Bruce Campbell burrowed his way into our hearts as a dashing B-movie icon with roles in a litany of cult classics, from Evil Dead to Bubba Ho-Tep.
After returning to his roots to play Ash Williams for three seasons of delightfully gratuitous gore in Ash vs Evil Dead, Campbell put away his chainsaw for good when Starz cancelled the series in 2018. However, much to fans’ delight, Evil Dead trilogy director and Ash vs Evil Dead producer Sam Raimi recently announced a forthcoming entry to the franchise with Campbell attached as a producer. Even better: although Ash won’t return to fight Deadites in live action, Campbell will lend his voice to an upcoming Evil Dead video game.
To accompany the rerelease of his memoir Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor — now with an added “Requiem for Ash” chapter — Campbell is dropping by the Alamo City next week for a screening of Army of Darkness and audience Q&A. He promises it’ll be a good time — “There’s lots of stories about the making of that ridiculous movie.”
We caught up with Campbell over the phone, and he shared his thoughts on retiring Ash, teased some upcoming projects and even offered a few choice words for Martin Scorsese.
After Ash vs Evil Dead was cancelled you decided to hang up the character and retire him.
I did, didn’t I?
Unlike other actors who retire their characters, it’s not so much that you’re sick of Ash Williams, but that the demands of filming such a special effects-heavy series led you to reach something you’ve called “The Latex Point.” Could you expand on the on-set demands of Ash vs Evil Dead and why they’re so taxing?
Well, my wife sort of put a finger on it — as she so often does. She came into the trailer one day the last season of shooting, and I’m sitting there miserable because I had to put down plastic sheeting everywhere I went. I’d stick to everything because I was always covered with blood.
She goes, “I know what your problem is — you got Poopy Diaper Syndrome.”
I’m like, “What’re you talking about?”
“You’re like a 3-year-old or a 2-year-old sitting in a poopy diaper, and you can’t get out of your poopy diaper. No one will help you change your poopy diaper.”
So really, it’s that. It’s a series of lying face down in cellars. And it occurred to me multiple times. I’d be lying there literally face down, waiting for a shot, covered in blood in a dark cellar on the dirt, and I’m like, “Is this where I belong?” And the answer was “yes” for a long time, but it’s not a permanent place where you wanna be. Not as a 60-year-old man.
I wanted to avoid that Star Wars crap, where they’re holding these actors up with baling wire and cotton balls, you know what I mean? Feeding them their lines of dialogue through earbuds. I couldn’t do that. I could still pull the character off, so I wanted to finish while I could still do it.
And not have it kind of become…
Uh, sad. We don’t want sadness.
But you’re not leaving Evil Dead. You’re attached as a producer to a new movie, and it’s going to bring new blood into the franchise, including a director hand-picked by Sam Raimi. How does it feel to be able to step back, but still help usher in this new era?
Well, fantastic. Because, look, we can work with these directors. We can support them in the ways that we’ve always wanted to be supported. We can punish them in the ways that we should have been punished. We can hire actors that are good and well behaved, because I know what to look for. And when we get an actor, we can tell them how to best use their time and not party. We’ve learned a lot over the years, so we can share and torment these directors into making a good movie. There’s definitely a place for us. We’ll be there behind the scenes pulling the strings on these little monkeys.
How does it compare so far to the development process for Fede Álvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead? Or is it too early to say?
It’s too early, and every director’s different. Fede was very specific. I’d never worked with Fede, so I wanted to make sure he could work with actors. I sat in for only one day during auditions, and I could see how he would see a take, work with the actors, and the second take was better. After I saw two or three of those, I was like, OK — I’m outta here. This guy knows how to get a better take out of an actor. Done. That’s a huge accomplishment. And he was already very astute with special effects.
What you have to do is find out what the director’s strength is and encourage that, and find out what their weaknesses are and either fix that or discourage that. Some directors are great with actors but they suck at special effects, some are great at special effects but they don’t know how to talk to actors. It’s a really delicate dance. The modern movie is very delicate, because the modern movie has way more special effects now.
In Captain Marvel, even the cat was CGI most of the time he was onscreen.
Lemme tell ya, I’m gonna make a bold statement here.
The Irishman has more digital effects than the most recent Marvel movie, but you just don’t notice. Which is why I call B.S. on Marty Scorsese calling out the Marvel movies. It’s like, bullshit! You just used more digital effects than a Marvel movie, and you’re telling me that’s cinema but the other one isn’t?
But the point is, I don’t buy it. I mean, I can’t wait to watch that movie, because I’m gonna be driven insane by Robert DeNiro at 42, Robert DeNiro at 47, Robert DeNiro at 31. It’s just gonna drive me insane, because I’m gonna look at it and I’m gonna be looking at dead doll’s eyes and, you know, they’re gonna do a good job, but they’re all gonna look like sharks.
Now that you’re no longer beholden to the intense schedule of TV production, are there any projects that you’re able to look at that weren’t an option before?
Well, one of two things can happen. I finally told my agent, “OK,” because I had to pass on some things in the last couple years that were decent projects, because I had a bunch of other random stuff going. If you open up your schedule, you can allow for stuff like that. All of 2020 is currently completely open. I have zero bookings for the first time in probably 15 years. I like booking my year — I like knowing what’s going on — but, in this case I’m gonna leave work open to fall off the truck from my agency.
But I also have a TV project that I’m pushing and a feature film project. I will go back under the TV knife under the right conditions, and I have a project that I would do that for. “Under the knife” meaning to sign a contract.
The beauty of it is with these limited series now, no one has to commit to shit these days. One season, two seasons, three seasons, you know. So, we’ll see what happens. I just wrote a feature film — a political satire — and I wanna make that next, so I’m in the process of shopping it. I’m hat in hand right now.
You’ve been in the director’s chair, both for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess as well as your horror comedy My Name is Bruce. Would you be interested in directing again, possibly for the movie you just wrote?
All the projects that I’m currently gonna be involved with now, moving forward, I’ll be directing in some way. Raising money for low budget movies — I have as much experience as anybody now, so there’s no reason to look for anybody else. I’ll just direct myself.
It’s time for the new sheriff to come into town.
Another thing that makes Evil Dead so compelling is the long-running team behind it. Even if it’s not Evil Dead, would you be down to act in future projects with Sam and Ted Raimi, or your Ash vs Evil Dead costars?
Well, I would be happy to work with any of them again, but I just can’t say. Sam, who knows? Sam’s off making these 10-minute shorts. I forget the name of the company, but everyone’s making shorts now, so go figure.
Kind of like YouTube — getting on that train?
Yeah, I don’t know. It’s all new to me. I’m sticking with the true-blue formats for now.
If you had the opportunity to reprise any other characters that you’ve played previously, like fan favorite Brisco County, Jr., would you be interested? Or do you want to focus on all new material and characters?
New stuff is always my favorite, but I would definitely do Brisco Rides Again, and I would definitely do more Burn Notice. We’re sort of circling the building now with Burn Notice. Maybe it’s time to save the world again. The world needs us.
You recently updated your memoir Hail to the Chin with a new “Requiem for Ash,” and are making appearances tied to the book’s rerelease. How do you integrate tours and press appearances without blowing out your schedule, and how do they differ from press junkets you do for film and TV?
The beauty of working with a company is when it’s time to do press, they’ve really got it down. I saved a bunch of my itineraries from Ash vs Evil Dead just because of how ridiculous they were, so I can look back and show my grandchildren “this was a press day in New York City.” So, you really got the support. The only difference is when you do low budget stuff, or even books, you’re kind of on your own, and it’s way more down-home. It’s Twitter, it’s Facebook, it’s Facebook ads or whatever. It’s no national TV — nothin’. It’s a whole different ball game.
You know, I’m a one-man band. I’ll miss a few interviews because I forgot or didn’t put it in my schedule or whatever. Someone’ll call, I’ll go, “What do you want?” They’re like, “We have a phoner.” I go, “Really? Ok, great.” This one I happened to remember. We do what we can.
A Conversation with Bruce Campbell and Screening of Army of Darkness: $29.50-$125, 8 p.m. Friday, October 25, Aztec Theatre, 104 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 812-4355, theaztectheatre.com.
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