Welcome back to “The World According To,” a series in which InsideHook solicits answers from people who are in a position to give them. Today’s subject: Bruce Campbell.
Best known for portraying chainsaw-wielding Ash Williams in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise, 64-year-old Bruce Campbell is very much alive and is prepping to hit the road in April as part of the 22-city Bruce-O-Rama theatre tour. The tour will feature Campbell hosting an on-site game show called “Last Fan Standing” and fielding questions before a screening of one of his films.
Though the screened film will likely be from the Evil Dead series, which is set to return with the forthcoming Evil Dead Rise (sans Campbell playing Ash), show producers have plenty of options to choose from as Campbell has more than 150 acting credits to his name including Bubba Ho-Tep, Man With the Screaming Brain and Highly Functional. Though not a film, among those credits is The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., a western-meets-sci-fi television series that ran for a single season on Fox on Friday night as the lead-in to the X Files in the early ’90s.
“I had done some movies, but that got me going in the world of television. It was a very long season and it did okay for a while in the ratings, but then it sort of got lost,” Campbell tells InsideHook. “We shot on the Warner Brothers’ back lot and went to all the creaky, old ranches outside of Los Angeles that they used to go to. We were the last show to shoot on what’s called Laramie Street on the Warner lot. They tore it up and made it into Wisteria Lane for Desperate Housewives. We were the last show there before they killed it. I think two-thirds of where we shot is neighborhoods now. It was very cool. Brisco is definitely a top-five character for me.”
Ahead of the Bruce-O-Rama tour next month, we caught up with Campbell to discuss Evil Dead, movies and chainsaws.
InsideHook: What is it like to have an Evil Dead movie coming out soon without you in it?
Bruce Campbell: I’m a producer, so I’m all over the movie like a cheap suit. I know every frame of that movie, I’m just not in it. You might actually hear me, but I’m not in the movie. It’s in an urban environment with an old Los Angeles highrise. We think that’s kind of a creepy, cool place to set it. This is a family going south on itself. It’s like a little kid’s worst nightmare. The mother whom they look up to for everything winds up trying to kill them.
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IH: What’s it like being on the other side of the camera?
BC: Awesome. These movies are hard to shoot, hard to act in and hard to produce. I can give these folks some guidance on what to expect. We try and make it as easy on them as we can. The new makeup techniques are way better than what we had in 1979. Things are way more sophisticated now. We try and tell these actors, “You’ve never had it so good.” We had a crew of like 17 people on the first Evil Dead. They’ve got a big crew now, but it still doesn’t make the movies any easier to make.
IH: How have you seen the moviemaking business change over the course of your career?
BC: There’s not much of a middle class anymore. You’ve got your big, bloated blockbusters then you got like Hallmark movies. I do those now and I doubt they are over $2 million. Then in between, I don’t know. They put movies together for these streaming packages together and cant’s figure out what to do with them. Television is an outlet, but if your movie costs $20 million and doesn’t get into the theaters, I don’t know what people can do. It’s gotten kind of weird. My theory is that’s why television has gone insane. I don’t think you can beat television now. I watch TV shows like The Crown and I go, “This is as good as a fucking big feature film.” All the good actors are flocking to television now. In my day, an actor had to be on their way down to do television. You wanted to do movies and some actors would never do television. Now you can’t get rid of these guys. It’s good. Television used to really blow for so many years. It’s gotten to the point where I cannot keep up with how many shows are out there.
IH: Do you have a favorite horror film?
BC: I think the original Exorcist is really good for a couple of reasons. William Friedkin is like very serious, intense director. Linda Blair was a revelation. You won’t find actresses like that very often and she was kind of perfect at that time. Dick Smith, who did the makeup, was the master of his day. It’s not cast with “Scream Queens.” It’s Ellen Burstyn, who is probably one of the most serious actresses on the planet. She’s a mother who’s going, “What the fuck is wrong with my kid?” They’re trying to find a medical solution. Is it a brain thing? They’re doing these scans and shit and it’s all very clinical and it just is not working. They don’t know what it is. Scaring the doctors is really cool to me. The best part of all is the priest who’s assigned to it is a guy who’s doubting his faith.
IH: How about a favorite comedy?
BC: I like a lot of the old-fashioned crap. Vintage Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. I like some early Jerry Lewis stuff. I’m a Three Stooges guy. We were such big fans that we called Larry at the old actors’ home in the ’70s when he was still alive. I like slapstick and guys even older than that from the silent era. They were the groundbreakers. There were no rules when those guys did shit. There are lots of rules today, but not back then.
IH: Besides the Bruce-O-Rama tour, what else are you working on?
BC: I’m a self-publisher and I just keep farting out new projects. My grandfather has a really interesting World War I diary I’m going to put out. My mom actually wrote two westerns before she died. One of them is a great old-timey Clint Eastwood-type western. I’ll publish that, but I’m also going to record it. We’ll do the voices and the gunshots and make it like a radio play. My hobby now is publishing stuff I just want to put out. I don’t give a rat’s ass if it’s successful or a failure. I don’t care. I just want to put out what I think is cool. I put the time in, I get the money out. It’s just that simple. That’s critical for anybody who is self-employed. You want to be employed enough, but also be able to have time to dick around. I have a bunch of electric bikes to ride. When I’m not doing this, I’m gone.
IH: Do you listen to music when you ride?
BC: I don’t have to. A buddy of mine came to visit me and he couldn’t do anything without music going. It was weird. I asked him if he was afraid of silence?” Part of why I live up here in rural Oregon is that it’s pretty quiet. I like it. I tried to live in Los Angeles recently. Holy shit. I’ve never heard a louder city in my life. The house we were at was right under the Burbank flight path. I’m like, “This is silly. What the hell am I doing here?” So I went back to the bucolic little town in Oregon. All is good.
IH: How often do you use chainsaws when you’re not being filmed?
BC: I get the clutch wrong. I get the oil mixed. It’s all a big pain in the ass. They’re handy for a lot of things, but they’re noisy and dangerous. What’s there to like about a chainsaw?
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