Arts

Neve Campbell: The courage of the bereaved mum I play in Clouds blew me away

Canadian actress Neve Campbell, best known for her role in the hugely successful Scream franchise, plays a woman facing the death of her teenage son in new film Clouds. She spoke to Laura Harding

Neve Campbell, right, with Sabrina Carpenter in Clouds

BACK in 2013 a viral folk-pop song about flying in the clouds where “the view is a little nicer” topped the iTunes charts.

It hit number one on the day of the funeral of its singer, Zach Sobiech, who had died of cancer at the age of 18.

He was still in school when he learned that the osteosarcoma – a rare bone cancer – he had been diagnosed with had spread, and he spent the rest of his short life pursuing his musical dreams, as documented in the memoir Fly A Little Higher by his mother, Laura, which has now been adapted into a film.

“I read the book before I met Laura,” remembers Scream star Neve Campbell, who plays her in the movie. “And I was just so blown away by this woman's strength, spirituality, maturity, courage.

“It's unfathomable to put yourself in the place of a mother losing her child; it's even more unfathomable that someone could do it with such grace and bolster her family along the journey, including her son, Zach.

“I wanted to honour her, I wanted to honour that woman and her strength. It's a big ask but she was so open. It's very brave to allow people to tell your story, it must be very, very surreal for them.

“She wrote to me the other day and said it continues to be very surreal but they are so happy. She and Rob [her husband] watched the movie five times in a row and were, thankfully, very, very happy with it, with the way the story was told, so it was scary, but I think we did it.

“We tried to honour them in the best way, in the most honest way possible, and honour her words, and there are a lot of her words in this script and I'm so glad of that, she's a profound woman.”

After learning that his disease has spread, the film – which is streaming now on Disney+ – follows Zach (played by newcomer Fin Argus) on his journey as he and his best friend and songwriting partner, Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter), land a record deal and make the music that would become Zach's farewell to the world.

“I watched every video there is of Zach on YouTube,” says Argus (22) over Zoom. “I listened to all of his music and I think one thing that is really special about this movie is, while we weren't going for exact replicas of the people, we did want to capture that spirit."

Argus is aware that he is part of Zach's legacy, and is responsible for sharing his story with the wider world.

“It was a blessing and an honour to be able to play him,” he says, “and the reason it was possible was because the family was so open about their story and their experience."

Campbell (47), herself a mother to two young sons, formed a close bond with Laura during the making of the film.

“I was really lucky when I met her, our energies are very similar so that made it easy, and we ended up having a great friendship.

“We can learn from someone when their message and their son's message was to live life to the fullest and to go into death with courage and positivity, and one of the most profound things she said to me was that her relationship with Zach has not ended – if anything it has become stronger since his passing, and that blew my mind.

“Because she ruminates on it and she gets to know him better and she gets to know herself better and we don't often think of death in that way, we think of it as a finale, and it was wonderful to hear from her that that's not necessarily how it has to be.”

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Arts