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Indy Hero
Bruce Campbell talks about the EVIL DEAD re-releases, his latest film Running Time and Lavender farming.
www.bruce-campbell.com
Bruce is probably the best looking geek I've ever met. He's tall, dark and handsome, yet goofy and approachable. Best know for his role as Ash, the irreverent anti-hero/goon who almost destroys the world in each of the Sam Raimi directed Evil Dead films, Campbell has also been busy racking up credits in films like Fargo, Congo and The Quick and The Dead as well as TV credits on Ellen, American Gothic and The X-Files. He has reoccurring roles on the comic book style Xena and Hercules and his short lived series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. is in syndicated heaven on TNT. I had a chance to talk to Campbell at the Video Convention in Los Angeles. He was at the Anchor Bay booth doing PR for the upcoming re-release of Army of Darkness as well as some advanced PR for his new film Running Time. Campbell was a bundle of energy and good sportsmanship as he squeezed in an additional 15 minutes of fame for my interview before going onto the convention floor where he easily had the longest line on the floor.

CA: Explain to me your relationship to the Raimi's.

BC: Sam Raimi and I met in high school drama class. I was making super 8 movies with some other guys at the time. Josh Becker (director of Campbell's latest film, Running Time) was one of them. I've known Josh since 1971 actually... I've known Sam since 1975. And then we just kinda started making super 8 movies together, and then after high school was over we realized that we had to do something for a living. So we formed a partnership in Michigan and made the first Evil Dead movie.

CA: So are you happy about the re-releases?

BC: I'm ecstatic, the main reason is because of preservation. We shot Evil Dead 20 years ago and elements get lost. The negatives end up lost when companies get bought and sold. Like with Army of Darkness. It's the most recent one that we're going to be putting out on DVD. We made that movie in 1991 which wasn't that long ago, and we couldn't find the original director's cut elements. There's a lot of things we should have done, but now we know, keep that stuff under your bed. It's a lot better than assuming someone else is going to take care of it. When companies get bought and sold they just trash stuff.

CA: Oh yeah, Universal is always taking flack for throwing out it's classic horror movies.

BC: No one wants to keep a warehouse full of stuff, but you think they would at least call somebody and say "do you want to take these elements off our hands, cause we're going to throw them out".

CA: Let's talk about your characters: You're probably most famous for Ash, the Evil Dead character, then there's Brisco, from the Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., I loved the show by the way, did you enjoy doing it?

BC: I enjoyed it very much. Thank you.

CA: And currently, you play Autolycus, the King of Thieves on the Hercules and Xena shows. What's your favorite out of the three.

BC: I like them all for different reasons. I like Ash because I like having a main character, particularly with the second two movies, that a studio would never approve of. I mean my character in Army of Darkness, the last of the three, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and yet he's your hero. He's a braggart and he's a fool.

CA: But he's got a great fan following.

BC: Yeah, because he's irreverent. My feeling is that's why it connects to the college crowd. Because college kids are just looking for who they can give the finger to, and that's what the character of Ash is basically doing. He's even giving the finger to the audience and I think they like that.

CA: He's even flipping off the genre he's working in.

BC: Of course, he despises everything. It's fun to play that character, because normally if the studio had financed the film directly they would have said, "no you can't do this and no you can't do that. Let's make him more sympathetic", and all that crap.

CA: Why do you like Brisco?

BC: I like Brisco because I felt that the writers were smart enough to write a good guy that was as interesting as the bad guys The bad guys always have the better roles and the good guys suck because they don't know what to do with a good guy. They can't give him any personality. So I thought that that was a really smart move.

 

CA: And the King of Thieves?

BC: With the King of Thieves it's always fun playing the reluctant hero. He's the guy who's a criminal but he'll always do the right thing. And again, I can have scenes with Kevin Sorbo, the Hercules character, and torment him and nothing will happen. I don't have to give the money back to little Billy. I don't have to make sure everything will come out alright. My character can be bored, my character can be arrogant and obnoxious. There's more freedom when you have a character that's not by the book.

CA: All those roles are pretty physically demanding. Do you do a lot of your own stunt work?

BC: I do as much as the insurance companies will allow.

CA: And is that a lot?

BC: That's more than the average actor. In New Zealand we do most of our own fight scenes.

CA: What about the first EVIL DEAD?

BC: Oh yeah, there were no stunt guys, we would just hurl ourselves into cabinets and bookshelves. I was covered in Karo Syrup for twelve weeks.

CA: So it was a twelve week shoot?

BC: Yeah, and for a $350,000 movie that was absurd. It was only supposed to be a six week shoot which we thought was a long time, but once we got down there we really didn't know what we were doing, like how to plan your day or schedule your shots or anything. So we had days where we only got one shot a day.

CA: What are some of your comedy influences? Because you're really funny.

BC: I like Bob Hope, and Danny Kaye. And I think Bill Murray is really funny too.

CA: So Ash, Brisco, and the King of Thieves walk into a bar, who gets the girl?

BC: The King of Thieves.

CA: You think so?!

BC: Oh yeah, oh yeah! Cause Ash is too stupid. Ash would start a fight somewhere and Brisco's too noble. He wouldn't do that.

CA: I don't know Brisco is pretty good.

BC: He wouldn't go in to pick up a girl though.

CA: That's true.

BC: They would meet under different circumstances. Autolycus would go there looking to pick someone up.

CA: Tell me about your new movie. Running Time.

BC: Running Time is a movie I want to get the word out on because I find it to be very ambitious. It's an extremely low budget movie but there's a lot of really cool things in it. It's all done in one shot.

CA: That's what I understand: that it's all in real time with no contrived sets or lighting, and it's in black and white right?

BC: Yeah, black and white. I think it's one of the best things I've been involved with.

CA: Is it an action film?

BC: No it's a crime drama. You see a heist unfold in real time and fall apart in real time. And there's no let up because there's no editing per say.

CA: How long is the film?

Director Josh Becker with Bruce.

BC: 70 minutes.

CA: Wow. That must have been intense to film. Was there a lot of ad-libbing?

BC: No.

CA: Really. And how big is the cast?

BC: The cast is 3 main characters, myself Jeremy Roberts and Anita Barone and then there are a few people that we interact with. All of them are from Michigan so it was a great little group of people.

CA: Do you live here in LA?

BC: No, I don't live in California anymore.

CA: You say that with a certain amount of venom in your voice.

BC: No. Glee. Never mistake glee for venom.

CA: Where do you live?

BC: I live in Oregon

CA: Oh. Where in Oregon. Do you live in the boonies?

BC: Yeah, I am in the boonies. South Central Oregon.

CA: Did you move there so you wouldn't have to pay state taxes?

BC: I moved there so I don't have to live in Los Angeles anymore. I only came to Los Angeles for the film business.

CA: Really.. but you were born in Michigan.

BC: Yes. I consider myself a Michigander or a Michiganian.

CA: How do you feel about your cult status?

BC: I think it's great because I can go and have a normal life. I can't imagine a guy like Bruce Willis, what his life is like.

CA: No grocery shopping for him.

 

BC: No, and I can go into any store at any time and do anything I like. Some people, with me, they point at me and say, you look like someone I know, and they can't place it, which is great.

CA: That's one great thing about LA. Everyone here looks vaguely familiar. You don't know if you went to high school with them or they were in the movie you saw last week.

BC: Yeah, but that's one thing I like about where I live. My neighbors are ranchers and they don't give a rat's ass about the film business, they never have and they never will and that is so refreshing. So when they come up and talk to you and want to strike up a conversation it's because they want to strike up a conversation not because they want to get something out of you. And you don't compare resumes. You meet someone at a party you go, hey, how you been? They'll immediately launch into what they've been working on to make you understand that they've been really successful. It's all bullshit. If I go to a gathering where I live now, you're gonna talk about the weather, you're gonna talk about crop rotation, you're gonna talk about cattle.

CA: So are you ranching?

BC: No.

CA: (laughs)

BC: (defensively)I have lavender on my farm.

CA: But you'll talk about it, ranching?

BC: Yeah, you talk about regular stuff. You talk about taxes or the government, stuff that has nothing to do with entertainment. I like going where people are not infatuated with the film business. It's very healthy.

CA: So speaking of the film industry, what's the last good film you saw?

BC: I can't really remember. I laughed at Austin Powers, but that doesn't make it good.

CA: What do you want everyone to know about you?

BC: I think all actors want to avoid leaving a particular impression. You know, you get type cast. I think I've managed to get out of the raw horror element and move beyond that, but people always latch on to the most obvious thing. All roads to me, lead to Evil Dead. Evil Dead was responsible for everything that came after that, and as a result I'll never deny it. You have a lot of actors that try to crop crap off their resume. Well, bullshit! You did it. I maintain that every decision I made was right at the time.

RUNNING TIME
Josh Becker, director
distrubuted by Anchor Bay
DVD & Video
Running Time Poster

   This is an amazing bit of filmmaking. Filmed in one continuous shot (not to be confused with one continuous take), it would be enough if the film was a technical standout, but RUNNING TIME ups the odds by actually having an enjoyable, tension inducing story line with characters you care about played by actors who know how to act. It's a shame that this was a straight to Video/DVD release, because a lot of its target audience will probably never run across it. However, Anchor Bay should be given an award for having the balls to put out a film that is so obviously a labor of love for director Josh Becker.

Anita Barone

   Shot in real time, 70 minutes worth, Becker (THOU SHALL NOT KILL...EXCEPT, ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY) uses a series of invisible cuts to create a streamline, day in the life of just released small time criminal Carl (Bruce Campbell). The camera follows Carl, from his pep talk with the Warden on keeping his nose clean, to the prison parking lot where he meets his partner (from the heist that got him put in prison in the first place) and high school buddy Patrick (Jeremy Roberts). Carl is an anti-hero on the fast track to tragedy. In the back of the van is Janie (Anita Barone), a hooker that Patrick brought along for Carl, who provides love interest, comic relief and rounds out the main cast.

Bruce and Jeremy

   Becker, who wrote, directed and produced the film with funds from his directing gigs on HERCULES and XENA (and other ill gotten gains), saturates his characters with distinct personalities and motivations. Barone's Janie is especially endearing as the hooker with a heart of gold. She never allows Janie to drift into cliché, but rather allows Janie's Cinderella fantasies to be worn on her sleeve in a fashion so honestly that we are willing to care for her. Campbell and Roberts are hysterical, in a bleak way, in their portrayal of the dysfunctional male criminal relationship between Patrick the loser/ manipulator and Carl the good guy gone wrong. When they can't stop arguing about who's the real weak link in the relationship, even during their heist, you want to slap them both around. We like Carl but wish he'd get rid of Patrick with a vengeance only a voyeur could feel.

    The film is a bit self-consciousness at first --you can't help but watch the screen for the well placed cuts, and generally wonder how Becker pulled off such a great looking film with basically a steady-cam and a lot of foresight. But after a while you become enthralled with the story, due in part to the pounding pace of the real time narrative, but also because of the well-drawn characters.

   Technically, the film is as close to masterpiece as it can be considering the shooting parameters. Filmed in 10 days with 16 mm handheld steady-cams, RUNNING TIME looks and feels like a lot more time and money was spent on the production. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's film ROPE, which was also one continuous shot, Becker does the great director two better. While ROPE was shot on a sound stage, RUNNING TIME is shot on location around Santa Monica, California. Additionally, while Hitchcock made his cuts when the camera ran out of film, Becker has timed his takes in such a manner that his cuts are virtually invisible. To control the look of the film normally managed by planned lights and filters, Becker utilized low grain black & white film and a steady-cam with a remote control for the exposure settings (so they could be changed while the camera was in motion). This reduced most of the filter and lighting problems, and while some lighting is provided here and there, because of the continuous shot ideal it is creative lighting at best. Nevertheless, the look of the film is purely professional and once the action starts, the technical aspects of the film are moot.

    The DVD version of the film has a marvelously informative commentary track with long time buddies Becker and Campbell talking over the film and explaining everything from how the lighting problems were solved to why the film editors unborn son has a co-editing credit on the film. This makes the DVD version well worth the extra bucks if you have a player.

    There is no doubt that Becker is a major filmmaking force, and that he has exceeded the expectations of independent filmmaking both in form and content (he even comments in the DVD running commentary that this is exactly the film he wanted to make). However, his real ability seems to be pulling together incredibly talented and innovative craft people to work on his films. The result of this vision-meets-talent collaboration has created a gem of a film that looks good and even leaves you feeling good, or at least hopeful, in the end and that is definitely worth the price of admission.

Carlye Archibeque

 

http://www.420.org
http://www.420.org

ARMY OF DARKNESS
directed by Sam Raimi
re-release by Anchor Bay

   "Trapped in time, surrounded by evil, low on gas." That about says it all for our favorite flippant, S-Mart employee, Ash. ARMY OF DARKNESS, the third installment in the "Evil Dead" series is such a marvelously fun film it is hard to write a serious review of it. Any attempt at it fails and I am left babbling on about the cool Ray Harryhausen style skeletons and crazy dialogue, like, "You ain't got Jack and Shit, and Jack just left town" or my favorite, "Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun," and...well there I go. For fans of the black comedy/horror genre, Army of Darkness is an e-ticket ride into the ridiculous.

    This re-release from Anchor Bay features a widescreen presentaton and digitally remastered THX sound. It contains the original ending, which was also on the last video release, as well as the original trailer and a behind the scenes featurette, "The Men Behind the Army" narrated by Bruce Campbell. The DVD features a bio section and aside from the ease of getting to the features that the DVD format provides, this is the only real feature difference. For VFX buffs, the Video clamshell box has a cool pullout with a write up about the effects used in the film, which is actually very interesting. Overall this is a must have for any Dead (Evil, that is) fan worth his '73 Oldsmobile.

[Anchor Bay (800) 745-1145]

Jane Hinde

 


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