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September 2004
When Will I Be Loved: An Interview with Neve Campbell

When Will I Be Loved: An Interview with Neve Campbell

By Todd Gilchrist

Neve Campbell's first major big screen role was in the first "Scream" movie, playing the last teen virgin in a suburb ably dedicated to the cinematic axiom that once you have sex, you're fodder for a serial killer/ movie monster's evil designs. A few years later, she locked lips with Denise Richards and Matt Damon in "Wild Things" and revealed a bit of duplicity hiding behind that squeaky-clean image. With her latest film, James Toback's "When Will I Be Loved", Campbell eviscerates all previous perceptions of her silver screen iconography, bares her soul (and a lot of skin) for the camera, and reveals that this little girl has finally grown up. Campbell recently spoke to blackfilm.com about dropping her inhibitions- much less her clothes- for this daring role, and discussed how difficult it is to find good, interesting and most of all challenging roles in an industry that thrives on safety and homogeneity.

What was it like playing a more sexual character than you usually play?

Neve Campbell: I've had issues in the past with nudity, when I've felt that the scenes of nudity in the films have nothing to do with the films themselves, that they were solely there for box-office draw. But as this film is about sexual exploration and curiosity and power, it seemed to make sense to me to see this character in the raw.

Could you identify with character?

NC: I think I can identify with all the characters that I play, in some way. There are many, many aspects to Vera; I mean, yes, she's strong and she's intelligent, but she's also vulnerable, she's also intellectual in different ways, she's curious, she's explorative, so there were many aspects to her." Why is she so sexually open? "It's just a stage in her life. I think, because of her intelligence, she's a very curious person, and wants to learn about different things, and is at a stage in her life where she's trying to figure stuff out.

Is subversion of femme fatale archetype what appealed to you?

NC: Truthfully, when James came to me with this idea, there were only 35 pages of the script, so I didn't really know what it was going to be exactly. But I was really excited about working with Jim. I really admire his films. I think they're very courageous and interesting.

How do you prepare yourself for improv-heavy film like this?

NC: Just be open, I think, and be aware of where your character is at within the moment, and then be open to responding to whatever is coming at you from the other actor.

Why did you decide to film your tryst with Joelle Carter behind a curtain instead of in the open?

NC: She and I discussed it, and felt that it would be appropriate, and that it would be beautiful, and more subtle than being across the counter or something like that. What I really wanted was to see that someone was completely willing and open to it and comfortable with it, and Joelle was.

Have you felt taken for granted?

NC: As a woman, I've been underestimated, in some ways. I think we all have, male or female. We've all been underestimated in some way, and how does that make you feel? And how does that make you respond? I think we all could come up with an answer to that.

Were Vera's manipulations planned, or were they momentary impulses?

NC: I really felt that she, with her intelligence, but also with her instinct, was sort of making choices as things occurred to her. She was curious, and would make choices to move to the next step, like, for instance, to invite Dominic's character and say Œyeah, go for it,' because she was curious and wanted to see what this person was about, and was angry before, so, in a way, it was a resentment. But she hadn't decided how it was going to play itself out.

What's James Toback's process like as a writer and director?

NC: The script sort of developed day-by-day, and we had 12 days, so we would shoot stuff in the morning, and we would have an idea of what's supposed to happen on the whole, but we would discuss it in the evening, and James would go home and write. He'd come back with pages the next day, and then we'd discuss it, and we would either use the pages, or we would improvise.

Are you more active in seeking challenging projects and strong female characters?

NC: Not necessarily a strong female character, it could be a very weak female character as well just someone interesting and extreme, or someone that's well-written. It's very hard to find well-written pieces.

Do you turn down a lot?

NC: I turn down a lot of stuff. 99.9% of the scripts are really, really bad, and that's because writers don't write anymore. I mean, the people writing the scripts are not writers. Jim is a writer. He has an understanding of the language, he was a professor, he's written novels, he's written many scripts. In the olden days, it used to be that when films were being written, they were being written by playwrights and novelists, and, nowadays, anyone picks up a typewriter and writes a script, and I think that's why there are so few good ones.

How collaborative do you like your filmmaking process to be?

NC: I think the thing with Bob [Altman] and Alan [Rudolph] and Jim is that they've been in the business long enough they don't let their egos get in the way. They're smart enough to know that if they have a group of great artists, or people that they believe in, then why not let them bring something to the table, and bring their ideas to the table? With the collaborative process, you get a better product, I think.

Is there a line for you between commercial and indie projects?

NC: I haven't decided I'm only going to be doing independent films. The only reason I'm doing independent films is because they're the better scripts and the better projects. If someone was spending a lot of money to a good project, then absolutely, you know, but they're few and far between.

What does this film say to you, and what does it say about people in general?

NC: It says a lot of things, I think. I think it certainly says don't underestimate people around you. I think, for me, that this film is about action and reaction, it's about responses and how we as human beings affect one another, and then the choices that we make in dealing with that affect. What I love about this film, and Jim's work, is his freedom to express stuff about sexuality. I mean, there are so many fears about that in America, and I'm not quite sure why, considering the amount of magazines where we're bombarded with sexual images.

Was there any trepidation about doing so much nudity and explicit sex in this film?

NC: I think it's just right. I think we would've been far too overt if we had taken it any further. I think each sex scene in the film tells its own story, and they're all very different from one another. You go to Europe, and you go to the spas there, and there are men and women, and they're naked, and they're not staring at each other, because they're not being bombarded by all these sexual images. I think, because of the bombardment, we always have a fear of it. It's like this taboo now, and people are uncomfortable with their own sexuality, I think. I don't know what the answer is, but I think there's nothing wrong with expressing it and trying to put it out there, and some people accept it, and some people don't.

Did you feel you had ownership over sex scenes, or did you feel exploited?

NC: I had ownership of it, because Jim wouldn't have forced me to do anything. We had had discussions beforehand about my comfort level on things, and I obviously was very comfortable with things. But I wouldn't have put myself in a situation where I could be forced into anything, and I didn't feel like I was compromising.

You earned a reputation prior to this for avoiding roles that required nudity.

NC: It's a personal choice. I chose, for those films, not to do it.

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