BW's own Erin Ryan was able to catch up with actress Neve Campbell via e-mail about co-producing and starring in the Robert Altman film, The Company. The Company will screen in the True West Film Festival on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Flicks and will be followed by a Q&A with Campbell herself.
ER: The teasers I've read for The Company suggest that you came up with the story, worked closely with screenwriter, Barbara Turner and co-produced. How did the project come to be and what it's like to see something you essentially created on the big screen getting acclaim?
NC: The Company began with my feeling that no dance film had ever truly captured what it is that dancers go through on a day-to-day basis--the amazing artists but also athletes that dancers are. Dance is by far one of the most under-appreciated art forms, and being as connected to it as I am, it was a world that I wanted to reveal.
The process of getting the film made properly took at least seven years. A film about the dance world itself without all the usual clichés was not an easy pitch to make, and gathering the right group of people who would show an interest and curiosity about the truth of the dance world was key. It was really searching out the correct writer, Barbara Turner, director, Robert Altman and co-producers, Killer Fims who are known for staying out of the creative process that brought it together for me. We had to share the same vision, and thankfully we did.
Had you worked with Robert Altman before? If not, what was it like to approach such a giant in the movie business, and what were the best things about working with him?
I'd not worked with Robert Altman before, but thankfully Barbara Turner worked with him 30 years ago and was able to convince him to read the script and consider the idea. After he showed some interest, I proceeded to fly back and forth between New York and Los Angeles showing him tapes of dance pieces, introducing him to different choreographers, sending him to ballet classes and basically badgering him with my passion for the subject. We were elated when he finally said yes as Barbara and I had both felt from the beginning that he was the only director who could make this film in a truly classy, no-nonsense way. Bob is phenomenal at creating worlds on film, and that was exactly what we wanted.
I've read a lot about your experience with professional dance and the somewhat forced decision to pursue other dreams. I was wondering whether you miss that aspect of the stage, and if so, what particularly inspired and sated you?
I had difficulty communicating and expressing my emotions as a child. When I discovered dance, I found that it was a way to express myself without fear. I think this is what first gave me my great love for and need to dance.
If your injuries hadn't been a factor, would you still have become an actress or do you think you might have stuck with dance?
I do miss dancing, but making The Company has in some way helped me come to terms with the fact that I no longer dance professionally. I carried a deep sadness about that for quite a while, but it seems to have been purged through the process of making the film.
How did you prepare yourself mentally for the role? Did you have a particular person in mind to mold yourself to, or is your character Ry a reflection of you? I'm sure all your characters are reflections of you to a certain extent, but did this one get a bit more under your skin given its parallels and subject matter?
I feel that we all have many qualities and aspects to our identities. Each character I've played has come from one of these qualities within me and also qualities I've observed in others. I don't know that I could say which character I particularly relate to the most as I feel close to each of them in some way.
What is the value of this movie? Is it more about visual art, or does it have a really striking moral thread that rivals the beauty of the action scenes?
I think this film gives an understanding of an art form and a respect for a certain type of artist. We not only get to see the artist's process but also dance on film in a way that hasn't been seen before. Most dance films cut between an actor's face and a dancer's body, never allowing us to sit back and experience the choreography from the perspective of an audience member at a performance. This film features the dancing of actual professionals, so there was no need to cut and paste. The Joffrey Dancers are a beautiful company, and the film is filled with wonderful movement and images including a breathtaking solo called White Widow. It is one of the most mesmerizing things I've ever seen on film.
What do you think a project like True West will do for the culture-hungry here in Boise?
I think opening film festivals in places where it might not be expected is wonderful. It allows quality films to be presented to audiences who may not otherwise get the chance to experience some great independent films. It also gives the opportunity to newer filmmakers to present more original and less standard films to audiences who might be bored of Hollywood's one-track commercial mindset.
By the way, you have great teeth.
Really? You like big old crooked, rabbit-like teeth? Thanks.