Sidney Prescott is a fictional character and the protagonist of the Scream franchise. The character was created by Kevin Williamson and is portrayed by Canadian actress Neve Campbell. She first appeared in Scream (1996) followed by four sequels: Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), Scream 4 (2011) and Scream (2022). The character appears in the Scream films as the target of a series of killers who adopt the Ghostface persona, a ghost mask and black cloak, to pursue her. In each film, the Ghostface killers often murder people close to Sidney and taunt her by phone with threats and intimate knowledge of her life or the murder of her mother, leading to a final confrontation where the true killer is revealed.
|First appearance||Scream (1996)|
|Created by||Kevin Williamson|
|Portrayed by||Neve Campbell|
|Occupation||High school student|
|Family||Neil Prescott (father; deceased in deleted scene in Scream 4 between events of Scream 3 and 4)|
Maureen Prescott (mother; deceased)
Roman Bridger (half-brother; deceased)
|Significant other||Billy Loomis (ex-boyfriend; deceased) |
Derek Feldman (boyfriend; deceased)
|Relatives||Kate Roberts (aunt; deceased)|
Jill Roberts (cousin; deceased)
Windsor College, Ohio
The killers that target Sidney have varying motivations ranging from revenge in Scream to the fame that will come from killing her in Scream 2, due to the fame she herself has obtained as a survivor of the murder spree in the original film. She first becomes the focus of her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and his friend Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard), Billy seeking revenge for his mother's abandonment following his father's affair with Sidney's mother Maureen Prescott. Scream 3 later reveals that Billy learned of this affair through Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), Sidney's half-brother, himself seeking revenge for his abandonment and rejection by Maureen, sparking the chain of events that permeate each film.
Drew Barrymore was originally cast as Sidney Prescott but scheduling conflicts led to her taking a smaller role, with the lead being offered instead to Campbell, who at the time was starring in the TV show Party of Five. She was hesitant to take another horror role after finishing work on The Craft (1996) but took the opportunity as it would be her first leading role in a feature film. Campbell reprised the role in Scream 2 and Scream 3 though her own scheduling conflicts meant she could only film for a short period of time while the third film was in production. This resulted in her character's role being reduced significantly from prior installments and focus was shifted onto the series' other lead characters, Gale Weathers and Dewey Riley. Campbell initially refused requests to return for Scream 4, with scripts written with her character's absence in mind, but ultimately agreed to return.
The character is depicted as an intelligent, resourceful young woman who slowly becomes stronger over the course of the series as she attempts to overcome the threats and deaths around her. Neve Campbell's role as Sidney Prescott has received significant critical praise throughout the series, earning her the title of Scream Queen in the 1990s and won her the Saturn Award for Best Actress in 1997 for Scream and the MTV Award for Best Female Performance in 1998 for her role in Scream 2.
Sidney Prescott first appeared in the 1996 film Scream as a teenager attending the fictional Woodsboro High School. After a series of brutal murders occur on the anniversary of her mother's death, the killer begins targeting Sidney herself with attacks and taunting phone calls. Her character has appeared in each successive film in the series, her role initially that of the victim but growing into heroine where she personally confronts each killer and defeats them.
Sidney Prescott's first cinematic appearance was in the film Scream as a 17-year-old high school senior in the fictional town of Woodsboro, California. During a spree of grisly murders, she begins to receive taunting and threatening phone calls from Ghostface, who claims to have knowledge of the brutal rape and murder of Maureen Prescott, Sidney's mother, which occurred one year prior to the events of the film, a murder that is blamed on Cotton Weary. Suspicion falls on several characters before both her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and his friend Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) are revealed to both be the killers. Billy states his motivation as revenge following his mother abandoning him over his father's affair with Maureen. With help from Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Sidney is able to kill Stu and Billy and survive the events of the film.
Sidney's second appearance was in Scream 2 which takes place two years later as student at the fictional Windsor College where a new series of Ghostface murders occur. The killers again taunt Sidney and murder her friends including Randy Meeks before her friend Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) reveals himself as the killer and murders her new boyfriend, Derek, in front of her. Mickey states his motivation as the fame that will come from his exploits including the murder of Sidney and reveals his accomplice, Mrs. Loomis (Laurie Metcalf), seeking revenge against Sidney for the death of her son Billy. Mrs. Loomis betrays and kills Mickey, intending to disappear without trace after killing Sidney, but before she can enact her plan, Cotton intervenes and shoots her, saving Sidney, who then shoots Mrs. Loomis in the head, killing her.
The third appearance of Sidney occurred in Scream 3 three years later where another murder spree begins in Hollywood, with the killer leaving photos of a young Maureen Prescott at the crime scenes. Sidney, now a crisis counselor for women, has been in hiding following the events of Scream and Scream 2 but is drawn to the set of "Stab 3", the film within a film based on Sidney and her experiences, after the new Ghostface discovers her location. Ghostface claims responsibility for the murder of Maureen Prescott and is unmasked as the director of "Stab 3", Roman Bridger, Sidney's previously unknown half-brother. Roman reveals that their mother was gang raped and impregnated with him during a two-year period where she moved to Hollywood to become an actress, before she met Sidney's father. After being given up for adoption, an adult Roman sought her out only for her to reject him. Roman began stalking Maureen, filming her adulterous liaisons with other men, including the father of Billy Loomis, and used this footage to convince Billy to murder Maureen, unknowingly setting in motion the events of Scream and Scream 2. Sidney manages to defeat Roman, with Dewey Riley's (David Arquette) help and finally move on with her life.
Sidney's fourth appearance was in Scream 4 set ten years after the events of Scream 3. After returning to the town of Woodsboro to publicize her new book, "Out of Darkness" - a self-help book about overcoming the events of her life - a new Ghostface begins attacking the town and leaves evidence in Sidney's car. Becoming a suspect in the murders, Sidney stays in town with her cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) and maternal aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) but the family becomes embroiled in the Ghostface murder spree. Sidney tries to save Jill from being attacked only to discover that Jill is the killer with her accomplice Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin), Jill, envious of her cousin's fame was hoping to recreate the events of Billy and Stu's murder spree to make herself the Sidney of a "new generation" with all the associated fame. Jill betrays and kills Charlie, and stabs Sidney, before brutalizing herself to appear the "sole survivor", but after arriving at hospital she discovers Sidney has survived. When Jill attempts to finally kill her cousin, Sidney manages to shoot her deranged cousin in the heart, killing her.
The role of Sidney Prescott was initially given to actress Drew Barrymore after Barrymore herself approached the production, having read the script, to request the role and was signed to the film before a director had even been found. Wes Craven, after being hired as director, commented that he was able to have bigger actors in the film than his budget allowed because of Barrymore's desire to be involved, which he believed helped attract other big names to the production. While early development on the film took place, however, Barrymore's schedule commitments meant she was no longer able to remain in the demanding leading role, but still wishing to take part she volunteered to play the smaller role of Casey Becker, who dies early in the film, with her scene being filmed in five days. Following Barrymore's abdication of the role, actresses Alicia Witt and Brittany Murphy auditioned for the part. The production also offered the role to Reese Witherspoon although she ultimately never auditioned. It was Canadian actress Neve Campbell who was given the lead of Sidney Prescott after Craven saw her in the television series Party of Five, believing she could best embody a character who was "innocent" but also able to handle herself while dealing with the demanding physicality and emotions of the role. Campbell herself was reluctant to undertake a role in another horror film so soon after taking part in The Craft (1996), but agreed to Scream as it would be her first leading role and she "adored" the character saying "She's a fantastic character for any kind of movie." Campbell and her on-screen boyfriend Skeet Ulrich had previously starred together in The Craft which they believed helped make their performance of the relationship between Sidney and Ulrich's character, Billy Loomis, more natural.
On how she approached the leading role in the series, Campbell stated:
I remember feeling insecure on the first film, everybody around me was being goofy and funny and had all these great one-liners, and I seemed so stoic in some ways. But I came to realize that if the audience couldn't see the movie through my eyes, then they wouldn't see me at all. They weren't going to feel it and weren't going to care. So it was very important for me to remain reality-based within the film, because there had to be some source of reality for it to be good. It was the same thing on the sequel.
Kevin Williamson had submitted treatments for two possible sequels to Scream before the film was even released and so Campbell had been contracted for Scream 2 when she signed on to the original film as she played the only character guaranteed to survive the film. However, scheduling became an issue for Campbell and the production as, at the time, she was still starring in Party of Five.
For Scream 3, Craven insisted that convincing Campbell and the other principal cast to return was not a problem, but scheduling Campbell's availability with the film's production again became an issue, with Campbell starring not only in Party of Five but three other feature films. Her availability was limited enough that she was only available for 20 days of filming which resulted in a significantly reduced role for her character and a shift in focus to Cox and Arquette's characters of Gale Weathers and Dewey Riley respectively.
When production of Scream 4 was announced, nearly ten years after the last installment of the series, Campbell initially refused offers to reprise her role as Sidney, forcing early script drafts to be written in consideration of her absence while again shifting focus on to Cox and Arquette's roles. However, by September 2009, Campbell was confirmed as reprising her role in the film. Early versions of Williamson's Scream 4 script involved Campbell's character being attacked in the opening, a key point of contention for Bob Weinstein, head of Scream developer Dimension Films, who had it removed.
On her character of Sidney Prescott, Neve Campbell spoke positively, saying she "adored" the character and "She's a fantastic character for any kind of movie." In 1997, the Scream role won Campbell the Saturn Award for Best Actress and an MTV Movie Award for Best Female Performance nomination. The following year, she went on to win the 1998 Best Female Performance for Scream 2 and received a second Best Actress nomination from the Saturn Awards, losing to Jodie Foster for Contact (1997). She received a third and final Best Female Performance nomination from MTV in 2000 for the character in Scream 3 but lost to fellow Scream alum Sarah Michelle Gellar for Cruel Intentions (1999).
John Muir, author of Wes Craven: The Art of Horror, praised the development of Sidney Prescott in Scream 2 labeling her character, amongst others, "beloved".
Roger Ebert, heavily critical of the cast and film of Scream 3, singled out Campbell's role for praise saying "The camera loves her. She could become a really big star and then giggle at clips from this film at her AFI tribute". Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News was considerably less complimentary of Campbell, saying "She adds ZERO coolness. Zero talent. And Zero charisma to [Scream 3]."
Bryan Enk and Adam Swiderski of UGO ranked Neve Campbell as the 8th greatest Scream Queen for her role as Sidney Prescott, saying "in the 1990s, Neve was pretty much the number-one scream queen around."
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