As her lat­est movie, Sky­scraper, is about to hit the­atres, ’90s Scream queen Neve Camp­bell rem­i­nisces about the 25 years spent hon­ing her craft.

Neve Camp­bell has al­ways been stronger than she looks. Just ask The Rock.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents - By Greg Hud­son

Afew years ago, Neve Camp­bell found her­self in a ceme­tery. She wasn’t alone.

She was there for a very spe­cial gath­er­ing. All around her, the peo­ple were dressed like witches—al­beit ones with a very spe­cific aes­thetic: short black skirts, thigh-high stock­ings, chunky boots and a pre­pon­der­ance of ei­ther leather jack­ets or baby-Ts (or both). Camp­bell was fa­mil­iar with the dress code. Af­ter all, she and her three co-stars pop­u­lar­ized it nearly 20 years ear­lier in the teen witch­craft thriller The Craft.

The coven (mi­nus Fairuza Balk) was at the Hol­ly­wood For­ever Ceme­tery—along with their ap­pro­pri­ately dressed fans—to screen the film. Look­ing back, 1996 was a very big year for Camp­bell. Not only did she par­lay her suc­cess as one of the hot or­phans on Party of Five into play­ing the hip, de­cid­edly non-Sab­rina-es­que teenage witch but that year she also of­fi­cially en­tered the hor­ror film canon as Sid­ney Prescott, the ul­ti­mate “fi­nal girl,” in Scream.

All of these roles (but es­pe­cially the lat­ter one) would be­come as in­trin­si­cally tied to the mid- to late ’90s as pop punk, frosted tips and in­flat­able fur­ni­ture. “When we were in the ’90s, we felt a lit­tle bit like we didn’t have an iden­tity, but now, look­ing back on it, it seems more dis­tinct,” she tells me over the phone from Los An­ge­les, where she’s reshoot­ing some scenes for Sky­scraper, her up­com­ing sum­mer thrill ride with Dwayne John­son.

Hav­ing grown up dur­ing that time, I know what she means. Ear­lier in the decade, there was grunge and gangsta rap, two gen­res deeply com­mit­ted to some neb­u­lous def­i­ni­tion of au­then­tic­ity. But by the late ’90s, when Scream hap­pened, pop cul­ture had moved on to more glossy, man­u­fac­tured stuff that felt less spe­cific and more broad. Iron­i­cally, that opened the door for a sub­tler kind of re­bel­lion wherein we started rec­og­niz­ing and sub­vert­ing the com­mon pop cul­ture tropes we were be­ing sold—like in Scream, with ev­ery char­ac­ter com­ment­ing on hor­ror clichés. That kind of meta-com­men­tary felt nat­u­ral then, but it sig­nalled a shift in how mil­len­ni­als would take in cul­ture.

It wasn’t un­til Camp­bell saw the 5,000 or so peo­ple gath­ered in the ceme­tery where Hol­ly­wood leg­ends are buried, quoting lines back at the film like it was a show­ing of The

Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show, that she re­al­ized her first films weren’t just iconic but im­por­tant, too. Not just to pop cul­ture but also to the women who watched them.

“I knew that the movie had a cult fol­low­ing, but I didn’t re­al­ize it was to that ex­tent,” she says. “Be­cause, once in a while, I think about that movie and I’m like, ‘That’s a bit silly.’ But it touched peo­ple. I don’t think I quite got that. At the Q&A af­ter the screen­ing, a lot of peo­ple stood up and said: ‘You know, that movie re­ally meant some­thing to me. It gave me con­fi­dence in high school.’ For some rea­son, it had an im­pact on a cer­tain kind of per­son.”

It’s not hard to see why teens in the ’90s would find in­spi­ra­tion and so­lace in the char­ac­ters Camp­bell played. In

Scream and Party of Five es­pe­cially, she was like her vam­pires­lay­ing ’90s col­league Buffy only more grounded in re­al­ity: a tough young woman (with agency) who faced big­ger

prob­lems than an im­pos­si­ble crush on a pop­u­lar boy. But it was also how she played those char­ac­ters. No one oc­cu­pies that un­steady ter­ri­tory be­tween fear and steely re­solve like Camp­bell. That lim­i­nal space is where so many teenage girls live that ac­tresses who em­body that di­chotomy have been totemic to young women for decades. Ba­si­cally, Kris­ten Stewart should pay Camp­bell a cut of that Twi­light money. Be­cause what­ever mix­ture of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and badassery Stewart gave to Bella Swan, Camp­bell per­fected that mix.

She was—and still is—so good at pro­ject­ing this hell-noyou-won’t-see-me-cry kind of un­steady bravado be­cause she comes by it nat­u­rally. Sure, all ac­tresses need some of that in­ter­nal for­ti­tude to sur­vive in the in­dus­try—which they are only now able to be hon­est about—but Camp­bell had it at a shock­ingly early age.

When she was nine, she moved from Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., to Toronto to at­tend Canada’s Na­tional Bal­let School. Bal­let is one of those art forms where the lot­tery of pu­berty, along with other fac­tors com­pletely out of one’s con­trol, can dic­tate suc­cess or fail­ure. It tests, builds and re­wards re­solve and ma­tu­rity.

“You sac­ri­fice the av­er­age child­hood,” she says. “But at the same time you get so much from that—artistry, dis­ci­pline, strength, com­mit­ment, how to func­tion in a pro­fes­sional world, how to be­have with di­rec­tors and to take di­rec­tion— and gain an un­der­stand­ing of hard work. Although my body visu­ally suited bal­let, it was not easy. I was con­stantly in­jured, deal­ing with pain and in­flam­ma­tion. I ac­tu­ally just had spinal surgery 10 weeks ago that is cer­tainly the re­sult of many, many years of dance and dam­age.”

She left the school when she was 14, but the art form works as a kind of me­taphor for life, too. When you see the grace­ful, pre­cise move­ments of a bal­le­rina, you can eas­ily for­get how much sheer strength is re­quired to make some­thing so beautiful. Camp­bell moved eas­ily from a pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion drama to reg­u­lar film roles back in a time when the road be­tween the two me­dia was less as­sured. “Hon­estly, peo­ple were like, ‘How did you de­cide to do that script?’” she says. “It was the first lead I was ever of­fered. Not even of­fered—I au­di­tioned and got it. It’s not like I had a lot of lead roles in films com­ing at me. It was very new for me. Get­ting that was a very poignant mo­ment in my ca­reer.” The re­ward for all that win­ning in the ’90s wasn’t an un­yield­ing cy­cle of box of­fice won­ders or piles of golden stat­ues col­lect­ing dust in her Brook­lyn home. It was some­thing more ful­fill­ing for her and inim­itably more in­ter­est­ing for us: She won free­dom. Af­ter Scream, she did sur­pris­ingly edgy roles (Wild Things) to buck be­ing type­cast and smaller, crit­i­cally lauded films with in­ter­est­ing co-stars and idio­syn­cratic di­rec­tors (The Com­pany, When Will I Be Loved, Panic). She was able to mess around in Bri­tish films and com­mand the stage in Lon­don. And more re­cently she made in­deli­ble ap­pear­ances on pres­tige TV shows like Mad Men and in the past two sea­sons of House of Cards as the Un­der­woods’ cam­paign man­ager. Camp­bell’s ca­reer has some­how never seemed rushed or pre­car­i­ous. She would ap­pear and then not, never gone long enough for it to feel like her pres­ence was a come­back and never so ea­ger for fame that you would ques­tion her choices. This all aligns with her per­sonal def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess to­day.

“Some peo­ple might call suc­cess a big block­buster,” she ex­plains. “Oth­ers might say it’s get­ting to work in an art form that you love or get­ting to play roles that mean some­thing to you and hav­ing cer­tain peo­ple be touched by those roles. For me, the lat­ter is the safest way to go. If you spend all your time think­ing about whether some­thing could make a lot of money, you’re go­ing to be in trou­ble be­cause very few things do. Un­less you’re Dwayne John­son.

“It’s a safer bet to fo­cus on a good ex­pe­ri­ence, a good lo­ca­tion and a good gang of peo­ple you want to work with. Hope­fully you learn some­thing from the ex­pe­ri­ence, and maybe some peo­ple will love it.”

Her strat­egy for suc­cess has brought her in con­tact with some pow­er­ful men who have been in the news lately—and I’m not talk­ing about The Rock. Maybe ev­ery ac­tress has this many in­ter­ac­tions with prob­lem­atic men, but, still, it stands out with Camp­bell, too. To wit: Har­vey We­in­stein served as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer for the Scream movies; James To­back di­rected When Will I Be Loved, in­clud­ing that film’s sex scenes; and Kevin Spacey (ob­vi­ously) was in a lit­tle show called House of Cards. “It’s a lot more than three,” she says, af­ter I re­peat this list. “At this point, my agents are like, ‘Can you just let us know every­body you’ve worked with?’ I don’t know why. I feel like the #MeToo hash­tag thing is like a Six De­grees of Kevin Ba­con for me. It’s ridicu­lous.”

And while she doesn’t dis­close any sad or sala­cious sto­ries, it’s a re­minder of the dan­gers of the in­dus­try. “It’s a very strange ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says. “It’s just sad that there are peo­ple in this world who use their power to dom­i­nate oth­ers and take ad­van­tage and harm. Within all of this, that is the hor­ri­ble thing. I think what I’ve been strug­gling with is that there hasn’t been much due process for cer­tain peo­ple. At the same time, I’m glad that things are shift­ing. I’m cer­tainly over­joyed that peo­ple are find­ing their voice and speak­ing up, and I think any­one who has been dam­aged shouldn’t hes­i­tate to try to find jus­tice. I’m re­ally glad that that move­ment is happening. I think we need to be cau­tious about judg­ing peo­ple un­til we’re ab­so­lutely cer­tain. It’s a tough balance. I think it’s OK for the pendulum to swing right now. Maybe peo­ple need to be ex­tra-cau­tious to fig­ure out what’s ap­pro­pri­ate and learn how to read signs and just be smart about it.”

Maybe it’s too op­ti­mistic to take Camp­bell’s lat­est role—as Dwayne John­son’s wife in Sky­scraper—as a sign that the in­dus­try is get­ting bet­ter for women. Yes, she is play­ing a wife in an ac­tion movie, but at least she is a wife who is age ap­pro­pri­ate for The Rock.

“I ac­tu­ally men­tioned that to the pro­duc­ers when we were shoot­ing,” she says. “I went in for the screen test, and some of the other ac­tresses were 10 years younger. At the time, I thought, ‘This is never gonna hap­pen.’ I was re­ally im­pressed that they hadn’t looked up my age.”

That might be the last­ing con­tri­bu­tion of Camp­bell’s gen­er­a­tion of ac­tors. They seem to be lead­ing the charge to change Hol­ly­wood’s at­ti­tude to­ward gen­der equal­ity. Prob­a­bly, though, the pro­duc­ers just saw Camp­bell’s in­ner re­solve and re­al­ized that only some­one as big as The Rock would be a be­liev­able match for her.

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