NEVE CAMPBELL: LOSE YOURSELF TO DANCE

March 14, 2014 3:20 PM

Carrying over two decades of the industry on her back, there aren’t many women with the grace and stoicism of Neve Campbell. Perhaps it boils down to the Ontario native’s beginnings, training at the renowned National Ballet School of Canada. Dealing with high pressure at such a young age (9 to 14 years old) certainly served as groundwork for the whirlwind of attention she would receive as a veritable 90s muse. Throughout the decade, Campbell was deemed “TV’s most believable teenager” as Julia Salinger on “Party of Five” (the TV series that redefined family drama), won the Saturn Award for Best Actress as Sidney Prescott in “Scream” (the film series that redefined the slasher genre), and stole the show in hit movies such as “54,” “The Craft” and “Wild Things” (in a vindictive role that redefined her good girl image). 

In the years since, Campbell, interestingly, chose a different, slightly less commercial path than her fans may have expected. In addition to roles in art house films, such as “Panic,” “Last Call,” and “When Will I Be Loved”, Campbell also co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in a 2003 film about Chicago's Joffrey Ballet called “The Company”, alongside iconic director Robert Altman.

After spending 8 years in London, Campbell sat down from her home in Los Angeles to discuss performance, staying true to herself, and overcoming the incessant U.S. paparazzi chase.

How has your return to Los Angeles been?

It’s actually been lovely. I was here for 11 years before London. I had been worried about [returning to LA] because what I love about London is it’s so multicultural, in theater and dance and film and also just being able to be so close to other countries and cultures.

It’s amazing that you were able to perform in the West End.

I did a couple of plays while I was there and I loved being able to get onstage again, because I started out as a dancer. It was nice to be a part of a company again. There’s something really beautiful about that process: going in first thing in the morning and getting in a studio with other artists who are just ready to be vulnerable and creative. The anxiety and the nerves that come with it, and the adrenaline of the creative process and being in front of an audience, it’s pretty magical.

We read a quote from you that we loved: “Dancing is a form of meditation.”

It absolutely is. You have to be present when you’re dancing. You can’t be distracted, you can’t be thinking about other things, so it really brings you into the present. And that, to me, is very much akin to meditation, and being in the moment, and being in your body. And in letting go of your mind. When you lose yourself in dance, you lose yourself in a movement - it’s very much like losing yourself in a character.

We were thinking about “The Company” [the 2003 film Campbell co-wrote and co-produced with Robert Altman]. It must’ve been so rewarding to see your ideas come to life, especially within dance.

“The Company” is something I thought of when I was young, and I started developing it when I was 23. It took 8 years to develop the project. By the time we were on stage and I was working with the Joffrey Ballet and working with choreographers I’d always dreamt of working with, and watching the crew witness dance for the first time, and watching dancers see what it is to be part of a film for the first time, and seeing Robert Altman lose himself on the dance floor...it was all such a miraculous experience.

What an incredible pay-off after 8 years of planning.

It can take that long to make something that is meaningful to you. “The Company” was a movie about the world of ballet that didn’t star any major stars at the time, and it was improvised by the dancers themselves – that wasn’t an easy sell to the major studios!

The theme of this issue is MUSE. Do you have any muses?

I wouldn't say I have muses, but I would certainly say that two major influences in my life have been Robert Altman. As well as Henry Bromell, who sadly passed away this year. He was a wonderful writer/director, whose process was really beautiful and whose writing was really precise and lovely. He was so open to everybody else’s artistic view and really observing the world, and really getting to know everyone’s story before he put pen to paper. Bob was like that too – it wasn’t about him or his ego. It was about inviting everybody to the play: every crew member, the craft service, anyone who wanted to have an opinion about the project we were making, he would listen. I think there’s something so inspiring about people like that. Of course it’s important to have a clear view of what you’re trying to make, but it’s equally important to be open to being wrong, and being open to other people perhaps having a better idea.

What do you think is important, as a storyteller?

I think it’s about staying true to what it is you actually want to say, as opposed to giving in to the commercial part of the industry that says “a story must be A, B, C - and if not, it can’t be done.” Unfortunately, with the industry today, because of financial challenges, it’s become limited in the stories that it’s telling. And the truly magical stories are the brave souls who don’t listen to those rules, and really fight to tell their story, and persevere with it. I would hope that I’ll have a career where I can continue trying to do that. Obviously we’ll all have to play the game in some way. We all have to earn a living. But I think at the same time storytelling is so, so important, and crucial to humanity.

What kind of stories do you gravitate towards?

Different worlds. Well, both actually. Sometimes I really like circumstances that feel very realistic, and really take a look at what’s going on in our lives. I could be fascinated by that, and it can be the hardest thing to do. But I love fantasy as well. There’s something wonderful about escaping from your own life and stepping into a new world.

Speaking of stepping out of your own life, was it easier to do that when you lived in London? I’d imagine you get a very different reaction, for instance, walking down the streets there in comparison to Los Angeles.

Absolutely. When I came back here, I had forgotten I was famous! I suddenly realized – oh wait, there’s Paparazzi! I really didn’t have to deal with that in London. As much as my work had shown over there, it wasn’t in everyone’s face all the time. So it was really nice to be in a country where a lot of people didn’t know who I was. I was able to take the Tube!

When Googling, a lot of U.S. gossip sites popped up with these horribly invasive photos or analyses about how much weight you’ve lost since having a baby. It must be difficult.

It was a challenge for me to come back, and be on the beach with my baby, and suddenly realize that what I thought was a private moment was not actually a private moment, and then it became everybody’s moment. But it’s a part of the business, and you just deal with it. What I do is I just don’t look at it! I learned something recently that I really took to heart: “What people think of me is none of my business.” That has helped me so much.

How did it feel returning to film “Scream 4”, and being Sidney Prescott again?

It was fun to see Wes and it was fun to see the cast and crew. It was like going back to summer camp! I had a great time. But after so long, it was also a little bit odd. And being older and doing a horror film, it just feels a bit sillier! [laughs]

Do you think you’d enjoy going back to Julia Salinger (“Party of Five”)?

You know, it was so nice – we had a reunion the other day! It’s been 13 years now since we ended the show. It really reminded me the other day, seeing everyone, how exhausted we were when doing the show. We ran for 6 years (I was 20 to 26 years old), and it was a lot of work. But it was a great show, the writing was amazing, and the cast was fantastic.

What projects are you looking forward to working on in the near future?

I’m just beginning to get my feet wet again, since having a baby. As a mom, and at this age, what I’m willing to do is drastically different than what I would’ve been willing to do 5 years ago. I’ve been offered 3 television series this year, but I realized that I don’t want to do 17 hour days, 5 days a week, 10 months a year. That’s not being a mom. So I’m in an interesting place, and I’m learning how to navigate it at the moment. As much as I want to work, I don’t want to jump into something that’s not going to feel right.

By DANNA TAKAKO

Photography ZOEY GROSSMAN. Styling ZOE COSTELLO. Hair LUKE CHAMBERLAIN using BUMBLE AND BUMBLE @Starworks Artists. Makeup SAMUEL PAUL @using CHANELManicurist Stephanie Stone @NAILING HOLLYWOOD using CHANEL

*This story was featured in TWELV's Fall/Winter 2013 Issue

 

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