Christian Campbell: Reefer Madness: The Musical
His Latest TrickAs the older brother (albeit by only one year) of one of television (Party of Five) and movies’ (The Scream trilogy) most recognized faces and names, Neve Campbell, Christian Bethune (more about the middle name later) Campbell is a star in his own right.
Like sister Neve, Christian was born in Canada and cut his acting chops on stage, as a teen; he as a theater actor, his sister as a ballet dancer.
However, it is for his role as Gabriel, an aspiring writer of Broadway musicals – in 1999’s Trick – who meets Mark, a muscled stripper, who picks him up on the subway, for which he may best be known – at the moment. And Trick may be one of the gay community’s most cherished and loved films of all time.
"That movie is more than six years old," says Campbell, reflecting on Trick, over dinner at The Regency Hotel recently, his girlfriend, Nikki, also an actress, at his side. "But everyone still remembers me as ‘that boy in Trick.’ Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I am very proud of that movie. But I don’t want to be typecast." He doesn’t sound bitter, at all, rather like an actor and human who wants to be recognized for his body of work, not just one role.
Campbell spent the past Christmas Holiday and New Year at his mother’s home in Amsterdam.
Leonardo DiCaprio, one year younger and almost as youthful looking as Campbell, who shot to fame in Titanic, recently said the same thing to me about his role in the most popular movie of all time. "I am still referred to as ‘that kid in Titanic.’ Even after Oscar nominations for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and The Aviator." One could presumably think of worse things to fret over but, not everyone’s profession is actor. And most actors with any talent want to be employed in their profession for a lifetime. Being known forever as a certain character can inhibit one’s chances for longevity in front of the camera in Hollywood.
While Trick may be the biggest movie Christian Campbell is known for, he, like his sister has been on one of television’s most popular shows, All My Children, and a show that, if wasn’t competing with Dark Angel in the same time slot at the same time, The $treet, would have undoubtedly been a hit, too. "It’s all a role of the dice," reflects Campbell, on his career thus far. "All of the choices I have made, at the time, seemed like great ones. But nothing is ever a sure thing." In fact, The $treet was created and produced by Sex & The City and Melrose Place’s Darren Star.
What Christian is counting on at the moment, in this 2005, are two things. The Showtime movie Reefer Madness, based on a play he was in Los Angeles a few years ago and an upcoming play that he is producing.
I had a chance to see Campbell perform in Reefer Madness on stage in Los Angeles, to sold out performances, four times. At one performance, his mother, (who has seen the play 20 times or more), seated in front of me, couldn’t have been a better supporter. My plans to see him in the Off-Broadway version, (which I thought was going to take NYC by storm), were blown to bits when the Twin Towers were demolished by terrorists on September 11, 2001. The play had debuted the week before, and closed a week after opening. Not from lack of interest but, rather, from fear of further terrorist attacks in NYC.
"I am very proud of the play Reefer Madness, and think if 9/11 hadn’t happened, it would still be playing Off-Broadway, and also am very happy with the movie that Showtime has produced," says Campbell, who divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City.
He just returned from The Sundance Film Festival, where Reefer Madness the movie had its debut. "It sold out each time, and the press seemed to love it," he says. "There may even be a chance that Showtime decides to release the movie in select theaters this spring. It really is a movie that would play well in art houses."
For Reefer Madness the play, Christian won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Lead Performance, playing Jimmy, the role he recreates for the film adaptation. He has also starred in Jonathan Larson's national theater productions of Tick,Tick…Boom, and Nagasaki Dust.
In 1997, Christian acquired the Lexington Theatre in Los Angeles. He then founded its resident theater company, the Blue Sphere Alliance, where he held the lead role in Nagasaki Dust, which garnered a Theater L.A. Award nomination. He later formed the New York extension of the company, Blue Sphere East, where he currently serves as artistic director.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Campbell began acting at the age six in Scottish "pantos" and other productions directed by his father, a drama teacher. His professional stage debut at age 12 was in the role of Nick in Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns for his mother’s dinner theatre The Annex Stage. He studied at the Claude Watson School for the Performing Arts, and it was during that time that he began an ongoing role in the popular Canadian series Degrassi Junior High, (which is now available on DVD).
During dinner in Boston a year or so ago, during a benefit for the late David Brudnoy’s Fund For AIDS Research, Campbell went into detail about his life and explained, among other things, how he acquired the middle name Bethune. "Neve," he says, about his sister’s unique name, "was named after my mother’s maiden name." Nothing too revealing there. But. "I got my middle name," he says, "after the doctor Norman Bethune, who was the creator of the blood transfusion and battle ambulance. He lived during The Spanish Civil War and was a communist. Funny thing. My father, around the time I was born, was a socialist, being from Canada and all, and named me after Norman Bethune. To this day, Norman Bethune is a Canadian icon."
Christian’s next project will be producing a revival of Michael Weller's Loose Ends Off-Broadway.
"Austin Pendleton is set to direct," actor-producer Campbell, said, recently from Los Angeles, where is spending the season, with girlfriend Nikki, auditioning for television pilots.
Loose Ends follows the tumultuous relationship of a world-traveling man and woman in the 1970s from their first meeting on a beach in Bali to their marriage in Boston to an unexpected revelation when they are reunited in New York.
The play made its world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in Feb. 1979. The Alan Schneider-directed production moved to Broadway's Circle in the Square where it opened May 25, 1979. Roxanne Hart and Kevin Kline starred as the lead couple in a cast that also included Jay O. Sanders and Jodi Long. The play was revived Off-Broadway in 1988 with Terry Kinney, Jane Kaczmarek and Laurence Fishburne.
Pendleton is an actor and Tony Award-nominated director who has appeared on Broadway in The Diary of Anne Frank, Grand Hotel, Doubles and The Little Foxes and in numerous films.
In addition to Campbell, Showtime’s Reefer Madness boasts the talent of original Off-Broadway co-star Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars). John Kassir and Robert Torti join in the Dan Studney-Kevin Murphy musical satire of the 1936 cautionary film meant to discourage young people from using marijuana. Campbell's sister Neve is also featured in the film with Tony Award winning and movie star Alan Cumming (Eyes Wide Shut and Son of the Mask), Steven Weber (The Producers), Amy Spanger (Urinetown, Chicago) and Ana Gasteyer (The Rocky Horror Show). For more info, visit the official website at www.sho.com.
Leaving All My Children to pursue his movie and theater career this past January after a year, Campbell attended the 35th Anniversary celebration of the immensely popular soap and sang an original Laurence O'Keefe (Bat Boy) tune titled "Sensitive Song." The event — in which Tonya Pinkins (Caroline, or Change), Susan Lucci (Annie Get Your Gun), special guest Kathy Brier (Hairspray) and other stars sang showtunes — was a benefit for Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights Aids.
Reefer Madness debuts on Showtime this April. Check your listings for dates and show times. And book your tickets soon for Loose Ends.