Bruce Campbell on Cult Stardom and Being His Own Director
Fandom is a tricky thing for Bruce Campbell. He’s been referred to as a “man-god” by Ain’t-It-Cool-News’ Harry Knowles, able to fill the halls at Comic-Con based on his iconic role as the slapstick, deadpan hero Ash in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. Yet, as much as Campbell’s fans adore the man they dub “the Chin,” they’re also extremely vocal about the number of movies he’s appeared in that they despise. “They both love and hate in equal measure,” says Campbell, by phone from New Orleans during a 22-city tour to promote his second feature film as director, the self-satirizing My Name is Bruce. “They’re not rushing to rent The Man with the Screaming Brain [Campbell’s first feature as director]. That was a flat-out kinda bomb.”
My Name Is Bruce, however, ought to play better with the base, considering it was made just for (and about) them: Campbell plays himself as an over-the-hill, burned-out, alcoholic B-movie actor who is recruited by a rabid Evil Dead fan to save the day, when an evil Chinese demon is accidentally unleashed upon a small town. “This is how I stay away from The Surreal Life,” the director-star deadpans, “I just make movies about it. My Name is Bruce is my worst nightmare come true. It’s not a horror movie, but that to me is the true horror — if my career was like that, in the movie. I mean, it’s close, but it’s not that bad.” Indeed not: Three shows booked for the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin sold out immediately.
Campbell secured funding for the $2 million movie via his friends at Dark Horse comics, and built the entire set on his property in Oregon. The convenient location was key, after The Man with the Screaming Brain, which was made for the Sci Fi Channel, shot in Bulgaria. “Boy, what a lousy place to make a movie!” he recalls. “They’ve got packs of wild dogs still. The first half-hour you’re there, your jaw is just open, and you’re like ‘We’re gonna make a movie here?’ And it’s just the most ridiculous thing. I made a lot of tradeoffs to get a Steadicam — I told the guys I would make the whole movie during the day. I wound up horse-trading, literally, and it was a bad decision to shoot that movie during the day, but these guys, they couldn’t do it at night — they don’t have that many lights!”
No more Sci Fi originals lie in Campbell’s future: “It’s like where bad movies go to die.”
Of course, fans everywhere do want to know if a fourth Evil Dead is in the offing. Campbell says it’s definitely possible, but not for a while. “Here’s the truth ... it really is a massive time commitment, a solid year of prepping and making these movies, and we have different lives now,” he says. “I’m on a TV show (Burn Notice), Sam signed up for part 4 of Spidey, and those things take two years each. So I think we’re all willing to do it, and we all have warm, fuzzy feelings for the Evil Dead movies, so nothing is really keeping us from it, other than our own lives.” Still, Campbell says he would do another Evil Dead “only if all the elements were there, if we actually played on the fact that Ash is older now. ...” He pauses. “I dunno, then you get stuck with the Indiana Jones crap. ‘Yeah, let’s bring in a younger guy to be his sidekick.’ As long as we didn’t play any of those dumb games, it’d be fine. I wouldn’t do anything that didn’t have Sam involved anyway, and if he was involved, at least we’d have fun.”
Just don’t expect to see Ash fighting fellow horror icons Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, as was strongly rumored at one time. “There’s two reasons why that’s a stinker idea,” Campbell says. “One is creatively. We talked for five minutes about whether this actually could work, and the restrictions were so ridiculous that we would only have control over the Ash character, so we could make sure that he was cool, but we didn’t have any control over the story. And look, Ash isn’t gonna be able to kill either one of those guys, so why would I jump in and get involved if I couldn’t kill ’em, if I couldn’t walk away with chain saw high in the air?”
While we’re on the subject of rumors, what about the one that Campbell’s cameos as multiple characters in the Spider-Man series are leading up to his big reveal as face-morphing villain Mysterio? “It’s just wishful thinking,” he says. “I told Sam the other day, I wanna be, like, a milkman, or a guy at a gas station, but I wouldn’t wanna be one of those Mysterios. Wear all those stupid costumes and makeup effects? No thanks.”
One of the issues My Name Is Bruce raises is that, as new generations of fans discover his movies, Campbell is starting to find some of their moms pretty attractive. It weirds him out a bit in the movie, but less so in real life. “It’s great,” he says, “because it gives you something to look at at conventions, y’know?” Unfortunately, it’s usually just the dads who show up. “I do have to say, it’s unnerving — I’m 50 now — to see a 50-year-old guy come up to the table, ’cause I go, ‘Oh ... you’re me!’ For one of my Sci Fi Channel movies, the channel sent me the breakdowns of all the demographics, and the key demographic they were going for in the slot they put it in was 50 years old, because they figure, that’s the perfect man, who’s sitting home on a Saturday night. If he was younger, he’d be out, but now he goes, ‘Forget it, I’m not going anywhere, you guys have fun.’ I’m appearing in a movie for guys like me. Demographics can play head games.”
My Name Is Bruce opens on December 19 at the Nuart. For a review, see Opening This Week.
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