Quantcast ICONS Interview with Bruce Campbell! THE EVIL DEAD, ARMY OF DARKNESS, MY NAME IS BRUCE

Actor/Director
Bruce Campbell!

Bruce Campbell is a man that needs no introduction. (At least not on this site!) Genre fans know & love him for his portrayal of Ashley "Ash" J. Williams in the EVIL DEAD trilogy. But now he's back with his latest directorial effort MY NAME IS BRUCE, where he plays B-movie actor "Bruce Campbell", recruited by a small town to save them from a monster. We got to chat with him about shooting his latest movie in his home state of Oregon, the differences between MY NAME IS BRUCE & THE MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN, the future of the EVIL DEAD franchise, and his past filmography including BUBBA HO-TEP & the underrated RUNNING TIME. Read on for our FRIGHT exclusive interview with the man himself Bruce Campbell! - By Robg. & Mike C. - 10/08

Hello there!

Mike C.: Hey there, Bruce. This is Mike from ICONS OF FRIGHT.com and also on the line is Robg., my partner on this fine on-line publication.

Robg.: That’s me right here, Bruce. How are you?

Good, how are you?

Robg.: Good! Well, first and foremost, thanks so much for taking out the time to talk with us. We’re obviously big fans…

Well, ya gotta get the word out, ya know?
Robg.: (Laughs) Yeah. Funny thing, we know you live in Oregon and we’re friendly with one of your neighbors, the lovely Adrienne King!

Oh yeah!

Robg.: Whom I believe has already seen MY NAME IS BRUCE?

Yeah, she saw it at a little sneak preview we did in town. She’s just up the road, as we say.

Robg.: Yes, yes, and she spoke very highly of you when we found out you two were neighbors.

Well, she is an actress.
(Laughs)

Robg.: Let’s talk about the beginnings of MY NAME IS BRUCE. You had written the book MAKE LOVE THE BRUCE CAMPBELL WAY, and now you’ve got the film MY NAME IS BRUCE, both of which have a sort of satirical look at yourself. For the movie, was this an idea that was brought to you? Was it something you came up with? Or maybe a bit of both?
Mark Verheiden, who wrote it, pitched it to me with his partner and friend Mike Richardson who’s with Dark Horse Comics. And those guys are old pals from the old days. Kind of like me and Sam Raimi in the Detroit area, those guys were old pals back in Portland. And so, I’d worked with Mark a couple of times through comics. Mark Verheiden wrote the EVIL DEAD comic that Dark Horse produced, so there were a lot of tie-ins for us. And we liked each other. So they pitched this idea, where Mark explains it’s kind of based on this old comic book from the 40’s where Alan Ladd, the movie star Alan Ladd was kidnapped to fight pirates. Because they thought he was a swashbuckler and he could take care of this. So, he thought it’d be fun to do the same type of deal, only upgrade it to a B-movie actor who’s known for fighting monsters or whatever, and have him kidnapped to fight a real monster in a small town. Of course, it turns out to be a terrible idea.

(Laughs)

Because the Bruce Campbell in the movie is a jerk, moron, idiot and he can’t do anything. It’s a big learning curve of how a movie hero learns to be a real hero. Or attempts to anyways.
Robg.: Was it a given that you would direct this project? Because I figure acting in it, directing it would be a lot of hats to wear.

My producer knows the lower the budget, the more I want to do. If I’m going to make a low, low budget movie, then I really want to have control over it, and not have all these assholes involved. I don’t want a lot of “chefs” involved. So basically, it was me and Mike Richardson who were the only guys to make any decisions on the whole thing. And that was great. It was really nice to be able to have one partner, and we just hashed stuff out, and the movie is what it is. Not the product of a committee.


Robg.: I’ve seen you at dozens of conventions, Q & A’s, book signings, etc. over the years, and I know that you often have funny encounters with fans at these events. Did you cull any real life convention experiences and inject them into MY NAME IS BRUCE? How much were you able to put in with writer Mark Verheiden?

There’s one sequence in the film where everything I got was almost verbatim from fans. Every word out of their mouth is almost things that I’ve heard verbatim. And my responses in the movie are more like how I would want to respond.

(Laughs)

But in real life, you have a little bit more tact or you’re going to be filling up blogs the next day. Ya know? “Bruce Campbell is an asshole!” So, this movie was my protection shield. I can hide behind the character. The Bruce Campbell in this movie is the actor I would’ve become if I had stayed in LA for 10 more years.
Robg.: Wow. And that’s not the first time I’ve heard something like that.

Yeah. I bailed to Oregon and it saved my life. So this is more of a satirical look of what could have been.

Mike C.: So what are some of the differences between Bruce Campbell the actor, and Bruce Campbell the character in this movie?

The real Bruce Campbell does not drink whisky. Uh, I do not feed my dog whisky. I do not live in a broken ramshackled trailer in the dessert and leave my dog for months at a time alone. Um, what else? (Laughs) Just about every other non-comparison you can make. … But, it’s because I’m serving the story. Obviously. The story is, even if you remove me, my name from the equation, it’s still a story of a guy known for playing XY & Z, but in real life is not anywhere near it. It’s the story of how he attempts to potentially redeem himself.
Robg.: You joke in the trailer about having shot a movie in Bulgaria, a few actually, but this one you got to shoot in your home state of Oregon.

I shot some of it on my property.

Robg.: What were some of the biggest differences for you in directing this film as opposed to THE MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN? Home field advantage?
Home field advantage is everything, because everything is normal. I know where everything is. I know where the hardware stores are, I know who I can get to play all these different parts and because it’s not Bulgaria, I can bring them up to my property and use ‘em and shoot ‘em. I can capitalize on all the local things that are available. Anywhere from cheap building products to open land to build a town on. I could create it exactly how I wanted it. It was having that control. Whereas in Bulgaria, anything can change at any day. You could get kicked out of a location at any time. Because of greed or corruption. It’s a weird society there. The people are great, but they’re in horrible transitional period in their lives. They break in capitalism, but the roads aren’t fixed and shit’s all bombed out and there’s packs of wild dogs. It’s just kind of a crazy, a little-bit lawless place. It’s a great place. I’d go there to hang out, maybe. But I don’t know that I’d make another movie there.
Because, I need stability! When you make a movie, you need control over stuff. We wound up getting control in Bulgaria – we wound up taking over an old Soviet military compound, and clearing trees away that had grown up since communism fell, but we made it into a studio, a backlot. So that Bulgaria itself couldn’t invade. So in Oregon, I just wanted to have as much control as possible. It was great. It was a huge difference. Everybody spoke English.

Robg.: In… Bulgaria?

No, in Oregon. Well, at least most people.
Robg.: I read that your DP on this was Kurt Rauf, who worked as a PA on the original EVIL DEAD! So you’ve known him since way, way back…

A long time. A lot of the people in the movie are people that I’ve known for a long time, or people that I’ve acted with for a long time. And they’re either people that I’ve never acted with, or people that are old cronies. (Laughs) So it was fun. We really cast a lot of locals. The lead actress Grace Thorsen (Kelly Graham) is from Medford, Oregon and the lead kid is local. They’re all right there, they’re all locals. So it’s fun. We’re going to have a hometown premiere in December. (2008)

Robg.: What I think is really cool – and you did this with MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN, is that you’re doing a tour with the film. Rather then it opening everywhere at once, you’re going from town to town to show it. How’s the touring experience for you? Getting that immediate reaction?
Yeah, it’s just a good old fashioned tour. You know, whenever a band has a CD to sell, they have to tour. And as guy who wrote a couple of books, guess what? You want to sell books, you better tour! And so, that’s really the long and short of it, you gotta tour. But also, I enjoy it. I love car trips. We’re doing it all by car. It’s just a great way to get out there. ‘Cause look, I’ve been in Miami during the dead of summer for the last 6 months. I’m ready to see a mountain.

(Laughs)

Maybe I’ll change my tune going over the Rockies, but … I do like it. I like seeing these towns again. And frankly, it lets you know if anyone’s out there paying attention.

Robg.: Are you surprised by the ever-growing fan-base for you? Obviously a lot of people know you from your genre work, but every time I see you at something like a book signing, I’m surprised by the variety of fans. It’s either young kids, or older fans. What’s that like for you?
Well, it’s nice. I’ve actually been around long enough that I get the 2nd generation now. I’ve had a lot of father’s come up and go, “Hey, I want you to meet my son Ash. He’s now a big fan of the EVIL DEAD movies.” And so they’ve passed it along, so now it’s a generational thing. But also, weird stuff happens now… We just got picked up for a 3rd season of BURN NOTICE on USA, and so, I’m finally getting, “Hey, aren’t you the BURN NOTICE guy?” And I’m like “Oh, OK!”
Robg.: I’d seen EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL here in New York and I know you came out for the first couple of shows. I love the show. I was always hesitant of the idea of anyone other then you portraying the character of Ash, but that actor Ryan Ward is fantastic as Ash! He’s a really, really good actor…

He’s terrific, and that kid has worked harder then I ever did on the original movies! (Laughs) Because he’s got to go through the whole experience every freakin’ night. And sometimes even matinees!?
Robg.: For years now!

He’s got the thousand yard stare, because he’s got the hardest gig in show business! I agree though, he’s done a really, really good job and he’s a sweet kid, and I hope he goes far. Now the gag is in his life. People will go up to him and be like, “Oh, you played Ash!” (Laughs)
Robg.: (Laughs) Well, the thing that I realized seeing him portray that character is that we’re at the point where Ash goes beyond Bruce Campbell. He’s a horror pop culture icon. The Van Helsing of the 21st Century. I mean, girls dress as Ash at horror conventions now!

(Laughs)

Robg.: Obviously, you couldn’t have possibly imagined that would happen when you made the first film, so how do you feel about the fact that this character you created has spawned a life of its own?
It feels good! Because as an artist or an actor or a filmmaker, you never want to bomb. We were blessed that the very first thing that I ever did really caught on. Overseas first! It wasn’t really huge here. It took a while to grow. Ultimately it led to a 2nd one and then a 3rd one. We really never had – You can never really have any idea. But what our goal was, we wanted to get our investors their money back. Part of doing EVIL DEAD 2 was to get some claim. EVIL DEAD 2 finally broke them even and got them into a little bit of profit after 6-7 years. Now, they’ve made a bagful of dough, so now we’re fine. But we were just… Here’s what it was. We wanted to be able to go into out local multiplex where we had seen THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and actually be able to see our own movie there. And that was great. We did that!
We got some popcorn and just sat in there. It was like a Saturday matinee. There weren’t that many people there and we just watched the movie, only it was our movie. That was the biggest deal for us. I felt like we succeeded right there. It was like the ROCKY thing. We just wanted to go the distance. We wanted to raise money, actually shoot a movie and actually get it into a theatre. That was huge. Right then and there. So, today’s expectations, people are trying to make a certain amount of money every weekend! We were happy to get into a theatre.

Robg.: I wish I could go back then and tell you that you’d have multiple action figures based on your likeness many years later.

(Laughs) Yeah, and there will be a new one for MY NAME IS BRUCE coming out.

Robg.: Really? That’s cool!
Yeah, it’s a full sized one, like the Ash from ARMY OF DARKNESS only it’s from this movie. You can either put a whisky bottle in his hand, or his dog’s bowl, because his dog’s name is Sam & Rob, or IF CHINS COULD KILL, the book. He can hold the book as well.

Robg.: Is that a Dark Horse related thing?

Yeah, it’ll be most likely Dark Horse, because they have a whole merchandising deal. It’s a very logical place to use them.

Robg.: Dark Horse is mainly known for comic books, but they’ve in recent years branched out into movies. What was it like working with a company that was somewhat new when it came to making films?

Well, Mike Richardson has actually produced a fair share of movies, so he’s been around. But I think he wanted to just have fun on a low-budget scale, because I don’t think Mike likes all “the chefs”. Same as me. We just want to be our own bosses. And so Mike was able to find a deal out there that financed our movie when basically it was only Mike and I that had any control. To me, I don’t care what the budget is, that’s awesome. That’s what I’m looking for is that control. It’s all about creative control. And so that situation worked out really well. Mike is a great partner, and also, very tall. Mike’s very tall.
Robg.: (Laughs) Well, let’s talk about Ted Raimi because he plays 2 roles in this movie!

3!

Robg.: Oh, 3 roles!

Mike C.: Were Ted Raimi’s roles written for him? Or did you cast him afterwards?

We knew we needed these characters in the movie. The movie was just written first. And then I went, “Oh yeah, Ted could play that guy. Oh yeah, Ted could play that guy! Oh yeah, he can play that guy.” We got more bang for our buck that way. We brought him into town, that way he didn’t charge any more perdium for more roles.
(Laughs)

And Ted – Ted and I are old pals. With Ted, we can dick around a lot. When you’re shooting things quickly, he gets it, he’s from television too. He knows the pace of things, and we like to be able to fool around with things and make shit up, so it allows us to do that. This movie is a weird combination of old cronies of mine versus people I’ve never worked with before that were local in Oregon. So it was a foreign combination. My leading lady had never been in a movie before. She’s a babe, by the way, so keep your eyes on her.
(Laughs)

They always find these starlets in the small towns!

Mike C.: You mentioned television. Was the pace accelerated on this film when you were shooting it? Was it like a television production, schedule-wise?
Pretty much. We shot it in 23 days, so we had to sort of get at it and get it done. But fortunately because a lot of my pals have worked in TV, the hardest thing was getting all the local crew to figure that out. Because it really is a certain pace that you have to hit. And it’s a maintain pace. There’s really no relief of “Oh that scene is done, let’s take a 15 minute break!” There was never that. “Oh ok, that scene’s done. We’re setting up over here. Bring that dolly over here.” Not run and gun, because I feel in order to get something of value in 23 days, you’ve got to be planned. You have to plan out how you want to shoot it and how you’re all going to make it work.

Mike C.: And the local crew, were they green? Or were they ready to go and experienced?
They were mixed. Like my soundguy was an Oregon guy who was absolutely fabulous. I’d use him again in a second. Just salt of the earth, right there, ready to go, pleasant demeanour and delivered good sound. We used mostly production sound, because I’m a big fan of using the sound on the set, if you can. Because it’s the original performance. There’s nothing like it. And then other people, we brought some people down from Portland, and they actually copped a little bit of a big city attitude and I said, “Wait a minute. Let me get this right. You’re from Portland, right? I used to shoot in Los Angeles, so… what’s your problem?” (Laughs) So, it’s weird, we had a little bit of weirdness going on, but all in all we had a great crew, and I brought in a cameraman that I’ve known since the EVIL DEAD days, Kurt Rauf. So you have to fill it out with people that you must have and then try to invite some newcomers and have some fun.

Mike C.: What about directing yourself… as yourself? That’s some sort of crazy meta experience. It has to be.
That was definitely weird. That’s the weirdest thing of all. But, it becomes unweird though, because in my head, as an actor I’m still playing a role. I’m playing the part of “Bruce Campbell”. So, in my head it’s actually not Bruce Campbell, because I know who that Bruce Campbell is. So it actually wasn’t that hard to play, because I’m not playing myself. I’m playing “Bruce Campbell” - A horrible, warped, distorted version of myself. So it wasn’t really hard, because I still had to figure out how he wanted to play a scene or how he would act with his fans, and it wasn’t how I would. Its how this character would.

Mike C.: Was there anytime you found yourself slipping into Bruce Campbell, yourself too much? Or was the script just so far removed from that.

It’s pretty far removed. There’s not a lot where I would go, “Wow, I just felt like myself in that scene!” (Laughs) Because, he’s such a moron in the movie that I hope I didn’t feel like myself!
Robg.: (Laughs) And you also have Ellen Sandweiss, your EVIL DEAD co-star playing your ex-wife in the movie!

Exactly! I wanted all of them. I wanted the other 2 ladies. And the other 2 ladies were going to play other parts, but they were concerned about union issues, because we made this non-union. And so, they didn’t want to be tortured by that. I tried to get them all, but I’ll get them back in the next one.

(Laughs)
I’m going to try to get Freddy and Jason for the next one too.

Robg.: Nice, nice. But I think you’d kick their asses though.

No! But I’d cast them as a farmer and a rancher or something. You know what I mean? It would be completely not them.

Robg.: Oh, you mean Robert Englund and Kane Hodder?

I’d get Robert Englund, and he’d play the guy who pumps your gas at the gas station, ya know? And Kane Hodder, I’d make him a pharmacist. (Laughs)
(Laughs)

You know what I mean? Then I think we got something!

Robg.: Well, is it too early to start talking about what you’re doing next? Another film? Another book? Television? I know MY NAME IS BRUCE is not even out yet, but there’s already rumblings of a sequel? Is it even feasible to think about that at this point?

Here’s a quick run down of all the EVIL DEAD stuff, because I know it keeps coming back. Like a bad check, ya know?

Robg.: Just note that we did not mention EVIL DEAD 4 once!
Oh no, no, no! I appreciate that, and I know it’s a pre-requisite. It’s important because people do ask about it, so you do have to let them eventually know to what extent we even know about them. And the bottom line is this. Um, I think when Sam is ready to do it, we’ll all just check our schedules. He got involved in this massive (SPIDER-MAN) franchise and it seems like its still continuing. So who knows? Who knows when the hell anyone will be able to get into another EVIL DEAD. But I think we both desire to do it. It’s just really scheduling more then anything.

Because I’m under contract now for 5 years for USA to do this show, and they just picked up a 3rd season. So we’re just all busy. And… as far as a remake goes, there’s nothing for me in the remake, so I wouldn’t really be involved other then being a producer, because… what am I? The old guy at the bait shop? “Hey kids! You be careful! That place is haunted!” “Oh shut up, old man!” Ya know? And they drive off into the woods.

Robg.: Well, we were just talking about EVIL DEAD with our buddy John Torrani last night and he would like to see a sequel with your daughter “Ashley” taking up your mantle, since girls now dress as Ash at the horror conventions! It could even start with a close up shot on your face and you saying “Give me some sugar, baby.” And then it pans back and you realize it’s you in the kitchen asking your daughter to bring you some sugar…

Hey, that’s as valid as any idea. Valid as any. Truth be told – I think if all of us really, really felt we had to jump on those movies immediately, they would’ve been made. So, it’s a combination of timing and drive.
Robg.: What about the EVIL DEAD: MUSICAL movie? The producers of that show recently announced a desire to make a movie version. Didn’t you originally help those guys get the rights to do the musical version of EVIL DEAD?

Yes. Well, we didn’t discourage it. They were pursuing to do that… I think it’s an issue of... Look, if there was already a play of it, as long as you just kind of document it and you could show that in movie theatres as a midnight thing, then it’s its own beast. Because it’s already so different. I don’t think there will be any issues, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens.
Look, when we made the first EVIL DEAD movie, it’s now 1979 when we made it, we’re coming up on 30 years. We never really thought of this stuff. So you can’t always plan for it. So sometimes people go, “Why is EVIL DEAD a musical? A movie? What?” They’re always confused. Because everyone thinks there should be sequels and remakes. But, I don’t know? Should there always be? We never planned it when we did the first EVIL DEAD. We really only did the sequel because our 2nd movie CRIMEWAVE bombed, so we were like “Crap. Let’s make a sequel.” (Laughs)
Robg.: And by the way, EVIL DEAD 2 is my all time favorite horror movie.

Yeah, it’s a cool little movie. There’s no question about it. But… (Laughs) I don’t remember where we were going with that…

Robg.: I was asking what was next? If you were going back to television or another book?

I’m going to go back to television in March to do the 3rd season of BURN NOTICE, because we are the number 1 show on cable, baby.

Robg.: Congrats, buddy! Congrats.

We’re up 25 percent over last season, so we’re growing like a weed. So, I’ll do that and hopefully I’ll make another movie in the Fall of 09. That’s as much as I can plan. And I’ll tour all this Fall. I’m going to 22 cities.

Robg.: We’re going to try to catch you in New York.

Yeah, I really want to be in New York City, Halloween at the Midnight show of MY NAME IS BRUCE. That’s going to be interesting.
Robg.: I saw BUBBA HO-TEP when it premiered in Chicago, which I believe was the first screening of it. And it’s one of those films where everything just works. It’s got one of your best performances, an incredible score by Brian Tyler, Ossie Davis, Don Coscarelli. Because it’s so rare that that happens on a movie, was that the main reason that the sequel just never came together? A matter of “Well, we got it right the first time. Why mess with it again?” Obviously, Lansdale never wrote a sequel in short story form, so you would’ve been treading new waters there had you done it…
Yeah, and that may have been the problem. If you don’t stick with the original pieces, it’s hard to get something that’s going to be like the first one. So, here’s the real long and short of it. Don and I could not agree on an approach and on the story. And the elements I disliked the most, he actually liked the most. So we realized that was a pretty big divide. And we didn’t want to jeopardize a friendship over this. Because, ya know… I don’t want to play that game of keeping him from making it. He can certainly make it. It’s his to do. If he wants to make 10 of these, go baby, go. But for me, I have to know why I’m on that set, and I have to know why I’m there. And I have to enjoy being there.
Robg.: Well, you nailed it with BUBBA HO-TEP, so I’m not heartbroken that there won’t be a sequel, when we have a really great first movie.

Yeah, it’s ok. I’m ok that there isn’t a series. Some things happen, and that was a glitchy one that just came to a halt. We had to just let it go.

Robg.: My friend Kristina (Klebe) recently became a huge fan of your work, and I ended up lending her one of my favorite films you’ve done which has since been long out of print – RUNNING TIME, with Josh Becker.

Mike C.: Yeah, we love that movie.

Robg.: It’s one of my favorites of yours! How do you hold that film & experience in your filmography?

Oh, I think it’s a very groovy little movie. I would recommend that movie to everybody. I think it’s a tight little thriller that’s got a great cinematic twist to it, and it’s more energetic. The fact that it’s planned as one shot is pretty bold shit for a movie that cost $110,000.
Robg.: Have you spoken to Josh Becker about putting it out again, because I believe it’s been out of print for a while?

Um, I have not. I don’t know what his deal is with Anchor Bay, but I think they still have it? I just got it on Amazon.

Robg.: Really? Ok.

(*Note: It is still available on Amazon. The link is below!)

It had a legitimate release through Anchor Bay and they tend to keep things alive and in visibility. But maybe it is harder to get. But yeah, that one I totally endorse.

Mike C.: Do you have any particular favorite version of the EVIL DEAD DVD?

Robg.: Yeah, because we own every freakin’ one of them!

Mike C.: We own every one! Is there any one that you recommend?

You know… I get a little wearisome over these DVD extras. Because now as a filmmaker I feel burdened to entertain people even more. Like MY NAME IS BRUCE when it comes out on DVD, it’ll be out in Blu-Ray in February and it’s going to be gorgeous. But because we also have a beautiful hour long making-of doc about making that damned thing, I feel pressured as a filmmaker now to do as much for the DVD extras as I do for the movie! And so, personally? I prefer to just take the disc. Pop it in. Play the movie. Turn it off. I’m that kind of guy. I’m not a bells and whistles kind of guy. Because to me it’s about the movie, it’s not about the extras. That’s just me.
Robg.: Bruce, thanks so much for your time, we really appreciate it.

Alright guys, hope to see you in New York. Take care!

Special thanks to RJ Millard & ToddZeller!
VISIT: WWW.BRUCE-CAMPBELL.COM

All Content Copyright 2008 Icons Of Fright.com.
No articles may be reproduced in any manner without expressed permission of Icons Of Fright.com.
Back to Interview Index