Sidney Prescott is 'Scream', and Neve Campbell Deserves to be Rewarded for It

The significant difference with Scream compared to most other horror series is that the crucial link to each movie is not the killer but rather the protagonist. Laurie Strode is a major part of the Halloween series, but she is missing from several of them. Nancy Thompson is likely the hero we connect with in Nightmare on Elm Street, but she is only in three of them. The recurring hero in Friday the 13th could be Tommy Jarvis, but he not only is just in three but he doesn't even show up until what was billed as The Final Chapter (spoiler, it wasn't.). Sidney Prescott is the lead character of Scream, and the rare case where the hero for the slasher is the focal point rather than the killer. There is no Scream without Sidney Prescott.

It isn't just that Sidney shows up each time to be harassed and chased by the killer. She is what drives the killer. The killer may be different in every single movie, but each time the killers are obsessed and consumed by Sidney. She is the motivation for the killing spree every time, and her trauma and emotional scars are a major theme of the story. The killers are so obsessed with Sidney that they don the Ghostface mask each time in order to recapture the infamous Woodsboro murders that kicked off the perpetual nightmare that became Sidney's life.

Not only is Sidney absolutely crucial for a Scream movie to work, but she is one of the best final girls ever. Not only that, but she fits along side Ellen Ripley, Leia Organa and Sarah Conner as badass woman that rival any male action character. She displays an amazing amount of mental toughness and perseverance, but also feels relatable and vulnerable. She is a nuanced character, and a major reason Scream is one of the most consistent and best horror series (my favourite series, even if I have individual horror movies that I like better than every Scream movie.).

The credit for Sidney being an iconic character goes to the actor that plays her, Neve Campbell. Sure, the writing of Kevin Williamson and the directing of Wes Craven played a huge part in establishing the characters, but it is Neve Campbell that made the character live and breathe. So, if the Sidney character drives the series, then it is obvious to surmise Neve Campbell is the Ferrari. You need her to make it work.

Now, during the 2022 Scream podcast, I said that they established enough interesting new characters that maybe the series could move past Sidney. I do think if the plan is for several more movies that at some point Sidney needs to pass the torch to a new protagonist to be tormented and haunted. Long time fans want there to be a point where poor Sidney gets to live in peace and happiness. But what I did not mention on the podcast was that producers and filmmakers need to be aware that if they decided to go with a Scream without Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, then they must expect the picture won't be as successful. Sidney and Campbell are the face of the series and have driven the narrative. While we come to Halloween to see Michael Myers and Nightmare on Elm Street to see Freddy Kreuger, it is Sidney that draws fans out for Scream.

So, it was a bummer to learn this week that Neve Campbell won't be returning. But if it was due to the writers and filmmakers deciding they needed to move in a new direction with the series then I'd have been okay with it, because I have a lot of faith in Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega being the new faces on the next series of movies. Barrera's Sam has a unique backstory, and the movie ended where she could go in a lot of different directions. Jenna's Tara was a very empathetic and endearing character, and there was lots of room for her to grow and be changed by the horrific events of the previous movie. 

But it wasn't a case of the series moving past Sidney and putting the spotlight on new characters. It appeared Sidney was in the script and they had planned on Campbell returning.

Instead, it has been reported that Neve Campbell has opted out, because she was given a contract offer that is far below what she perceived as her value to the series. And any Scream fan, would know that her value borders on priceless. She means more than the Ghostface killer. She is the driving force of every single movie. Sidney is Scream. Since Campbell is Sidney, you can connect the dots.

Campbell also mentioned that as a woman she has had a long battle to prove her value to studios. It does make me wonder if we would even be having this discussion or if there would have even been an issue if Joshua Jackson had been Sid Prescott for all these decades. He would get his asking price. 

It doesn't take much research to see that there has been a huge disparity in pay for female actors compared to male. There was the shocking reveal that for the All the Money in the World reshoots Mark Wahlberg made $1.5 million as a major supporting character compared to the lead Michelle Williams who made less than $1,000. You could argue that Mark Wahlberg is a bigger star, but I'd argue that his name didn't do anything for that movie in the box office. Since it was a movie gearing towards Oscar recognition, Williams actually meant a lot more with her pedigree and past nomination history, and while she missed the Oscar nod this time, she did get actor nominations for other awards shows like the Golden Globes for this role. 

I could write a whole book about the ridiculous discrepancies that have plagued female actors. There was the other infamous story where Ian Ziering got $500, 000 for Sharknado 5 while Gal Gadot made a base salary of $300 000 for starring in Wonder Woman. All due respect to Ziering, he is a fun actor that knew the exact tone he needed to execute, but Gadot was the star in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year playing one of the most iconic superheroes while Ziering was. . . well. . . in a Sharknado movie.

Campbell made the right call rejecting the offer for Scream. I have no idea what the offer was, but since the studio hasn't come out with their side, my guess is she was likely correct that it was insultingly low. Who knows, maybe Sidney only had a cameo role in the movies, but I guarantee you that she would have been all over the marketing to sell the movie. She had a supporting role in the recent Scream but got way more time in the trailers than any of the new characters. If she was going to be a selling point for the movie, which I guarantee that she would have been, then she needs to be compensated for that. Neve Campbell is Scream.

The movie is set for shooting this summer. If Sidney is no longer in it, then obviously it may be delayed for rewrites. But my guess is that since this has now gone public and fans are not thrilled for a Sidney-less Scream, they may be returning with a new offer to try to get her back.

The Scream series needs Campbell more than she needs them. She is in a new successful TV series in The Lincoln Lawyer. She is a highly regarded actor that can deftly bounce from genre fare to big budget productions to prestige dramas. She can follow the path of Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Biel by becoming a successful producer who also continues to act. It is the horror series that loses something here.

If this is the definitive end of negotiations and the studio is moving forward with a movie devoid of Sidney Prescott, then I beg them to have more respect for the character than pull a Halloween 4 where Laurie Strode was killed off screen via a car crash when it was clear Jamie Lee Curtis had become too expensive at the time for the series (she has pulled a Loki and since resurrected two times in the series).

As certain parts of social media and the internet have angry groups spouting how Hollywood and movie storytelling is being plagued by diversity. It is clear to those that aren't insane and narrow-minded that Hollywood still has a long way to go. Sure, it is nice that the big screen has had a bit more diversity in the past few years (though not as much as those angry groups would have you believe as white male leads are still the normal), but it is a far way from valuing actors for what they bring no matter their gender or race. There are many females that are crucial to their movie series and deserve the compensation that their male counterparts receive. Neve Campbell is the draw for Scream, and she deserves to be treated that way.