FILM- Campbell's coup: Western grad's a Hollywood star

Campbell plants one on Téa Leoni (unaware that the ghost of Naked Guy (Jeff Hiller) is watching in Ghost Town.

If one face in the new romantic comedy Ghost Town looks familiar, there's good reason. He's Bill (or Billy, as he's credited) Campbell, a six-year veteran of Fork Union Military Academy and a member of the class of '79 at the then-new Western Albemarle High School.

"I have a real soft spot for Charlottesville," says Campbell, on a recent phone call from Norway, where he's vacationing. "I ran around Charlottesville pretty wildly for awhile." 

Campbell, who grew up in Free Union just past Foxfield, now lives in L.A. but recalls his big break– playing the lead role in The Man Who Came to Dinner, the first play by Western's drama department.

"One of the drama teachers saw me cutting up in the hallway– she grabbed me by the collar and said I could audition for the play or go to the principal's office," Campbell laughs. "I had already been to the principal's office that day, so I auditioned and got the lead."

Non-stop ever since, Campbell has played in television, films, and held a spot in People's 50 Most Beautiful list. Campbell has a Sci-Fi channel series in the works.

"I'm not at all sure what's happening with that," the 49-year-old actor admits. "I've gotten so used to not knowing that I've become accustomed to it. Now, I just blow around with the wind."

Indeed, he says his Norwegian vacation is a chance to work with friends on tall ships, a longtime hobby. Campbell still frequently finds himself in Charlottesville to visit an assortment of nieces and nephews and his two sisters (one of whom will soon open Trailside Coffee across the street from Western).

As for Ghost Town? Although he plays the love interest of Téa Leoni, Campbell downplays his role, saying, "I probably have only five or six scenes."

However, with a plot twist in the end, Campbell plays a larger role than just a passing flirtation. With the release set for this Friday, September 19, Campbell hopes that audiences will appreciate the humor of fellow cast member Ricky Gervais. 

"It must be one of the hardest acting things there is to act with Rick Gervais and try to not crack up the whole time," says Campbell. "If the film is half as funny as the script was to read, I think the audience will fall out of their seats laughing."



Campbell is an interesting actor who never seems to get his due. He landed the titular role in Disney's The Rocketeer (1991) opposite the stunning Jennifer Connelly with co-stars Timothy Dalton and Allan Arkin (and some pretty damn amazing special effects), but the film bombed and with it ended all hope of a franchise. I still spin that picture from time to time for my kids and in it i see a bit of the wonderment that characterized the first inidiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Campbell also did good work in Coppolla's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" opposite Gary Oldman and enjoyed a 3-year run with the teevee show, Once and Again.

The fact that he has yet to break through to the top, while the inscrutable appeal of bland Ben Affleck and vacant Keanu Reeves continues unabated, is one of the odd vagaries of Hollywood and the roll of the dice that characterizes the movie bidness.

~ CC

I'll bet Bill is in Hell right now!