Neve Campbell Recalls Surviving a Bear Attack on Set

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for IFP)

“Scream” actress Neve Campbell talked to Kelly Clarkson about surviving a bear attack on a movie set when she was 17.

The 48-year-old actress was on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” to talk about her new “Scream” movie, but the conversation turned to a 1991 unnamed movie where she survived a bear chasing her. Variety reported on the exchange.

This new version of the 1990s classic horror film “Scream” comes out on Friday. Campbell plays Sidney Prescott and reteams with Courteney Cox and David Arquette. Prescott works to solve a series of murders committed by Ghostface. 

Campbell’s Bear Attack Nearly Fatal

The actress told Clarkson she was supposed to play a girl who was “one with the animals.” The script called for her to get chased by the animal in one scene.

Set prop hands gave her a “big bottle of Coke to feed it.” The director told her after feeding it to dip her hand in honey “and just run.”

Then, the scene called for her to get to a “tree, turn her hand out and feed the bear.”

Famous actor W.C. Fields once said, “never work with children or animals.” That day Campbell learned why, because of their scene-stealing and unpredictable ways. And in this case, the bear pretty much acted like a bear.

Campbell Follows Script, Bear Does Not

The actress said she dipped her hand in honey, ran to a rock, and turned her hand out. But the animal had other ideas. He didn’t slow down and was “not coming” for her hand.

Campbell said the bear grabbed her by the leg and pulled her through the forest.

“My mother was visiting the set, and she’s screaming,” Campbell continued. “The whole crew is frozen because nobody can believe what’s happening. All I can think to say is, ‘He’s biting me,’ like it’s not obvious.”

The actress said the bear wrangler saved her by getting the animal to come after him. Afterward, the director decided not to use or redo the scene. Campbell said she didn’t have any life-threatening injuries, but things could have turned out differently.

Five years later, the actress was a Hollywood It-Girl, landing roles in “The Craft” and “Scream.” She went on to “Wild Things” and “Scream 2” in the late 1990s.

Another Acting Bear Incident Resulted In Death 

Campbell’s animal near-death experience had a different outcome than one movie trainer in 2008. 

Stephan Miller died at the paws of a 4-year-old grizzly bear named Rocky. According to Animal Defenders International, the bear bit Miller, who died within minutes of the accident. The animal and animal trainer worked on a promotional video when the tragedy occurred. 

At the time, Rocky starred in the Will Ferrell comedy movie “Semi-pro” as Dewey, The Killer Bear. California officials decided against euthanasia for the bear and banned it from other film and TV work. The bear’s owner tried to get restrictions lifted against Dewey in 2012 but failed.