Neve Campbell talks about returning to the big screen for Skyscraper
Yes, that really is Neve Campbell opposite Dwayne Johnson in the summer action spectacular Skyscraper.
It isn’t the type of movie we’d expect from Campbell, who’s played a sensitive teen on the 1990s TV show "Party of Five", a horror movie heroine in the Scream franchise and, most recently, an assured, amoral political fixer in the binge-worthy Netflix hit "House of Cards".
“I was excited by the idea of doing a movie with Dwayne Johnson, I think he does some really fun, action-packed films,” says Campbell on the line from Los Angeles. “And I think because I’m a dancer, or I was a dancer, I’ve always liked the idea of doing something physical in a movie. I like the challenge of that so I was very excited at the prospect.”
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence), Skyscraper casts Johnson as Will Sawyer, a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader who lost part of his left leg while on duty. Now a security specialist who assesses skyscrapers, Sawyer is brought in to study the Pearl, the world’s tallest skyscraper, which is located in Hong Kong (though the movie was actually shot in British Columbia).
Sawyer’s wife, Sarah (Campbell), and their two kids join him on the trip abroad, and while he’s there nefarious types sabotage the building, kidnap his family and frame Sawyer for the attack.
While it is true that Campbell’s role requires her to play a typically supportive wife and loving mother, she does more than just dote, she dives into the action.
“I had a couple of sequences where I have to cross a very narrow plank very high up and carry a child. I was on a wire then and it’s an interesting experience because although you know you’re safe, it’s not holding you tight. If you fall it will catch you so it feels slightly scary, but also the adrenalin associated with that is fun.
“But running in heels with a 65-pound child on your back, not the cleverest of things at my age,” says the 44-year-old with a laugh. “My back was not happy after this movie, believe me.”
Campbell praises her co-star and Skyscraper producer Dwayne Johnson for setting the tone on set and making sure the demanding shoot ran smoothly.
“Dwayne wears a lot of hats, but you know he’s got a great sense of humour and he surrounds himself with an amazing team of really wonderful, efficient people,” she says. “Everyone is very professional but also very grateful for the work they’re getting to do, and for the fact that they’re having great success. It’s nice to be around that energy.”
Born in Guelph, Ontario, the daughter of a psychologist mother and a father who taught high school drama, Campbell was obsessed with dance at an early age and attended the National Ballet School as a child. However, injuries and the stress associated with competitive dance took its toll and at age 15 Campbell retired from ballet and turned to acting.
It was her turn as sensitive Julia Salinger on "Party of Five", the heartfelt TV drama about five siblings left to fend for themselves after their parents are killed in a car crash, that got people’s attention, and in 1996 she stepped into the big-screen spotlight playing the impossible-to-kill Sidney in the comedy-horror hit Scream.
However, Hollywood life never quite suited her. In a 2016 interview with The Guardian she admitted, “I’m so glad those days are over, I felt I was being forced into being something I wasn’t — all the time.”
She left Hollywood in 2005 and lived in England for five years with her second husband, actor John Light. When they divorced, Campbell returned to the States and started to rebuild her career by taking on weightier roles, mostly in television shows, and showing off the breadth of her talent.
Hollywood is notoriously unwelcoming for female actors over 40, and Campbell knows how difficult it is to find engaging roles, but she reveals she is finally comfortable in her own skin.
“Honestly, I enjoy being a woman in my 40s. I feel more comfortable in myself and my body and who I am as a person,” she says. “I don’t feel so scared anymore. Certainly when I was younger I had that feeling of, ‘Oh yeah, we get to a certain age and it’s over for us.’ But it feels like that’s changing. I feel less pressure on myself about what other people think. And I don’t feel the need to try and seem younger, or look younger, or come across younger, because I’m not. And honestly, I think more mature female roles are more interesting.”
She now lives in Brooklyn with her fiancé, British-American actor JJ Feild, six-year-old son Caspian, and a newly adopted baby boy. “We adopted a little boy three months ago and we are over the moon and very happy,” she gushes.
Yet she hasn’t forgotten her Canadian roots and makes a point of coming home to visit.
“I make it perhaps four times a year, not nearly enough, but you know I still get to do it. I get up to Muskoka and go to the cottage to see family, and we go to Guelph and see family there as well. It’s important.”
No doubt her family will be watching her in Skyscraper and holding their breath as she runs around a gutted building 98 floors above the ground. Campbell agrees it’s a stomach-churning ride.
“I’m not great with heights,” she admits, “so, yeah, it’s a little daunting. I saw the movie last night for the first time and I had my girlfriends come see it with me. One of them has vertigo and she was on the edge of her seat holding on desperately, but she said it was a blast. I think for anyone, whether you’re scared of heights or not scared of heights, the prospect of that tall a building and what could happen to it is going to be scary.”
Skyscraper hits theatres July 13th, click here for tickets and showtimes!