Interview date: 10/07/2008
Run date: 11/25/2008
Bruce Campbell is perhaps the most iconic B-movie star in Hollywood, and he’s got the chin to prove it. Even with nearly 100 acting credits to his name (including roles in cult classics like “Bubba Ho-Tep,” blockbuster action movies like “Spider-Man 3,” and hit TV shows like “Burn Notice”), Bruce is still best known for his role as the shotgun-toting, chainsaw-revving hero from Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” series. While on a 21-city tour across the country promoting his new film, “My Name Is Bruce,” the veteran actor found some time to sit down with Bullz-Eye to discuss his dual role in the film (he both stars and directs), his experiences (both good and bad) of working on the “Evil Dead” trilogy, and dish on the future of the franchise.
Bullz-Eye: Hey Bruce, how are you?
Bruce Campbell: Good, who is this?
BE: This is Jason Zingale from Bullz-Eye.com.
BC: How are you sir? I’m all ready for you.
BE: So, you’re currently traveling the country in promotion of your new film [“My Name Is Bruce”]. How’s it going so far?
BC: Yes, it’s in its infancy. I’m in Beantown, in Boston, right now. And we just did New York and Philly, so we’re doing the East Coast now. We’re taking the East Coast by storm!
BE: Yeah, and I believe you’re coming through Ohio in a week or two. Is there any strategy in deciding which markets you visit?
BC: Oh, you know, I always wish I could do more. Most promotions want to hit the big cities, and they figure the smaller cities will just follow in line. You know, we’re doing a few weirdo ones. I’ve got a screening in Decatur, Ill., so we’re trying to mix it up. Hit a little Midwest. Go through my hometown of Detroit, Chicago…those are always fun. And the East Coast has always been a very with-it kind of market. People follow what I do. You know, Middle America is sort of yes and no. I think it’s up to the geniuses in charge of distribution. And then I throw in a few comments. I always make sure to get Portland thrown in there, because my home state is Oregon.
BE: Great. Could you tell me how you got involved with the project? I know you’re directing and starring, but you didn’t have anything to do with the writing of the film, correct?
BC: Well I did, actually. Because I’m one of the producers, I tend to get my grubby little paws in everything. So, I developed the concept once it was pitched to be by Mark Verheiden, the writer, who had worked with Mike Richardson, my producing partner, who owns Dark Horse Comics. Mike and Mark worked on “The Mask” and “Timecop” together, and so they had made a bunch of movies together and were pals. And I knew them, and Mike knew that I wanted to make some movies, so they pitched this idea and I said “What the heck.” We worked together on the story and the tone and everything like that and went at it. So yeah, my little fingers are all over that.
BE: So when it was initially pitched to you, it was as a B-movie action hero, not as Bruce Campbell?
BC: No, it was as Bruce Campbell. You could have the generic B-movie actor, but we thought, “What the hell, let’s make it even weirder,” even though this version of Bruce Campbell is a PR person’s worst nightmare.
BE: (Laughs) Right. And hopefully your fans will be able to recognize that right away.
BC: Well, if they can’t, I can’t help them. If they really think I drink whiskey out of a dog bowl, there’s not much I can do.
BE: At least it’s done very, very loony, which I think your fans will appreciate.
BC: Very tastefully for them.
BE: This isn’t the first time you’ve directed yourself in a movie. Is that experience more difficult, more time-consuming, or more fun?
BC: Yes, it’s all of the above. You know, it’s more creatively satisfying because you don’t have anyone to work with that you don’t want. Because I’m in front and behind of the camera, it’s about as much control as you’re going to get. So unfortunately, I’ll line up and take the blows if people don’t like it, because I’ve got no one else to blame. But that’s why I do the low-budget things. I don’t really care about the budget. It’s about what creative control you have over a given thing.
BE: And I think as “Evil Dead” proved, it doesn’t matter how low the budget is because the final product is what matters most.
BC: That’s exactly right. It’s all about what you get to do with that money and not who you have to answer to.
BE: There are a lot of references to your other movies, including “Evil Dead,” sprinkled throughout “My Name Is Bruce.” Is that something that was pitched along with the original idea, or something that you brought when you came on board?
BC: It was a chance that if we could throw in a few zingers to some of these movies, and I made up some movies too… so we tried to create a whole mixed bag for a parallel universe that will hopefully confuse and annoy people.
BE: Yeah, there were some that I caught right away, and I think I actually recognized, and his name escapes me (Editor’s note: the actor’s name is Timothy Patrick Quill), but the blacksmith from “Army of Darkness”… I recognized him before that joke even played out. It was one of my favorite jokes from the film – the idea that these two guys would be referencing characters they played in earlier Bruce Campbell movies in a very meta sort of way…
BC: (Laughs) I know. Well, again, this movie is for the fans. It’s not for the critics.
BE: Well, I’m a fan and a critic, and the critic in me has to ask why you chose Guan Di as the film’s villain. It seemed like a bit of an obscure choice.
BC: Well, no, for me it was perfect, because it’s actually organic with the story. Because in my area of southern Oregon, they were Chinese doing all the gold mining, and they had cave-ins all the time. These guys where killed left and right and no one gave a crap, and we thought, “We need to have a monster, so what kind of monster should be unleashed?” And in Chinese lore, Guan Di is the Chinese God of War, and he’s the protector of the dead and bean curd. In his former life, he was a bean curd seller, before he became a deity… And I’m not making this up. I’d never seen Guan Di on screen before, and we may not have captured the terrifying Guan Di that he could be, but at least it’s not Jason with a mask on or something. There’s a little more to it.
BE: I know that some people have tried calling the movie a horror film, but it’s really more comedy than anything.
BC: It’s a silly comedy disguised as a horror film. No question about it. It’s like a Bob Hope movie with decapitations.
BE: Did you guys have any sort of discussion about the number of decapitations that you would, or could, include in the final cut?
BC: No, anything’s allowed. Again, this isn’t a studio movie. I don’t make movies for 12-year-olds. This is meant to be an adult comedy, with, you know, childish humor. There’s the irony there. But we don’t worry about F-bombs, because I’m not trying to get a PG-13 movie. In my opinion, horror movies that are PG-13 are a rip-off. They’re done just to get more money at the box office. So, we had zero restrictions. The last movie I made was for the Sci-Fi channel and they had their own weirdo restrictions, and that gets to be a bore. You can have all the violence you want, but heaven forbid if you swear, you know?
BE: It sounds like you had a good time working on the movie and I’ve heard that you’ve already been discussing a sequel. Has anything definite come of that yet?
BC: Well, I wouldn’t want to be too ingenuous to people who haven’t seen the movie yet, but we have the money for the sequel, but we’re not sure if people even give a crap about this one. Either that or I’m going to do another movie next year after I’m done shooting the third season of “Burn Notice.”
BE: Speaking of “Burn Notice,” you haven’t had the best of luck when it comes to TV shows, with both “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” and “Jack of All Trades” being cancelled very early in their runs, so was there any hesitancy in returning to television?
BC: No, because I’m not starring in it. Any time I do not star in a TV show, it lasts for six years. So that’s my new motto: “Never star in another TV show again and I’ll be fine.”
BE: I know Sam Raimi has another fantasy series that he’s producing coming out. With your history of appearing in “Hercules” and “Xena: Princess Warrior,” has he discussed having you come in to shoot a cameo for any of those episodes?
BC: Uh, no. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It’s just that I’m busy doing that, and they’re busy doing their show.
BE: The other project you have listed on IMDb (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), is one I know almost nothing about.
BC: Well, it was a kid’s book in the ‘70s, and Sony is making it into a big animated movie. So I’m doing the voice of the mayor, the evil smarmy mayor.
BE: So is that a pretty major role?
BC: I’d say it’s one of the major roles, but I only know my part in it. They don’t let you see any more of it.
BE: Staying on the animated track, that high-speed police chase segment you did on “Robot Chicken” is probably one of my favorite bits from the show. Has Seth approached you about coming back to record another episode?
BC: No, they just do their own thing, and I think when ideas pop up, they just do it. But I haven’t heard any more about that. They just come out of nowhere and then you never see or hear anything from anyone again. It’s the heartbreak of acting.
BE: You were at Comic-Con this year, but I missed your panel because I was stuck covering the bigger stuff in Hall H for the whole weekend.
BC: Because Hollywood is taking over all the panels. This used to be for geeks, but where have the geeks gone? But now it’s every slicked-back guy with too much cologne running around there.
BE: Well, one of those guys in Hall H was Sam Raimi, and he briefly mentioned how he was hoping to work with you again in the very near future, whether it was on “Evil Dead 4” or a completely different project. Is there anything that you’d like to work with him on other than something “Evil Dead”-related?
BC: Well, we have talked about the “Evil Dead” stuff, and we have considered it, but there’s a reason why neither a remake nor a sequel has been made. And the main reason is, out of the three partners (me, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert), none of us have looked at each other and said “My god, we’ve got to make another one of these things immediately.” I mean, these are movies that tax half of your soul. I’ve got pieces of my ass lying in the road. Physically, for me, it’s like asking if I want to take a hammer and hit myself on the head again for 120 days of shooting. And the answer, usually, is kind of “No.” Those movies were really creatively satisfying, and fans like them and stuff, but it’s not something you make in a weekend. It’s a serious physical and mental commitment. So that’s probably why you don’t see them flying off the shelf like “Saw 8,” “9” and “10.”
BE: One more “Evil Dead” question, and I swear I’ll let it die, but I was curious as to which ending of “Army of Darkness” that you preferred, since the original ending was eventually released on DVD?
BC: Well, I always prefer the original filmmaker’s ending. And again, whether it’s good or bad, Sam Raimi had intended a certain ending, he shot a certain ending which was ass-cosmically screwed… because, way back when in the original series, “Evil Dead 4” was going to be Ash versus the robots. Which would be awesome, because it would be like Spartacus versus the robots, where he’s enslaved by the robots in this crumbling, post-apocalyptic civilization. So, there was something else going on other than just a twist ending. And Ash is such an idiot that it was good that he screwed up in the end, but since it was a studio, they would do the focus groups and they were like “Uh, well, it was a little bit of a bummer ending.” And so, they negotiated Sam to shoot a so-called happier ending. And that’s why I always favor the filmmaker’s choice, because for most of the movie, Sam, I think, made good decisions. But that doesn’t mean that kind of an ending was a bad one. It just means the studio got nervous. That movie was recut. I mean, that movie had serious productions problems, so the fact that it’s kind of considered a classic now cracks me up, because we had nothing but nightmares making that movie.
BE: Do you think that’s because the first two films were produced independently and the third one was backed by a studio?
BC: No question about it. You make your first movie, and you would assume that you would give up all the rights, and whatever, you’re glad just to make a movie, and then you get screwed… It’s sort of like the guys who made, um, “Blair Witch.” You know, they made the movie and they sold it, they made money, and the people who distributed it really made the money. With “Evil Dead 2,” we partnered with Dino Di Laurentis, and then with “Army of Darkness,” not only do you have Dino Di Laurentis, but you have Universal, and marketing, and test screenings, and we had never been through that before… That’s why there’s all these Dynamite comics with Ash versus this versus that versus this. We don’t even have control over the rights to the character, because I wouldn’t have approved that. So that’s what happens when you get money from other people as opposed to being financed by businessmen in Detroit.
BE: And I think anyone that’s interested in that particular discussion can pick up your first book, because it’s explained in even more detail there.
BC: Could you hold on for one second? I’ll be right back.
BE: Sure thing.
BC: Listen, that’s my next guy on the other line.
BE: Oh, okay, well it was nice speaking with you. Good luck with the film and the tour.BC: Thank you, goodbye.