Neve Campbell on ‘Scream’ Ending and What She Never Wants to See Happen

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[This interview contains spoilers for Scream (2022).]

There’s plenty of life left in Woodsboro as Neve Campbell’s Scream (2022) is the third film in the meta-slasher franchise to open atop the domestic box office. In Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s “requel,” Campbell reprises her signature role as Sidney Prescott and she’s introduced to a whole new generation of Woodsboro kids that face the threat of Ghostface. As a legacy sequel, a number of viewers expected at least one legacy character to meet their end, and some even thought that Campbell’s character might finally go the way of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Ultimately, that did not happen as the responsibility instead belonged to David Arquette’s Dewey. For Campbell, seeing Sidney become a victim of Ghostface is something she never wants to see on-screen since she represents survival to so many people.

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“I think it is important [that she never becomes a victim in these movies],” Campbell tells The Hollywood Reporter. “She does represent a certain amount of strength and lack of victimhood, and that means a great deal to people. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me in the past and just say that she inspired them in some way or helped them in their lives in some way, which is not what you normally expect when you’re performing in a horror film. I certainly would hate to see Sidney fall. I think it would be the wrong message.”

This latest installment remains bittersweet for Campbell since it’s the first go-round without the franchise architect, Wes Craven, who directed the four previous chapters. When Campbell walked onto Scream (2022)’s Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) house set for the first time, her emotions immediately came to a head.

“Walking onto that set without Wes being present, with a sign hanging across the kitchen that said ‘For Wes,’ I burst into tears when I walked in on the first day,” Campbell says. “And from what I understand, Courteney [Cox] and David did as well. I certainly felt his absence, but I also felt his presence daily on the film. These movies, these characters, the images of Ghostface and these sets all belong to Wes so he was very, very present in our minds and in our conversations as well.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Campbell also addresses whether she’d be up for another return in a potential Scream 6.

So we last spoke during Castle in the Ground press, and that’s when you announced that you were in talks for Scream (2022). In hindsight, what were the most important factors to you at the time?

That the script be good, that the directors be respectful of Wes’ style and that this be in keeping with the other movies, obviously. I’d been apprehensive about Wes not being a part of it, and I’d been nervous about whether anyone could pull it off and get the tone, the humor, the cleverness, the meta-ness and all of that. (Laughs.) But Matt and Tyler sent me a letter, describing their love for Wes and that they were directors because of Wes Craven. He had inspired them to be filmmakers and they made Ready or Not because of the Scream movies. I had seen Ready or Not before knowing they were involved in this film, and I had actually thought it was a great film. So when I realized it was them, I thought, “Wow, they definitely have the right tone. I can see their influence.” And the fact that it was very important to them to honor Wes in the right way meant a great deal to me. So I read the script and it was really great. And I felt, “Why not? Let’s try it.” (Laughs.)

Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”) stars in Scream. - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media
Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”) stars in Scream. - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

Sidney survived the film, which brought me great relief. I was quite worried that this would be it for her, and at this rate, I don’t think I could handle seeing Sidney become a victim. Since she’s a symbol of survival to a lot of people, is it important to you that she never becomes a victim in these movies?

I think it is important. As you said, she does represent a certain amount of strength and lack of victimhood, and that means a great deal to people. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me in the past and just say that she inspired them in some way or helped them in their lives in some way, which is not what you normally expect when you’re performing in a horror film. (Laughs.) But it means a lot to people, and you’re probably not the only person who feels that way. I certainly would hate to see Sidney fall. I think it would be the wrong message.

She’s been through enough.

(Laughs.) She’s been through enough! That’s for sure.

Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”) stars in Scream. - Credit: Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media
Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”) stars in Scream. - Credit: Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

So did you perform your first scene as if she’s married to Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey)? Or is that something that was confirmed after the fact?

To be honest, I didn’t even realize it. (Laughs.) I’m being really honest. Yeah, Courteney told me the other day; she was like, “No, Mark!’ And I was like, “Oh my god, of course!” (Laughs.) I just knew I was happily married and had children, but for some reason, I didn’t put two and two together.

Scream’s holy trinity of you, David [Arquette] and Courteney [Cox] didn’t get the chance to appear together on-screen for the last time. Did the three of you at least have the opportunity to see each other off camera during filming?

Yeah, absolutely. Courteney and I obviously get to appear on-screen together, but not with David. But we had dinners with everybody, really, and connected with everyone. It was a strange one because of Covid. We didn’t get to see the crew’s faces at all during the shoot, which is hard and feels weird. I always like to sit by the monitor and be with the directors and see what the shots are and discuss what they’re looking for, but I didn’t have an opportunity to do that because of Covid. I had to sit in another room with a monitor and that was strange for me. So there were certain aspects of connection that didn’t get to happen this time around, but with the cast, because we were shooting scenes unmasked and we were getting tested every single day, sometimes twice a day, we were able to do some dinners together, which was lovely.

Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and executive producer Kevin Williamson on the set of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s Scream. - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media
Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and executive producer Kevin Williamson on the set of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s Scream. - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

They built Stu Macher’s (Matthew Lillard) house on a soundstage like they did in Scream 3. Which movie’s Macher house felt more bizarre?

This movie, for sure, because there’s an ode to Wes in it. Walking onto that set without Wes being present, with a sign hanging across the kitchen that said “For Wes,” I burst into tears when I walked in on the first day. And from what I understand, Courteney and David did as well. I certainly felt his absence, but I also felt his presence daily on the film. These movies, these characters, the images of Ghostface and these sets all belong to Wes so he was very, very present in our minds and in our conversations as well. If anyone was apprehensive about a choice being made, we would always talk about what Wes would want to do, and the directors certainly appreciated that and wanted to hear that, which was great.

During the house party, the characters toast to their friend Wes (Dylan Minnette), who was obviously a stand-in for Wes Craven. So the directors requested audio tracks from many of the franchise’s characters, past and present, in order to merge them into one big “To Wes!” toast. Did you hear about this amazing tribute?

Yeah, it was very special. They really love Wes, and I wish they had time with him, to be honest. It’s so beautiful to see what an influence that Wes had on people, even if they didn’t get the opportunity to meet him. The fact that he inspired people to become filmmakers is incredible.

You shot in Wilmington, North Carolina, which is fitting since I read that the original film looked closely at North Carolina as a shooting location. Does that sound familiar?

I don’t remember that! It was a long time ago. (Laughs.) Is that true?

According to the Internet, it was mentioned in one of its umpteen documentaries.

Then it’s probably right. (Laughs.)

Going back to Stu’s house, I appreciated how the production designers didn’t recreate the interior to look exactly like it did in 1996. They seemed to reference what the real house in Marin County looks like today.

Yeah, the set dec and the designers did an incredible job on it. It was creepy walking in there, honestly. It was like walking back in time. (Laughs.)

Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), left, and Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) star in Scream. - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media
Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), left, and Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) star in Scream. - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media

There are moments where Sidney and Gale recognize what’s about to happen before it happens, such as a trap being set. They’ve seen it all at this point. Did you and Courteney have those moments as actors on this Scream set? Did certain sights and sounds trigger past memories?

Yes, for sure. The final sequence in Stu’s house is obviously harkening back to the original and there were so many flashbacks to when we did this 25 years ago. It felt like the same kitchen, the same space and the same energy. Yeah, it was quite surreal to be honest, but I think the young actors did an incredible job. They’re so talented, and it felt very similar to the energies that Jamie [Kennedy], Matt [Lillard], Skeet [Ulrich], Rose [McGowan] and everybody brought to those scenes.

Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy and Neve Campbell in Scream (1996) - Credit: Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection
Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy and Neve Campbell in Scream (1996) - Credit: Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

Speaking of Skeet, I know he was on set for a couple days to shoot his moments. Did you happen to run into him?

Let me think about that because we did prior and post … I actually don’t think he was there when I was there. I think he had finished already when I arrived, which is actually similar to Drew [Barrymore] on the first one. It felt like separate films.

I heard that you had some of the new kids over to your place to play cards.

Yeah!

Did you feel any responsibility as far as serving a mentor-type role to them?

I didn’t feel like I needed to with these kids. They’re such pros in their own right. They’re so talented and committed and on point. They’re uber fans of the franchise as well so they knew the tone really well and they knew what they wanted to bring to it and they knew what the Scream films need when it comes to energy and playfulness. I keep saying I didn’t tell them anything, but Melissa [Barrera] reminded me that I told her to have fun. And to be honest, that is the most important thing on these films. You can’t take it too seriously. I mean, yes, of course, it’s important that we do a good job, but it’s also really important to have fun. That’s when the commitment and the playfulness in the characters come. So as I said, they did a beautiful job, and I do think they had fun from what I understand. It seemed that they had as much fun as we did on our first one. On the first one, we basically stayed together in a motel in Santa Rosa. We were all in the same hallway with our rooms next to one another, and it was very much like being at summer camp. And because of Covid, these kids all stayed at the same hotel under similar circumstances. They weren’t going out with family or friends; they were really isolated with one another. They really got to know each other and bond, so it was lovely to see that.

Melissa told me that the knife kept slipping out of Ghostface’s gloves and that a real knife almost hit her.

Wow, I didn’t know that!

And I told her that it reminded me of your umbrella story from the first movie where you accidentally poked/stabbed Skeet. That story is true, right?

Yeah, I think that is true now that you remind me of it. (Laughs.) Yeah, these things, these slips, happen on these movies.

I recently read an interesting idea for a Scream movie that leans into the meta side of things even more. Basically, it would take place in the “real world” where you’d play a fictional Neve Campbell, and that would allow all of the past victims to come back as fictional versions of their real-life selves. And instead of just using horror tropes to solve a real-world Ghostface threat, you’d also have to rely on your own Scream movies for guidance. So is playing Neve Campbell in a Scream movie going too far down the rabbit role for you?

(Laughs.) It kinda sounds like fun! To be honest, I don’t know if there is such a thing as “too far down the rabbit hole” with the Scream movies. You have to go there and be willing to take the audience with you.

Did you do anything specific to get back into character? Did you rewatch the old movies? Or do you know her so well that you can access that part of yourself with ease?

Yeah, I don’t need to rewatch the films. I know them well enough and I certainly know Sidney well enough. There’s always a little bit of yourself, and the fact that Sidney is a mother now, it was nice to bring that to her. It was another level of ferociousness for Sidney. (Laughs.)

Neve Campbell in Scream (1996) - Credit: Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection
Neve Campbell in Scream (1996) - Credit: Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

When you see old footage of Sidney in passing, what typically goes through your mind?

It’s usually the making of the film, the moments on set themselves and what was going on on set. I don’t think about the after moments.

Since Scream (2022) had a very strong opening weekend, they’re probably going to talk to you about returning again someday. Will your return come down to the usual factors such as the strength of the script and story?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s down to the strength of the story. I wouldn’t want to do it unless the script is good. It would be hard. (Laughs.) But these guys did really well on this one, so I’m curious to see what would come next. So we’ll see.

I’m already worried about her fate in the next one.

(Laughs.) You never know, do you?

By the way, in our last conversation, I mentioned to you that I snuck into Scream 25-plus years ago because my friends and I were well underage, and that’s when you shocked me by saying that you’d never actually snuck into an R-rated movie. So I’ve been reeling ever since that conversation.

(Laughs.) You really think everybody has snuck into an R-rated movie except me?!

I thought it was a common rite of passage!

I don’t think so! I don’t think it’s that common to be a criminal. (Laughs.)

Did you at least see an R-rated movie at home before you were of age?

Yeah, I’m sure I did. We had a few things on loop because we only had a few VHS cassettes. (Laughs.) We had Ghostbusters, we had Trading Places… Was Trading Places R-rated?

It was! [Writer’s Note: Oddly enough, there’s a Trading Places reference in Scream (1996).]

There! That would be the one.

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Scream is now playing in movie theaters nationwide.

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