Bruce Campbell Interview

Interview by Maxwell Clark

I first heard of the annual Horrorfind convention through a friend of mine from my work; that was in May of this year. He was also an Evil Dead fan, and unfortunately he didn’t end up going down to Baltimore with me. It was just going to be me, alone, at a convention to see Bruce Campbell, the star of the Evil Dead trilogy. What was I going to do?

All through summer, I waited in anticipation for that event, feeling both excitement and a great feeling of trepidation…I didn’t want to do or say the wrong thing and make an ass out of myself; I also didn’t want to become one of those pitiful, drooling “gosh I love all yer movies” fanboys I knew I would see plenty of. I just wanted to play it cool, casual. This man, I thought, is just another Joe Schmoe with an extraordinarily cool job…right?

The idea for the actual interview was really on a whim. I thought that I wouldn’t be very satisfied with just an autograph: so why not interview the man? He’s used to this sort of thing, I thought, and I could get my name published. I’ve been working towards a career in filmmaking all my life, and I thought that I could glean some sound advice from this working-class actor who’s been in the business for a while. It was a win-win situation.

But before I even contacted the man himself (or his literary agent, for that matter), I had to find a place where I could easily get my article published. Where better than my favorite web site for Deadites, Deadites Online? I contacted Kain (the webmaster of Deadites Online), and he seemed more than willing to publish my small article, if and when the interview even took place.

The second step to success: e-mailing Bruce and his literary agent, Jan Holbrook. I outlined my plans for the length, and left the time and place open to his convenience. I gave my phone number and e-mail address, and waited. For three weeks I heard nothing in response. Needless, to say, I was a little bummed at this total lack of response, and I assumed the answer was a resounding no. He probably thinks I’m just another obsessed fanboy, I thought.

Then one particularly rainy day I came home from work to find a note on my desk. My sister had answered the phone, and written down a message for me from a Joe Renaldi, and would I please call him back ASAP.

“Who the fuck is Joe Renaldi? I wondered. I called back, and soon found out that Joe worked for St. Martin’s Press, the publisher of If Chins Could Kill, Bruce’s autobiography. He was calling on behalf of Bruce, who had sent a copy of the e-mail to him. Things were instantly looking up. But Joe told me to be patient and not to hold my breath, because the interview, although probable, still might not happen. He couldn’t even give me a time schedule, but I was patient. I didn’t have any other choice, right?

The day I left for Baltimore I called Joe one last time, and even then he didn’t have any sort of definite time schedule. I thanked him for his assistance, and went on my way. I edited and added some questions to my list on the plane, where I talked to a guy named Matt. He was also an Evil Dead fan, although he wasn’t going to the convention that weekend. He congratulated me on the opportunity I was given, and it made me appreciate how lucky I actually was.

At last I arrived at the Hotel Marriott in Baltimore, on Saturday, August twenty-fourth, at 10:42 AM. I was greeted by long lines, and some sneering faces. After I bought my weekend pass, I just wandered around the dealer’s rooms for a few hours; I knew there was no way to contact Bruce and settle the time for the interview before his public appearance at the Q&A session. But I did meet some interesting people: I was standing at a concession stand and this big black man put his hand on my shoulder and said, “S’cuse me…”and I immediately recognized him as Ken Foree, star of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” I also shook hands with Tom Savini, the renowned makeup and special effects artist. He was a tad strange…I guess I can expect that from a guy who photographed corpses in Vietnam. I also met the entire cast of The Evil Dead and got all their autographs. The “Ladies” said I was cute…

After a while, I just decided to wait in the room where the Q&A session was to take place, which happened to be by the pool. There were a few others waiting, and the rest literally barged into the room about fifteen minutes before the show started. Bruce was greeted by roaring applause as he approached the podium (sans microphone). I couldn’t believe it; there I was in the front row, less than five feet away from the man himself. Bruce first read a small chapter from his book all about handshakes, and then answered questions. This was my opportunity.

I raised my hand, and he called on me.

“Um, Mr. Campbell, I spoke to a Joe Renaldi of St. Martin’s Press…”

“You spoke to a Joe Renaldi of St. Martin’s Press, (the publisher of this fine book)…”

“…About interviewing you, and he…”

“Yes, and what did he say?”

“Um, he said that you would be available at some time this afternoon.”

“Uh-huh. I’ll see you later, all right…”

The audience burst into laughter. What followed was a barrage of some inane, some intelligent questions. There was, as seems perfunctory, one lone person who asked the eternal burning question:

“Is there going to be an Evil Dead 4?”

“Is there going to be an Evil Dead 4…Hmmmm. I’m just hesitating because I’VE NEVER HEARD THAT QUESTION BEFORE. Tell ya what, if anybody’s got a cell phone, we could call Sam Raimi up right now and see if we can convince him to make Evil Dead 4 instead of Spiderman 2!”

Once again, the audience burst into laughter. Later, I even got to play a game where I was a big-shot movie producer, and Bruce was pitching the idea for “Congo.” Then we played a game where Bruce would turn his back, and the audience would shout out the name of a movie that they wanted their money back for. I blurted out “Maniac Cop,” and Bruce tried to defend it as best he could, but also said that nowadays he’d “simply laugh at the script, and run from it.”

After the Q&A session, I had to wait outside the pool area because a new batch of fans was coming in to watch a live (parody) performance of “The Evil Dead.” As I waited, I noticed all the people walking by with Evil Dead t-shirts and hats and lunchboxes, all looking very disdainfully at me for some reason, as I sat there holding my camera and tripod, in my Hawaiian shirt and slacks. I think I even heard someone call me “chump…”

After the performance, Bruce walked outside, escorted by a small, burly security guard who I think was called “TJ.” Bruce told me to follow him to his car, and so I did. In the car, “TJ” asked Bruce what he wanted to drink, and Bruce ordered some sort of Kahlua-martini concoction…all the while I sat in the back and kept my mouth shut. We drove around to the back of the hotel, and when we walked into the building, all those fanboys who sneered at me earlier now looked at me in shock and dismay. I think I had at least one private chuckle at their expense.

And now we came to the time of the actual interview. The place where we were sitting was a little, cluttered production office, filled with posters and merchandise…but I didn’t notice it. When “TJ” returned to the room with Bruce’s drink, he also put one down next to me. Bruce ended up drinking mine, by the way.

MAX: Okay, Bruce, these are some questions about your book, some clarification questions…

BRUCE: Shoot.

MAX: Okay. In Fanalysis, there was a guy asking you on the street how he could get in contact with you about scripts. About how often does thathappen to you?

BRUCE: About once a convention. I’ll get some guy who is got a synopsis or hell give me a full script and they’re usually just looking for funding. And the thing I usually tell them is until they put the money together there is no point in reading it, really. My thing is, I think filmmakers have to make that step. They have to show that they can do this, that they can pull it together, and then I will read it.

MAX: So if they’ve got the money, and everything is set up.

BRUCE: Yeah, although I have to say that there is notorieties hard to get excited about a first time filmmaker, because they’re all jazzed and ready to go, but they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. So, I have to weigh all of it.

MAX: I heard a rumor that Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert are starting a production company that will support and help out young and burgeoning filmmakers. Are you at all involved with that, and if so what information can you give?

BRUCE: I don’t know all that much about it. I know that they got a deal to make some movies with a German company, uh and that is the best of my knowledge. They’re gonna make some horror films, I think, so who knows, I may come and go. We’re pretty casual.

MAX: You have stated before that the Evil Dead is not responsible for the work you are currently receiving. In your opinion, what is?

Here we had a little breakdown. He didn’t understand the question exactly; I couldn’t quote the exact source (although I later found out that it was a quote from Necronomiconifesto, on his Everything Evil site, which is linked to www.bruce-campbell.com). So I had to modify the question into something else: as if to say filmmakers don’t look at the Evil Dead series and base their judgment on his merits as an actor in those particular films.

BRUCE: I don’t know, it works all kinds of ways. I have gotten jobs because they had no idea about the Evil Dead movies; they knew me from Brisco or Hercules or something like that. And then in other cases they may know oh yeah, he is that horror guy. It’s very specific. I just hosted a Masters of Horror thing for Showtime so they specifically got me because of that; you know, to be a host. So, some people know who I am and hire me for that, and some people know who I am and don’t hire me because of that. You know, it works both ways.

MAX: What do you think of the label cult?

BRUCE: The label cult? I don’t have a problem, no. It just means that people are really fervent, and really loyal, which there is nothing wrong with that. Cult films last forever. I have been in plenty of films that no one will remember, so it is nice to be in some movies that some people do, and that they pass it along to the next generation I’m meeting kids named Ash now.

MAX: Does Evil Dead being a cult weird you out?

BRUCE: Nope. Does not weird me out at all. It’s a natural outgrowth of people getting enthused. It’s manifested in many ways: some people get a tattoo, or get a couple photos, or go to a convention and say hi, or quietly rent things on the side. It takes all shapes.

MAX: Do you think that your work is moving more towards the mainstream?

BRUCE: It comes and goes. Serving Sara? just fell together last year around this time, um but it’s not my normal type of gig. I did a TV movie that is considered mainstream, because it?s on television, but it?s still a horror film called erminal Invasion. But I just did this movie called Bubba-Ho-Tep, this Elvis movie, and that’s about as un-mainstream as you can get. So my pendulum swings all over. Spiderman is incredibly mainstream, so there’s lots of parts that interest me. I don’t say, Oh, that’s too mainstream, or, Oh, that’s too cultish, I just have to base it on what’s there. You have to judge everything on it?s own merits.

MAX: What’s your role going to be in Spiderman 2?

BRUCE: A guy hit by a bus, I don?t know?just some small little thing.

MAX: Can you explain your views on censorship?

BRUCE: There should’nt be any censorship. This is America. There shouldn’t be any of this freedom of the press, freedom of expression, but having said that, I think what’s important is that people who make movies don’t try to falsely lure people in to see the movie that don’t want to be there. A kid should not see Evil Dead and we knew that. so you know, we had, this movie is not rated. The producers recommend that no one under seventeen be admitted without a parent, so you have to let people know what it is. I think with labeling, there’s something to that, maybe that’s not the answer, but at least as a parent you can go, All right, I understand what this contains. It contains graphic images of this, and then people can decide for themselves, but in England and parts of Europe they can fully censor it. There are European countries where Evil Dead has never played. It was banned in the Netherlands; it was banned in England, and um, keeps fighting back and forth for respect.

MAX:That’s kind of funny, because I remember when Evil Dead 2 came back in England; the only part that they cut out was when Jake kicks you when you’re on the ground. It’s okay for people to be dismembered, but you can’t kick a man while he’s down.

BRUCE: Oh sure, well that’s just the English way, That?s just not proper! You can’t kick a man while he’s down! That’s not right!?

MAX: But of course you can cut off your girlfriend’s head with a shovel?

BRUCE: Of course. But see, each country is freakish in that respect. But see, in America, you can shoot a woman in the breast, but you can’t suck it. It’s the American way. Personally, I’d rather suck it.

At this point I made some stupid remark about my being engaged, and saved myself with “moving on..”.

MAX: I hear you like backpacking. But do you ever get any time?

BRUCE: No, but I walk a lot. We have a lot of trails near my house, so usually when I get home I just take off. I’m a day-hike kind of guy. Ya gotta do what you can. I wanna write another book called Walk This Way. I have discovered so many freakish places in cities where you can walk. I was just 10 minutes from Chicago O’Hare airport and there’s a giant woodland reserve right outside, and I hung out there with a big buck with a rack like this (demonstrates) for 15 minutes you know, giant jets are taking off overhead, and there was no one there. There are paths everywhere.

MAX: Ever had any problems with obsessed fans?

BRUCE: Never had a problem because I make myself available. I think it’s the guys who never make themselves available, and create a big mystery of themselves, where the mystery becomes so intense that people have to find out. Nobody wants to go through my garbage, they don’t give a shit, because I go to 8 or 9 conventions a year. I think if Tom Cruise went to 10 conventions a year, people will go, Oh, hi Tom. It’s that situation where someone is really inaccessible, you know, so I try to break the mystique down. Otherwise, I’d be forced to kick their ass.

MAX: Exactly how sick of Evil Dead are you?

BRUCE: I’m not really that sick of it. I think other people are more sensitive to it than I am. It usually happens at one of these Q&A sessions, someone will stand up and go, Is there gonna be an Evil Dead 4 and the whole crowd actually wants to stone him, because they’ve all heard it a lot. I can trace all roots back to The Evil Dead movies, so I have nothing against them. It’s just that I’ve done more non-Evil Dead stuff; it’s not the only thing I’ve done. There are some actors who have done a cult movie and they are forever going to be the Policeman #2 in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

MAX: So you just want to basically get out the idea that you?re diversified.

BRUCE: It’s funny, because there are a lot of people who actually don’t know I’m in these horror movies. I’ve had people who are fans of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., they wouldn’t watch horror movies. So I’ve had people come up at conventions with little cowboy outfits on, and they say, Will you sign my horse picture and behind them is some spiked freak with an Evil Dead tattoo.

MAX: You have the busiest schedule I have ever seen. Tomorrow you’re leaving for Pennsylvania for another convention, how do you deal with so many appearances?

BRUCE: For Philly it’s a book signing, and then I’ll be in NYC the day after that, and then New Jersey the day after that, and then home for a few days, and then Toronto. It’s 25 cities, but it’s not as bad as last year. I did a book tour last year, and that was 55 cities in 5 months. It’s staggering, and it can be debilitating. But it’s sorta you’re half pumped-up by it, at the same time as you’re drained by it. There’s an adrenalin that keeps going, when you’re readin in front of people, and interacting with crowds, but then afterwards you just sort of crash.

MAX: I read your book; did anyone help you out with the writing? What with all your appearances?

BRUCE: No. It was not written with so-and-so. No, I just put in as much time as I could when I could. And I really wanted to write it, so whenever I wasn’t working on something I would write. I’m working on an outline now for a new book, and once we get that outline shaped.

MAX: Is that the “walking” book?

BRUCE: No, this is one that I have a deal on with the same publisher, St. Martin’s Press. It’s called Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way. It’s a non-Ph.D. version of a relationship book. There’s no professional advice. It will just be real people talking about real problems and real solutions, in a humorous way.

MAX: Well, of course. How does your family deal with your busy life? All the appearances & acting jobs has to make a considerable impact on your family.

BRUCE: It does. The kids have to adjust; they know that I’m just not around that much. You know, I got divorced one time, and mainly because of it. And this second time around, I just balance it out more. If I work for 10 days I try and be home for you know, when the book tour is done, I will take 2 months off. Not everyone can do that. You know, their work schedule doesn’t allow it. I’m like a fireman; you know, a fireman is like 4 days on, 24 hours a day, then 4 days off. It’s sort of retirement on the installment plan.

MAX: Ever had any problems with obsessed fans?

BRUCE: Never had a problem because I make myself available. I think it’s the guys who never make themselves available, and create a big mystery of themselves, where the mystery becomes so intense that people have to find out. Nobody wants to go through my garbage, they don’t give a shit, because I go to 8 or 9 conventions a year. I think if Tom Cruise went to 10 conventions a year, people will go, Oh, hi Tom. It’s that situation where someone is really inaccessible, you know, so I try to break the mystique down. Otherwise, I’d be forced to kick their ass.

MAX: Exactly how sick of Evil Dead are you?

BRUCE: I’m not really that sick of it. I think other people are more sensitive to it than I am. It usually happens at one of these Q&A sessions, someone will stand up and go, Is there gonna be an Evil Dead 4 and the whole crowd actually wants to stone him, because they’ve all heard it a lot. I can trace all roots back to The Evil Dead movies, so I have nothing against them. It’s just that I’ve done more non-Evil Dead stuff; it’s not the only thing I’ve done. There are some actors who have done a cult movie and they are forever going to be the Policeman #2 in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

MAX: So you just want to basically get out the idea that you?re diversified.

BRUCE: It’s funny, because there are a lot of people who actually don’t know I’m in these horror movies. I’ve had people who are fans of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., they wouldn’t watch horror movies. So I’ve had people come up at conventions with little cowboy outfits on, and they say, Will you sign my horse picture and behind them is some spiked freak with an Evil Dead tattoo.

MAX: You have the busiest schedule I have ever seen. Tomorrow you’re leaving for Pennsylvania for another convention, how do you deal with so many appearances?

BRUCE: For Philly it’s a book signing, and then I’ll be in NYC the day after that, and then New Jersey the day after that, and then home for a few days, and then Toronto. It’s 25 cities, but it’s not as bad as last year. I did a book tour last year, and that was 55 cities in 5 months. It’s staggering, and it can be debilitating. But it’s sorta you’re half pumped-up by it, at the same time as you’re drained by it. There’s an adrenalin that keeps going, when you’re reading in front of people, and interacting with crowds, but then afterwards you just sort of crash.

MAX: I read you book; did anyone help you out with the writing? What with all your appearances?

BRUCE: No. It was not written with so-and-so. No, I just put in as much time as I could when I could. And I really wanted to write it, so whenever I wasn’t working on something I would write. I’m working on an outline now for a new book, and once we get that outline shaped.

MAX: In your book you stated that you and method acting were strange bed fellows, but do you have any particular technique that you use to get into character?

BRUCE: Just concentrate. Just prepitis the real basics. If actors just did 1-5 of their basic prep of go through the script and make sure that their characters can so that their character has its own sort of arc through the course of it-that their character learns something by the end. And obviously the fundamentals of learning your lines. You’d be shocked at how many actors showed up to work and they didn’t know their lines. You can’t start to have any confidence or build a character if you don’t know your lines, so you have to have your own prep time, I think, before you show up on set. You can’t show up on set and expect it all to come together. You have to have a plan, much like how the director can’t just show up and go, well, where should I put the camera? That is gonna determine how it is lit, you should have already been in the room looking at it earlier, pre-lit the room, you know there is a lot of prep that goes into it, so it is the same thing with acting. You can’t just show up.

MAX: Obviously acting is your bread-and-butter, so to speak, but do you have any fun with your job? Any recent memories you’d like to share?

BRUCE: Mm-hm. Well, I mean fun is running into people with weird jobs. I wrote about it in the new edition (of Chins), because I’m promoting the paperback, so I wrote 40 new pages about the book tour, and another chapter is Odd Job. It I like all these strange people. One guy is a foam injected tampon applicator; you know, someone is gotta do it. There were people who play Walt Disney characters. A guy who manufactured Monopoly pieces. Another guy couldn’t tell me what he did. It was classified, and he couldn’t even tell his wife. His wife walked by after he left, she said, I’ve been married to him for 30 years and he can’t tell me. And you get to travel, so every once in a while that is the upside of the business; that you travel and see places that you wouldn’t normally see. It sort of broadens your horizons. You get a better sense of the country, which is good because I traveled right after 9/11. I went to Miami on September 14th, which was the first flight out of San Francisco. We just kept going.

At this point I told Bruce a little story about how 9/11 affected my life as relates to travel; my fiance was stuck in Italy for another week-she was supposed to come home on the 12th. But I moved on:

MAX: Does traveling ever remind you of being a taxi driver, meeting different, odd people?

BRUCE: Sure it does. It is a very gypsy life. Very modular, you’re always on the move.

MAX: As an actor, do you have any role models?

BRUCE: Role models, I like William Holden. He was pretty cool. I liked all his movies, basically. He is just a cool cat, and he wasn’t trying. Too many actors are trying to be cool: they’re trying to do it with their hair, trying to do it with the color, trying to do it with clothes, or some bullshit attitude you’re either cool or you’re not, that is my theory. If you have to try, it is too late.

MAX: Is there anyone you haven’t had the chance to work with, but would like to?

BRUCE: I don’t really play that game. You try and make the best out of your current situation. You know, because you might meet a guy who turns out to be the best guy you’ve worked with. They don’t have to be some name brand person. I’ve met a lot of lower level actors and directors who were terrific; that are as good as any other A level director or actor, they just don’t get the recognition. So I’m happy working with anybody who wants to show up to play the game and has a clue.

MAX: Are there any projects besides Man With the Screaming Brain that you wanted to do, but for whatever reason never happened?

BRUCE: Yeah, I have a couple more. But those are hard to talk about because until they come together it is all just an actor spewing bullshit. You’ll know; it will be on my web site when it happens. There is a lot of stuff I’m trying to do: I’m trying to hook up with more independently financed low budget companies that can make these independent movies. I wanna just make independent movies.

MAX: What are your plans for the future? Any directorial aspirations?

BRUCE: We’ll see, yeah. I got a couple of things I wanna do, maybe next year.

MAX: Is this at all how you expected your life would be when you started your career?

BRUCE: You never know. We wanted to be able to make The Evil Dead movie and sell it, and get our investors their money back. My parents invested-I wanted them to get their money back. Fortunately, they’re all made 10-15 times their money back.

At last I reached the end of my questions except for one. This one I almost dreaded asking, because my mother forced me to write it down, but I went ahead anyway.

MAX: Ever have any interns?

BRUCE: Bruce laughed, and said that yes, sometimes he did, but he sort of doesn’t all that much anymore because he forgets how to do the stuff he hires his interns for. But, he also said it worked on a project-by-project basis. But there was one last unresolved issue, something that was burning a hole in the back of my brain,something I felt Iíd never forgive myself for if I didn’t ask it.

MAX: One last request can I have your autograph?

BRUCE: Sure.

He signed my movie still To Max-Stay Groovy!

Afterward I asked him how I did. He said I did fine, but SOME journalists tended to be on the edge of their seats, waiting to ask the next question, and should listen a little more. Well, at least he put it nicely.

I think that about wraps it up. Bruce Campbell is an ordinary guy but with an extraordinary job and sense of humor. He’s the type of guy who people naturally flock to:

He’s cool, and he isn’t trying. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to have had a conversation with the man, the myth, the legend, Bruce Campbell.

Special thanks to Kain and Deadites Online for their help in publishing this article.

—Maxwell Clark
September 18th, 2003

For more Bruce Campbell check out his official site Bruce Campbell Online.