The following Interview was originally published in 2005 and is taken from the original website archives of GenreOnline.net.
No part of this review may be republished in any way, shape or form without the express handwritten permission of Mark A. Rivera.
In celebration of the upcoming STARZ original series, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, I am proud to present from the original website archives, this interview I conducted in 2005 with Actor, Writer, and Director Bruce Campbell.
The GENRE ONLINE.NET Interview – Actor, Writer, and Director Bruce Campbell.
By Mark A. Rivera
Bruce Campbell is best known by genre film fans for his signature role as “Ash” in Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” trilogy of films, but the Actor has also one of the most prolific careers in genre television too with a popular recurring role in both “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess” as well as memorable guest appearances in popular series as diverse as “The X – Files” and the sitcom “Ellen.” Bruce Campbell is also an Author. His first book, an autobiography entitled “If Chins Could Kill – Confessions Of A B-Movie Actor” was a New York Times bestseller and he has directed numerous episodes of popular television programs as well as the documentary “FANalysis.” Mr. Campbell’s feature film directing debut entitled “Man With The Screaming Brain” is going to premiere on the SCI FI Channel on Saturday, September 10, 2005, at 9PM (ET/PT) and he has been touring this summer with his new book “Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way” for which an “Audio Movie” as Mr. Campbell describes is going to be released as a six CD set from Rykodisc on Tuesday, September 27, 2005.
Mr. Campbell was kind enough to grant me an interview with him to discuss his new film and book as well as other insights he has gained over the last two plus decades of working in the entertainment industry. I have to admit that I am a fan of Mr. Campbell as much as anyone else, but he kind of threw me off a bit because while I was not expecting him to be the smart-alecky character he has often portrayed on both the big and small screens, I was taken back by his unpretentious and honest demeanor. Bruce as he told me to call him when I first addressed him is a very articulate and patient man who demystifies his persona almost like a defense mechanism so one feels like they are talking to someone they’ve known a bit and at the same time he sets a healthy boundary that reminds people that he is a regular person like anyone else and he values his privacy and he also loves what he does so much, I don’t think he would change a thing in the way his career has developed so far.
Mark: Mr. Campbell?
Bruce: This is Bruce.
Mark: Hi may I call you Bruce. This is Mark Rivera…
Bruce: Yeah. Please call me Bruce. That’s my name.
Mark: Thank you Bruce. I appreciate that. Hali had set up the time for me to do an interview with you…
Bruce: I’m ready for you man.
Mark: Excellent. First off I got to tell you I enjoyed your performance in “Man With The Screaming Brain” immensely.
Mark: What you do with your physical acting and all in the film I think is the best I’ve seen in years. I mean you make it look so easy I just know it must be really difficult to do. In my opinion you can throw yourself into a role in front of a camera whether it be adding a horrific level by screaming or even add comedy with that along the lines the way William Shatner was able to do so in the 1960s with “Star Trek” and episodes of “The Outer Limits” and “The Twilight Zone” he appeared in. I was wondering was that something you trained yourself to do? How did you develop the talent?
Bruce: I’ve been doing this now for about 25 years so you’ve got to pick up some tricks along the way. That would be the only way I can answer it. It takes awhile for Actors to learn their craft, like any craft. A Brick Layer who does his first brick wall, it’s gonna suck.
Bruce: He might get a little bit of inspiration, but then if you came back to that same Brick Layer 25 years later, he would have filled bricks on all different slopes. He would have worked on expensive brick projects. Cheap brick projects. You know, you just get familiar… A lot of acting is based on comfort and confidence. If you’re confident in what you do, it comes across in your work. So if you confident you think you have an idea the way something should play then it works to your advantage. After awhile you’re supposed to get better.
Mark: So it’s experience.
Bruce: Yeah well you’re now familiar with different experiences. I’ve worked overseas a lot. It doesn’t faze me to work in another country now. Things like that. High budget. Low budget.
Mark: You’ve directed television before, but what made you decide to step into the Director’s chair of a feature film and how did the premise for “Man With The Screaming Brain” come to mind?
Bruce: I’m embarrassed to say it took about 19 years to get it made from the original kernel of an idea that was given to my partner David Goodman in a rowboat in 1986.
Bruce: And we sort have been developing it since then. It’s been partially financed ten different times. It really was a folly to get it made. We had given up on it numerous times.
Bruce: It kept coming back like a bad check.
Mark: I think it was a good check this time because I really enjoyed it. I’ve seen the SCI FI Channel version.
Bruce: They’re pretty similar. I mean the SCI FI Channel version.
Mark: It is?
Bruce: Yeah they just had to break it up to put in commercials.
Mark: In the movie there is a character named Tataya, I believe her name is?
Mark: There really isn’t much of a motivation for her unless you’re going to buy the fact that she’s a sociopath and kills people. You know she kills men she perceives have loved her and broken her heart.
Bruce: Yeah she doesn’t take rejection well… That’s what you could say about her.
Mark: Then there won’t be any expansion of her character just to give a better idea of what made her this way rather than just say, “She’s crazy.” You know what I’m trying to say?
Bruce: I understand. There’s just only so much you can do in 88 minutes. We just went with her the best that we could. You know I’m sure it’s lacking in many respects.
Mark: Was the Dark Horse comic adaptation always going to be a part of the project as well?
Bruce: I’m not sure what you mean?
Mark: Well when they sent me the screener they enclosed a copy of the comic.
Bruce: Oh yeah I was very involved with that because they adapted the comic books from my screenplay. So my instructions to them were “Don’t reinvent the wheel here. Just adapt it how you have to adapt it into comic book format, but I don’t want to reinvent this. This is the movie. This is the idea.”
Mark: With the exception of the character you play practically all of the other comic book versions of the other characters look very different from the movie. Was because of a likeness issue?
Bruce: We made a conscious decision to not make anything look like the Actors.
Mark: I see.
Bruce: I’m probably the closest as far as the characterizations go.
Mark: Of course.
Bruce: They didn’t try to make the other characters look like the Actors.
Mark: Stacy Keach brought a lot of personality and presence that balanced the humorous qualities for basically what is a “Mad Scientist” character, but I think Ted Raimi kind of overdid the character of “Igor” a bit.
Bruce: His name is Pavel.
Mark: Pavel... Okay, I apologize… But he is kind of like the beastly assistant in that kind of archetype if you will.
Bruce: Yeah well he doesn’t have a hump and he doesn’t walk with a limp, but he’s the idiot lab assistant.
Mark: He’s subservient to Stacy Keach’s character, but what I wanted to ask you is when you direct the Actors, do you let them run with it or do you try to rein them in?
Bruce: No one gets a free ride, but you know I happen to like what Ted does so it’s half my fault too. We come up with a lot of ideas on the set and play with stuff. I use Ted to make me look subtle. You know what I mean. He’s an Actor who goes for it and I’d rather have a guy who gives you more than you need than a guy who doesn’t give enough.
Mark: I didn’t think his performance was bad. I just think at times it was a little bit much.
Bruce: I don’t doubt that, but you know I base it on how it plays with an audience. I’ve seen it about 30 times across the country now at special sneak previews and Ted gives you a lot of entertainment value per frame.
Mark: Absolutely. He’s great whether he was on television as “Joxer” or even the cameos he does in the “Spider-Man” films. He’s as much of a recognizable Character Actor now as Ron Howard’s brother Clint, but I think he may get better roles than Ron Howard’s brother.
Bruce: He’s also a better Actor than Ron Howard’s brother.
Mark: When I first saw the publicity shots when they sent me the screener I have to admit and I don’t mean this in any disrespect, but when I first saw the photo with you wearing the makeup with the split in the head, it looks a bit like the “Buttman” characters that used to appear on “In Living Color.” However when I saw the movie in motion so to speak, the makeup looks great. Yet in still photos the makeup doesn’t look so hot, but when you watch the movie it’s kind of like when people first saw the costumes for “X-Men.” They were kind of disappointed that they didn’t look like the comic, but then when everyone saw the movie they loved the costumes because it worked on film. Somehow they couldn’t accept it until they saw it in motion and I felt the same way about your character’s makeup in your film. Was there any worry on your part with regard to the makeup for this film that it might look too ridiculous because there is a certain balance of humor that you have to keep, but if it looks too over the top or if it looks too funny it might dilute the effect that you want.
Bruce: I understand. Look it’s a Bulgarian photographer. You’re going to get what you get. This is what happens when you shoot in strange countries you shouldn’t be shooting in.
Mark: I see…
Bruce: You get what you get and we hired a very qualified makeup woman Melanie A. Kay, who did my makeup for “Bubba Ho-Tep” so she knows what she’s doing and yeah, it looked fine on film I thought.
Mark: On film it looks great.
Bruce: Still, you know, who knows? Perhaps the photos show things in a more naked light. I don’t know. When the shutter is going on a motion picture, maybe it doesn’t show you as much.
Mark: I see. Well I hope you didn’t take that in a offensive way because I didn’t mean like that.
Bruce: Well there’s nothing I can do about it so I don’t take it in any one way or the other.
Mark: In your last SCI FI channel film “Alien Apocalypse,” what struck me about that was it seemed like a Hodgepodge of ideas from other films like “Army Of…”
Bruce: (Interrupting) You’re gonna have to talk to the Writer. I don’t know what to tell you.
Mark: Okay I’ll skip that then.
Bruce: I was an Actor for hire.
Mark: I read some conflicting news on your personal website as well as elsewhere and I’m sure you are asked this a thousand times, but if I don’t ask this… Basically, is there going to be an “Evil Dead IV” and is there any truth to the rumors that there is going to be a “Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash” or remake of “Evil Dead”?
Bruce: That kind of thing, no, no, no. You know, absolutely no on the “Jason Vs. Freddy Vs. Ash.” It’s not on my website http://www.bruce-campbell.com so it’s not. That’s what I tell people. If it’s not on my website, it doesn’t exist. The other rumors of a remake and a sequel. They may happen, but not while Sam is involved in the “Spider-Man” series. So that’s something that may happen down the road, but there are absolutely no plans at the moment. There’s no start date. There’s no script. There’s no nothing.
Mark: How do you feel about the way Hollywood has been “re-imagining” horror film classics like “Dawn Of The Dead” or “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” if you’ve had the chance to see any of them?
Bruce: I think remakes and sequels are generally undesirable. This summer is particularly bad.
Mark: Is there any recent film that you saw and liked?
Bruce: No. The last film I saw that I liked was “Napoleon Dynamite.”
Mark: Personally, my favorite from last year was “Shaun Of The Dead.” I thought it was a great flick.
Bruce: I heard it was pretty fun.
Mark: If you get a chance, definitely rent it. On television, I know you appeared on “Ellen”, “Xena”, “Hercules”, “The X-Files”, “Brisco County”, “American Gothic” etc… Do you have a favorite character you’ve portrayed on both the big screen and small screen?
Bruce: I can only answer that when I get to the Old Actor’s Home. I’m not really done yet. So far though, an old Elvis in “Bubba Ho-Tep.” I enjoyed playing the Ash character. I enjoyed playing The King Of Thieves on Hercules and Xena. I enjoyed Brisco because it was the first chance I had to be sort of a role model.
Mark: That was a great show. I used to watch that. I wish they kept it on longer.
Bruce: Fox had to start paying their bills. They were expanding greatly right about the time of that show and Brisco wasn’t pulling in the big, big numbers so they made their decision.
Mark: At least it lives on TNT and those channels in reruns… Now you’re touring a book, “Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way,” which from what I understand is fiction with you playing or in this case writing yourself into the story.
Bruce: It’s a “what if?” book. It’s a mockumentary in book form. I play myself and the hypothetical question what would happen if you took a B movie Actor, meaning me, and put him into a big A picture directed Mike Nichols, produced by Paramount, opposite Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere. What would happen and the answer is it’s not a good idea. It’s a misadventure.
Mark: Do you really feel that way?
Bruce: No not at all.
Mark: It’s just a story.
Bruce: I don’t even want to be in A movies anyway so it doesn’t matter.
Mark: Really? I think you could hold your own.
Bruce: What is so attractive about being in an A movie? All the A movies are B movies now. If you get dressed up like a bat and fly around Gotham City, I got news for you. That’s a B movie. Tom Cruise can jump up and down on Oprah’s couch all he wants, but he starred in a B movie. That is no different than the movie you mentioned “Alien Apocalypse.” Except there’s more zeroes on the end of the budget.
Mark: And Steven Spielberg’s name…
Bruce: But that doesn’t matter. Aliens invading the Earth is perennially a B movie idea.
Mark: Lloyd Kaufman said something once that I think was he felt there was a hypocrisy artistically between the films he makes and the films Steven Spielberg makes and he was saying something like look my films may not be the greatest movies in the world, but I got to tell you I fell asleep during “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” and I wasn’t the only one.
Bruce: Well I think people can make fun of B movies for how cheesy they are, but these days they serve as the only petri dish for original ideas out there. As a result I think they will always be around because there’s only so much people can take. How much of a “Herby: The Love Bug” and “The Longest Yard” and “The Bad News Bears” and “The Honeymooners” and “Bewitched”, and “Charlie And The Chocolate Factory?” Every movie I’ve listed to you is a remake of an idea that is at least 30 years old. So the audiences are not that dumb. You know Hollywood is down ten percent and they are blaming it on piracy. They should blame it on themselves.
Mark: You’re absolutely right about that.
Bruce: They have serious soul searching to do; otherwise they are going to lose their shirts.
Mark: They’re sabotaging the home video industry with DVD and the next generation formats because they’re so afraid of piracy. I mean look at the two biggest piracy issues to come out; “Hulk” and “Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith.” I gotta tell you. Those were stolen in-house. Those weren’t first stolen by people on the Internet or somebody with a camera in a movie theater.
Bruce: I agree. I totally agree with you. Look there’s only so many ways you can get your hands on an actual print of the film.
Mark: And a good quality copy. People know the difference. When you’ve got something that says “Property of Lucasfilm” on the bottom or whatever, you know that’s not a guy with a camcorder in a movie theater. That’s why I think most of the piracy is inside, not outside. Now with regard to the upcoming CD set for “Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way” you describe it as an audio movie. Can you elaborate on that?
Bruce: Well the tag line is “If you’ve read the book, now hear the movie.” Basically it’s not a he said, she said audio book. I don’t just read the book. We act it out like a radio play would with an intense amount of sound effects and everything. It’s an epic presentation of the book.
Mark: Is there any chance that there would ever be a cinematic version with you as the star the way Howard Stern successfully accomplished bringing “Private Parts” to the big screen?
Bruce: Well no. The way my life would is, Ashton Kutcher would star in it. Who would let me star in my own movie?
Mark: Your name will always be associated with Sam Raimi because of the Evil Dead films and the cameos that you’ve done in his other films and Dark Horse Comics described your character of “Ash” in the “Army Of Darkness” graphic novel adaptation as being a superhero. Have you ever been approached or do you ever approach Mr. Raimi to play a classic comic book hero or super villain perhaps?
Bruce: I’m going to tell you those characters leave me a little cold.
Mark: Really? You’re not into them?
Bruce: Like not at all. I’m much more interested in a story about a garage mechanic than a story about a guy who fears kryptonite. I just need to be able to relate to that lead character. I have got to be able to somehow make that connection. Even though I was in the “Spider-Man” series, I feel that that was one of the better ones of the bunch because it’s just a guy from Queens. A regular nebbish character who something remarkable happens to him. He’s not from another planet. He’s not “Lord Of The Rings,” which I call “Bored Of The Rings.”
Mark: Actually there’s a book with that title.
Bruce: I can’t relate to those movies. After I heard all the noise about how amazing they were I really tried to sit down and watch them and I couldn’t do it. I kept going “Who’s this guy again? Where are we? Where are we going?” I was utterly confused and I shouldn’t be confused even if I didn’t read the books.
Mark: I’ve heard complaints similar to that with other films. I remember when “Total Recall” came out back in 1990 and I knew a person who had the same reaction you described with “All the sudden this happens and that happens and I don’t know what the heck was going on in that movie?”
Bruce: Yeah. Yeah. I physically could not follow them and when that happens to me I go click.
Mark: Do you find they are too fast paced?
Bruce: Too convoluted. Too confusing.
Mark: When you look at different things like with Sam directing “A Simple Plan” and “The Gift” it definitely elevated his profile as a Director and I think he gets a lot more respect now and people look at “The Evil Dead” films a hell of a lot more with a whole new audience appreciating those films more then when they first came out. Bruce, I think you’re a great Actor and I’m a fan as much as any other person and my whole thing is would you take the opportunity to transcend the whole cult genre persona that you’ve developed?
Bruce: Not at all. Now I wear that badge with honor. There’s a personal side to all this too. I like having my privacy. I like the fact that no one’s going through my garbage. I like the fact that I’m not on the cover of tabloids with Angelina Jolie. To me that has nothing to do with my craft. I’m simply interested into doing what I do. I don’t feel like I’m stereotyped within the industry. I’m more stereotyped outside of the film industry then within it. “Sky High” is the third Disney movie that I’ve done so it’s not like I’m struggling for work within the industry.
Mark: I never meant it in that way?
Bruce: No, no, no. I’m explaining and I’m not defending anything. Mainly it’s just that that’s why I don’t mind doing what I do. I can have a very private life as a result. I’m a very private guy. You know, no one knows about my kids. No one knows where they are or what they do and I love that and no one cares. No one even knows the name of my Wife and I like it that way. If you’re George Clooney, you’ve got paparazzi following you wherever you go. You’ve got people camping out and running after you and you know… “Oh what did he have for dinner?” and lets go through his garbage. It gets too crazy.
Mark: As a cult film Actor though you have to deal with cult fans and they could be just as aggressive.
Bruce: Yeah, but you know what. I keep myself so visible that the mystique is gone. If Tom Cruise traveled to forty cities like I’m doing this summer most of his problems would evaporate because if a fan knows they can see me in forty cities, they don’t get excited anymore. They don’t have the desperate need. People only want to go through your stuff if they can never find you. There’s much more fascination if they can never find you. There’s much more fascination if they don’t know anything about you. I’ve been touring and going to so many cities for so many years that it deflates the fascination and I do that almost intentionally.
Mark: I just always figured you might be in a private dinner or on vacation or out to watch your kids do something and somebody might look and say “Oh I recognize you from so and so.”
Bruce: Oh no. That happens. No doubt about that. You can never stop that, but it doesn’t happen to the degree it could have. When you look at the lives of really famous people, they don’t go out. They take over the backroom of a restaurant. They have dinner parties at home with other famous people because those are the only people who can really relate to what they’re doing. They are living very insulated lives. For me, I can go to my local grocery store and no one cares.
Mark: In other words, you don’t have to worry. You don’t walk around with security.
Bruce: I never have and I never will. I don’t have to have secret phone numbers. I don’t have to have my mail sent to a certain place. I live as normal a life as an Actor can.
Mark: That’s great.
Bruce: I think it is too.
Mark: I can see you really walk the walk as the everyman.
Bruce: I don’t want to be some guy that everyone stares at 24 hours a day. I just don’t want to be that person and so, you know I live in Oregon. I live in the woods. In the middle of nowhere and I don’t live in Hollywood. I haven’t lived there since 1998 and it gives you perspective when your neighbors are ranchers and loggers. They don’t give a shit about movies. They think Actors are pussies. They don’t think I have a real job and it helps keeps it all in perspective. You know I’m from Detroit. It’s a land of working stiffs. You’ve got to make the distinction between fantasy and reality. I live in a world of fantasy, but it doesn’t mean I can’t understand reality.
Mark. Of course. Well let me just add from a small time journalist’s point of view like myself, I love being able to work and live in Brooklyn. I don’t have to commute into Manhattan.
Mark: I think it’s the greatest thing in the world.
Bruce: Exactly. You just e-mail your stuff out.
Mark: Manhattan for me is overrated. It’s too congested.
Bruce: I don’t think I’ll ever do another book signing in Manhattan probably.
Bruce: Yeah because in big cities they can care less whether you live or die yet I can go to Albuquerque, New Mexico and every other person in line says “Oh my God. Thanks for coming to Albuquerque.” You go to Los Angeles; no one in LA even likes movies.
Mark: That’s ironic because it’s like a factory town in that respect. I’ve been there and I found it to be too much of a culture shock.
Mark: Well outside of “Man With The Screaming Brain” and “Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way” is there any films and TV projects us fans can expect to see you in?
Bruce: “The Woods” is coming out this September. That’s from MGM. I have a supporting role in that. I play the father now, which is great. You know as you age you get to play other stuff.
Mark: Well, I don’t know what your ages and that’s your business, but you look good. I mean I guess you were in your twenties or maybe even younger when you made the first “Evil Dead” film.
Bruce: I was 21.
Mark: Okay, so like when appeared in “Army Of Darkness” you were ripped. You looked great and you still look good so God bless your genes if that makes any sense. It’s good genetics. That’s what I’m trying to say. That’s a good deal. So you may feel your growing older, but you could still play other roles.
Bruce: I don’t need to play some character that’s younger than me to serve my own ego. It makes me happy as an artist that I can play different stuff. I always felt that I was a Character Actor trapped in a leading man’s body. So now I can finally fulfill that desire to just be a Character Actor really.
Mark: Is there any Character Actors of the past when you were growing up…
Bruce: Oh yeah. My favorite guys are all dead. The guy Jack Carson. Terrific Character Actor. If you saw his face you’d know him, but you have no idea who he is. They work all the time, but you never know who they are.
Mark: Well that’s all the questions I have and I really appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me here. You’re probably one the biggest people I’ve had the opportunity to interview because I’m a one-man show.
Bruce: Hey I’m a one-man band myself. I really am. I don’t have an entourage. I don’t have any of that crap. So here’s to the one-man band.
Mark: Exactly. I mean I’m the only website guy I know that actually does all the writing, editing, reviewing, and web site design and people think I’m crazy because it’s a lot of work, but I just like doing it that way. It’s just something I enjoy you know.
Bruce: Yeah exactly.
Mark: Thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.
Bruce: Alright have a good one. I’ll talk to you soon.
Big thanks to Hali Simon and the SCI FI Channel for making this interview possible.
© Copyright 2005 By Mark A. Rivera Exclusively For GENRE ONLINE.NET.
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this review may be republished in any way, shape or form without the express handwritten permission of Mark A. Rivera.
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