In the Independent Reviews site Bruce Campbell talks about the EVIL DEAD re-releases, his latest film Running Time and Lavender farming.
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 its 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 the 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. I will use this moment and advise you to look after the best independent movie reviews, before movie night.
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 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 se.
CA: How long is the film?
BC: 70 minutes.
CA: Wow. That must have been intense to film. Was there a lot of ad-libbing?
CA: Really. And how big is the cast?
BC: The cast is 3 main characters, 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, 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: (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 typecast. 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.