Neve returns with a ‘Scream’
"The first film was such a great time that it feels like going back to summer camp every time we see each other again.”
Neve Campbell’s version of summer camp is a little bit different than most: Gallons of fake blood, butcher knives, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, and, of course, a hell of a lot of screaming.
It’s been 15 years since she played tortured teen lead Sidney Prescott in Scream, a blockbuster horror-comedy that revitalized the genre and became the benchmark for self-referential pop culture skewering in movies and television. The film was such a success that Scream 2 followed just a year later in 1997, while Scream 3 landed as a bit of a dud in 2000.
But, in keeping with the Hollywood cliché that everything old is new again, 2011 finds 37-year-old Campbell leading a cast of familiar (Cox, Arquette) and fresh (Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere) faces in the highly anticipated Scream 4. It’s a reboot of a franchise that this writer didn’t even realize she missed until she saw the familiar opening scene of a pretty girl answering a ringing phone and ol’ creepy voice himself asking, ‘Do you like scary movies?’
Over the phone from Toronto, Campbell laughs. “It’s nostalgic, right?”
It is, and while that might be what the movie moguls are banking on, generational affection does not a movie make. Luckily, Scream 4 is a twisty, clever addition to the horror canon, picking up 10 years after Scream 3. Though there’s little flexibility in releasing the plot details, what we can offer is this: Sidney returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the original killings as part of a book tour promoting her memoir about survival. Gale, Cox’s ambitious investigative reporter turned best-selling author is suffering writer’s block and is feeling the small town stifles since marrying Arquette’s Dewey, who’s now the police chief. New bodies start piling up and Sidney is once again the fixation of a creepy copycat killer wearing the ‘Ghostface’ mask.
Campbell recalls reading writer Kevin Williamson’s original Scream script and realizing they were on to something “special.” She credits Williamson with convincing her that there was a new story worth telling.
“What I loved about Kevin’s pitch to me, and it was one of the reasons why I chose to do the film again, is that I did realize we were going to be able to make this up-to-date and keep up with pop culture and what’s going on today,” Campbell says. “This film now takes a look at not only being self-referential in the film industry but at kids today and what they’re dealing with and how their lives now are intertwined with social networking, the Internet, mobile. Also, reality television and quick fame and quick fortune and all of those kinds of influences that are around at the moment. I thought that kept it very fresh.”
Thanks to the re-teaming of Williamson and original director Wes Craven, Scream 4 might be the rare movie franchise that seems to have benefited from a decade-long break. But even Campbell admits she had some misgivings about revisiting the past.
“I was apprehensive at first,” Campbell admits. “I only wanted to be a part of it if it was going to be the whole team. I didn’t think there would be any point in making something if we weren’t going to be able to give the audiences what they loved, which is the characters. Gale and Dewey are great characters. I just saw the film a couple weeks ago and it was so fun to just see them again! Like, when I saw David on set the first day, it was just so fun to see him in his moustache and his costume again. It’s because we ended up having fun with these characters, they’re fun to revisit.”
A particular treat, Campbell says, is the rare opportunity for an actor to grow alongside a character. Campbell herself was just 21 when she made the first Scream film.
“I’m 37 now,” she laughs. “That’s a big gap! I was at the beginning of my career [then]. I’d been working in Canada for about five years as a dancer and an actor, and was on my second year of Party of Five and had done The Craft, but Scream was my first lead. Obviously it catapulted my career to a different level, which was lovely, but you know, I was young, I was in my 20s. They’re challenging as it is but when you add fame to that it can be very challenging. I think I’m at a place in my life now where I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now. I’m a lot more confident with my choices in my life and I enjoy where I live — I live in England — and I enjoy traveling and I enjoy some of the charity work I’m working on... I have more control over what I want my life to be and that feels very good.”
It’s not really a surprise that some of Campbell’s own self-confidence is reflected in Sidney now. Though the character is described as a “celebrity victim,” she does a significant amount of ass-kicking throughout, wielding a butcher knife with the kind of expertise that comes to the perpetually terrorized.
“For Sidney it’s 10 years later, she’s an adult, in no way is she really a victim,” Campbell says. “Obviously in the first film she was young and more of a victim and eventually found her legs, but in this one, you know, she’s grown up, she knows who she is. She’s very strong... She knows how to answer a phone, she knows how to respond, she knows how to run, she knows how to fight. Just a day in the life of Sidney.”