and the care of her son, Henry (Alex Wolff), to cope with her rapidly deteriorating health.

“I really tried to hone my art and have new life experiences that would inspire me in different ways,” Campbell tells The Hollywood Reporter. “When I finally came back, that’s when House of Cards and Mad Men happened, and other jobs started to come to me that were not horror movies and were not in that same vein anymore. I think I went from being a young girl/ingénue to a woman. … The roles are far more interesting to me now.”

In March, headway was made on a potential Scream 5 as Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett were hired to helm the project. The Radio Silence duo quickly reached out to Campbell about reprising her iconic role as Sidney Prescott, and while she’s in talks at the moment, Campbell admits it’s rather strange to be considering a fifth entry without franchise helmer Wes Craven, who died in 2015.

I definitely had a period where I was thinking it would just be too odd to do a movie without Wes, and I wasn’t certain that I would want to do that,” Campbell explains. “But, I think enough time has passed. I got this really, really respectful letter from the directors [Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett] of the new one. They wrote a letter honoring Wes in such a beautiful way, and they expressed that the reason they make horror movies is because of Wes and the Scream films. They also expressed how blown away they are at the idea of actually getting an opportunity to make one of them and how much they want to honor and respect Wes’ vision. … So, we’ll see. We’re just in the beginning phases of negotiations, and we’ll have to see where it goes with COVID and everything. There are a lot of things up in the air, such as when we’ll actually get to make the movie and how we can even reenter this business at the moment.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Campbell elaborates on her Scream 5 negotiations and how bittersweet it would be to make a Scream film without the late franchise helmer Craven.

Neve, how’s everything with you and yours right now?

We’re doing well, thank you. We’re being diligent, staying safe and trying to have a positive attitude.

Given the state of the world, I can’t help but view entertainment through this newfound lens. For example, when your character, Rebecca, took Henry’s (Alex Wolff) medical mask off despite his insistence that he was coming down with something, I reacted disapprovingly. Has the global pandemic also affected the way you interpret entertainment?

That’s an interesting question. As an actor, when I see certain scenes now, I think, “Oh, you wouldn’t be able to shoot that now.” Or, when I see restaurant scenes, I think, “Oh, I miss that.” That’s not the world we’re living in at the moment, but I look forward to getting back to it.

There’s a key moment where Rebecca gets back into Henry’s car following a doctor’s appointment. She’s then asked how she’s doing by Henry, and she unconvincingly responds with “A-OK.” The camera then lingers on Rebecca, which says a lot about the truth of the matter. Since some actors insist that the camera can pick up their thoughts — is less usually more when you have to convey a point like this without speaking?

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve learned over the years that, in most cases, less is more. Unless a character is in some kind of manic moment, it would require the opposite. With acting, I always feel that less is more — certainly with silent moments and private moments. I really believe in allowing the audience to come to you instead of trying to tell the audience what to think.

As far as your character’s illness, are you an actor who does exhaustive research and prep, or do you rely on the text and your ability for the most part?

I do a bit of both, to be honest — certainly with a film like this that’s about the opioid crisis, something that’s prevalent today. It’s very important to get it right and do it accurately. I watched a lot of documentaries about the opioid crisis. I also tried to learn as much as I could about the illness itself and what the physical and mental symptoms are when on opioids. I spoke to the director Joey Klein’s father; he’s a doctor in Montreal, and he’s been helping patients with addiction for 30 years. So, I had a lot of conversations with him. When you’re depicting illness or something that people experience a lot in life, I think it’s important to do it right.

There’s a shot of Rebecca’s head hitting a pillow, which then cuts to a certain event. That cut is the biggest gut punch I’ve felt in awhile, and it’s just another reminder of how impactful good editing can be. Did you have a similar reaction to that cut despite knowing what was coming?

Yeah, the relationship between Rebecca and Henry is a very sweet relationship, and as a mother of two boys, the dynamic between mother and son is a very special kind of relationship. So, when you’re aware of what’s going on in that scene, it’s harrowing. It’s a very, very sad thing to think about. It’s especially sad to think about how easily this can happen to anybody, and I think it’s important to remember that. That’s the importance of this film. So many people look at addiction and opioid addiction as something that happens over there and something that isn’t going to happen in their house. Truthfully, it’s happening to all kinds. It is so easy to succumb to these kinds of pills if you’re not aware of how to wean yourself off them carefully and be conscious of the very strong addictive quality that these medications have. I think that’s why it was so important for me to make this film when I read it.

As a performer, I imagine that you develop a certain perspective on the character and material you’re performing on set. Once you eventually watch the final product, does your perspective as a viewer typically align — or clash — with your perspective as a performer?

It really depends on what the director has done with the film. I find that all I can do is try and portray a character in the most accurate way that will touch people and bring that story to the audience. But, there’s so many elements that have to come into play, from the music and editing to the direction and cinematography. All of it has to come together and tell the same story. It’s really up to the director to make those decisions and guide all of those people and elements together to make a clear message. If it’s directed well, then it’ll be what was on the same page.

Of all the great work that you’ve done, what project would make for the most interesting documentary?

I think The Company. What was magical about that film, besides working with Robert Altman, was that the crew had never witnessed any classical ballet before and the dancers themselves had never been on a film set before. I was in a dream. I was getting the chance to make my dream project and bring my dance experience — my original creative love — to my acting and to the film world. Telling a story in the way that I wanted it told with the dream director was something I never would have imagined. Bob Altman himself was like a kid in a candy store. He was such an incredible artist, and he was always so true to his art. He never really sold out. He had such a great appreciation for dancers and what amazing, committed artists they are. They get paid so very little and work harder, probably, than any actor he’d ever witnessed before. (Laughs.) So, we were all in some kind surreal world as we experienced art in a different way that we hadn’t witnessed before. So, that was pretty fascinating to watch. And you could just put a camera on Bob and watch that man for five hours. (Laughs.) He was a truly fascinating, fun and hilarious man, and he had a great, great mind. So, I’d probably say The Company

As far as Scream’s Sidney Prescott is concerned, actors can sometimes have a love-hate relationship with an iconic role of theirs. Some even go as far as refusing to talk about the role when asked about it during press or various appearances. Did you ever get to a point where you had to tell people that you needed a respite from talking about Sidney?

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to a place where I needed to stop talking about Sidney. I want to be respectful to what people take from the films that I make, and if people love them and want to have a conversation about then, then that’s great. I definitely had a period where I wanted to take a break from being offered the same kind of film. There was a period in my late twenties, early thirties, where all I was being offered was horror movies — understandably but frustratingly. At that point, I just made the choice to take a break, move to England, experience life in a different way and check out for a bit to see if I could shift things. And I’m so glad that I did, because I went and I did theater with great directors and actors there. I also witnessed a lot of great theater. I really tried to hone my art and have new life experiences that would inspire me in different ways. When I finally came back, that’s when House of Cards and Mad Men happened, and other jobs started to come to me that were not horror movies and were not in that same vein anymore. I think I went from being a young girl/ingénue to a woman, which was great for me. The roles are far more interesting to me now. So, there was that period where I just had to step out for a minute — or eight years. (Laughs.)

Does it feel strange to be considering Scream 5 without Wes Craven?

Yes, for sure. I definitely had a period where I was thinking it would just be too odd to do a movie without Wes, and I wasn’t certain that I would want to do that. But, I think enough time has passed. I got this really, really respectful letter from the directors [Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett] of the new one. They came to me with Scream 5, and these directors are incredibly talented. They wrote a letter honoring Wes in such a beautiful way, and they expressed that the reason they make horror movies is because of Wes and the Scream films. They also expressed how blown away they are at the idea of actually getting an opportunity to make one of them and how much they want to honor and respect Wes’ vision. It was just beautiful, and I was really grateful. I had really thought that the only way I’d step into a new project with new directors is if they really wanted to honor him. So, we’ll see. We’re just in the beginning phases of negotiations, and we’ll have to see where it goes with COVID and everything. There are a lot of things up in the air, such as when we’ll actually get to make the movie and how we can even reenter this business at the moment.

When I first saw Scream, it was the hottest ticket in town for us middle school kids at the time, and its opening night screening felt like a rock concert. Since we were underage, we all had to figure out a PG-13 movie to buy tickets to so we could then sneak into the R-rated Scream. With that in mind, what was the first R-rated movie you remember sneaking into under similar circumstances?

(Laughs.) Aww, you know, I kinda wish I’d been that rebellious. I just wasn’t. I would’ve gotten into way too much trouble. That would not have been an okay behavior in my family. Yeah, I wish I could say I did that, but I never did though. Good for you.

Did your background in dance help you with horror movie choreography?

Yeah, absolutely. Because I’ve been dancing since I was 6 years old, physical choreography and any kind of physical challenge in the film business is pretty easy for me and a lot of fun.

I have to admit that despite watching your work since 1992, I somehow didn’t recognize you in your '60s attire on Mad Men. Do you consider this a compliment since that’s the job, ultimately?

Absolutely, absolutely. The best compliment you could give is that you didn't recognize that it was me in a role.

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Castle in the Ground will be available on Digital HD and VOD on Friday.

  • Brian Davids
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