Features

Interview: Neve Campbell for "Panic"

By Paul Fischer Thursday April 26th 2001 12:26AM
Neve Campbell for "Panic"

Neve Campbell is relieved she is all grown up - for real and on film. At 27, she is more than happy not only to put those Scream movies behind her, but on-screen adolescence, and is relieved that fewer teen scripts she was once offered are finally coming her way. "I think people are finally seeing that's not the direction I'm going. I've also said to my agents I won't read them, after all I'm 27 years old for God's sake". Some of her more recent films exemplify the actress's decision to be as far removed from her previous teen image as possible, such as in her latest film, Panic. In this absorbing thriller, William H. Macy plays Alex who is having a midlife crisis; not only is he unhappy with his marriage, but he wants to get out of the family business, which happens to be killing people for hire. Seeking help, Alex turns to Dr. Josh Parks (John Ritter) for therapy. While in the psychologist's waiting room, he meets Sarah (Campbell), a manic but beautiful young woman. Set reeling by his attraction to Sarah, Alex has to contend not only with his new feelings but also with his concerned wife (Tracey Ullman), his intuitive six-year-old son (David Dorfman), and his controlling father (Donald Sutherland).

When Alex's tyrannical dad catches wind of his son's therapy and growing hesitation about their two-man operation, he gives Alex a new assignment.one that leads to a startling resolution. For Campbell, doing Panic presented the beautiful young actress with some exciting challenges, describing Sarah as "someone who's obviously confused and yet comes across with a lot of confidence because she speaks before she thinks. She doesn't censor herself, so she's very honest and upfront". The exact opposite of the actress, Neve insists. "I've always been someone who thinks too much before she speaks and takes a long time". Campbell says that Panic, which initially premiered two years ago at Sundance, "is the closest film to my own personal taste that I've done., implicitly referring to the Scream trilogy that made the Canadian native an international star. "My dad used to take me to foreign films every Wednesday in Toronto. I didn't grew up with any American pop culture films; I mean I hadn't seen The Godfather until four years ago".

So it's ironic, Campbell laughingly aggress, "that the movies I've made in my career are not really my taste, and Panic is". Films like Panic, she continues "are about something and this one is about human nature and about what we all go through. The other films are fun but they're just about pure entertainment". Neve of course ads that she had little choice when the first Scream came her way, and to do the film, "because I wasn't at a place in my career where I could really be that picky. It was the first movie I got where I was asked to be the lead". But then she also did Scream 3, which she could have turned down. "I could have but what I decided to do with that was just to make sure my character wasn't that large in the film. I didn't feel like we could do much more with Sidney; I think she'd be in an insane asylum by now if we to do a Scream 4. There's just no way that a human being could go through all that and still be sane".

Campbell, who was born in the Canadian city of Guelph, originally trained to be a ballerina and, at age 15, became the youngest cast member of the Toronto production of Phantom of the Opera. But In 1994, Fate stepped in: When she had just turned 20, Campbell won the role of Julia Salinger in Party of Five and relocated to L.A. At the time, she was engaged to Jeff Colt, a struggling Canadian actor. They married in 1995, and though he joined her in L.A., but the marriage lasted less than three years. At the time of the break-up, Campbell acknowledged her celebrity was a major issue in their relationship. She not only had a hit TV series, but also had completed the first two of the Scream movies. She is relieved that both are at an end. "It was definitely a relief. I was finally at a place in my career where I wanted to do other things. Neither the Scream movies nor Party of Five were inspiring me any more". Campbell recalls being so bored filming Party of Five in its final three years; she took up a new hobby each season. "One year I studied oil painting. The next it was guitar and, in the final year, I started learning Spanish". Campbell also took on very distinctive, often sexually feisty characters to escape her past image, including bisexuals in both the steamy Wild Things and now in Panic. "I don't know why that is, but it's far playing women of varied sexual orientations anyhow, and kissing strange women on a set is not necessarily less weird than kissing strange men". Neve is keen to return to her dance roots, and turned down the leads in both Center Stage and Save the last Dance, in favour of doing her own dance film. "I have been developing my own dance movie for the past number of years which I would have had to abandon it if I had done those movies. I don't feel I can do more than one big dance movie". Campbell is developing the as yet untitled project, with screenwriter Barbara Turner (who co-scripted Pollock) working on the film's screenplay. Campbell is determined to make her dance film. It would be the fulfilment of a dream. "From the time I was a child, my only dream was to dance with the National Ballet of Canada". She realized that dream at age 12 when she was accepted as a student at the National Ballet school. Two years later she left because "the pressure proved too great and I couldn't bear the physical pain of ballet dancing. But dancing is still where my heart is". Campbell is ferociously guarded about her private life, but not when discussing her younger brother's battle with Tourette's Syndrome. Where other actors claim to do work for this charity or that, Campbell puts her money where her mouth is by appearing in public-service announcements on television for the Tourette's Syndrome Association. Campbell's own teen following ensures that the message will reach the right audience, making her participation particularly important. "He's a computer genius," she says of Damian, explaining that her brother is trying to help her become computer literate, "because I truly suck, despite her having her own web site. While preparing her dance movie, and "writing a screenplay on my own just for fun", Campbell will next be seen on screen in Alan Rudolph's Investigating Sex. "It's a strange film, but then what do you expect from Alan Rudolph?"

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