Bruce Campbell brings fans a bloody Black Friday in the form of his latest film, a horror alien romp about the dangers of consumerism. The actor is of course, best known for his role as Ash Williams, the unwittingly cool and wacky hero in the Sam Raimi-created Evil Dead films. But his time on screen has in fact, been quite varied. From Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess to voice work in animated films and video games, to host of 2019’s Ripley’s Believe it Not, Campbell has established himself as a unique pop culture fixture. He’ll always be Ash to most, but as he discussed with LA Weekly in advance of his new seasonally-appropriate film (and an upcoming Christmas flick for the Hallmark channel), he tackles all his roles with a satiric relish that’s become signature at this point. That said, as he reveals here, there is more Evil Dead goodness to come too. Happy Holidays!
LA WEEKLY: You’re known for all of your iconic horror roles, but Black Friday is a little different. So what attracted you to this one?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: First and foremost, playing the hero. The character Jonathan is a loser, idiot manager. I grew an ‘idiot manager mustache’ especially for the part. You know, he’s not a former Navy SEAL. None of that. Which to me, that’s the fun of it. That’s who I want to see attacked by aliens- average citizens who don’t have a clue. I like seeing them try and survive. I’ve known Bob, who did the special effects for Evil Dead 2, 35 years now. So you know, it’s nice to run into some old familiar faces.
It’s definitely a timely film capturing the crazy frenzy of people waiting in lines and fighting each other in the stores, something we’ve all seen during holiday time. What do you have to say about that aspect? This is a horror film with aliens and special effects, but there’s also commentary on culture and humanity.
Yes. The other thing that struck me is that it had social commentary. I liken it to The Breakfast Club with carnage and mayhem. There’s a lot of angst about jobs, about overtime, employee working conditions. That was very amusing to me because it’s not just the standard guy with a machete kind of movie.
It’s also timely considering that a lot of us have felt you know –with COVID and the lockdowns– like we need to kind of re-evaluate our jobs. Did you guys start filming this before everything with the pandemic or was it during?
We were right in the heart of it. This was about a year ago. I give my movie brothers and sisters credit because they’re a resilient bunch and we adapt. And even though we were considered non essential, which is silly, we’re making up for lost time now. What did everyone do during the pandemic? We watched every movie ever made. Yeah, so we had to plow through regardless of any pandemic if we don’t want TVs to go dry or movie theaters to run empty. I’ve been on probably half a dozen film sets now since COVID and you know, everyone’s handled it very well.
Well, that’s good to hear. I’m sure that you guys had special protocols for masks, testing and vaccination.
Oh yeah and I think I’m one of the most tested humans on the planet.
Do you live in L.A. and if so what area?
I relocated to L.A. after 20 years in rural Oregon. I did the opposite of most people. Most are running away from big cities. I ran back to the big city. I’m the Valley guy. I’ve always been a Valley guy. I like places where I can park my car and things like that. I’ve always been on this side of the hill.
When did you move here?
Just last July, we came back. We got a little tired of the wildfire smoke. You know living in the country is great on paper. But the reality of it can be pretty harsh. And we had a couple months a year where I couldn’t see my mountains. People used to make fun of the air in Los Angeles. Not anymore now it’s all upside down– now the LA air is good and the Oregon air’s bad
Let’s talk about Evil Dead. You are iconic to so many people who just love it so much. I saw that it just had its 40th anniversary, too. And speaking of the Valley, there’s been these amazing art shows in Burbank, at The Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum, where you’ve made appearances, attracting crazy long lines.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this before but why do you think out of all the horror movies out there, that Evil Dead and your character Ash, have connected with fans so hard?
The character Ash is pretty much the everyman. He’s like you or me. He doesn’t know anything special, he has no skills. So I think the audience can relate to that. He has to earn his stripes like the average American from the beginning up to Ash vs. Evil Dead. We did one movie in the 70’s, then one in the 80’s and the 90’s. It was very fun to go back and finally, kind of have a whack at the character Ash after 25 years. People talk about it like it’s a franchise but it’s not a franchise. The thing fell off the truck. It started as one movie where the character Ash is dead at the end. Then we thought, well, maybe Ash isn’t dead. A lot of it was based on economic realities.
What I love about Ash is the humor and your ability to play him with comic layers that strangely complement the horror and the gore. I know other movies mesh the two as well but there’s something about your delivery that is really is so much fun to watch. It’s special.
Well Ash is a Michigan idiot, and that’s sort of what I am. He’s from Michigan, and that’s me. And so there’s an element of that and I think the audience kind of just goes, ‘geez, I could do better than that guy.’ And that’s okay. It’s a fun character to play with. Because if Ash had all the answers the series would be over.
Right? You brought him back most recently in Ash vs. Evil Dead, which a lot of us saw when it came to Netflix in recent years. Will there be more or is that show over for good?
We ran three seasons on Starz. But nobody knew how to find Starz. So that was a decent run for that place. I’ve retired the character because we just finished producing another Evil Dead called Evil Dead Rise, directed by an Irish director Lee Cronin. We just wrapped that in Auckland, New Zealand. That’s coming out through New Line Cinema in 2022.
Oh, that’s exciting. So a full length feature film for the theaters?
I’m not sure about the streaming versus theatrical thing yet. We’re gonna find out. Modern day distribution, you know, you got to decide where to go. Also the Evil Dead game is coming out. I did the voice for that. That’s coming out in February 2022. That’s the real deal. That’s going to be something any fan or kind of hardcore gamer will be very happy with.
Cool. I saw your website which is really helpful because it shows everything that you’re up to. Great resource for fans. Now that you live in L.A. do you get stopped constantly out here, or not? L.A. obviously has a lot of celebrities and actors who live here, but I bet you get fans wanting selfies and stuff.
My voice tends to betray me more than my face. I don’t look like Ash from 1979. You know, I’m not 21 anymore. So I look like ‘somebody’s neighbor’ these days. Somebody thinks that they saw me or lived down the street from me or something like that. It’s pretty casual these days.
I feel like everyone loves horror more than ever, especially in L.A. Even if you’re not being like chased, you’re admired by people who love it. It’s a dedicated sub-culture.
Thankfully because of shows like Walking Dead, it’s become much more mainstream. When we started out with Evil Dead, horror was about one one rung above porno. As far as how people perceived it. And now it’s just another genre, you know, and it’s a cool genre. You can do a lot of stuff stylistically– actors can have fun with playing creepy bad guys that are possessed or whatever. So it’s a perfectly viable genre. That’s how I look at it too– there’s good horror, there’s lousy horror, there’s funny horror. You know, there’s a lot of shades to it, which is kind of nice. I like when filmmakers explore different ways to be horrific.
Obviously, you’re known most for horror films, but you do other things too. You have another holiday film coming up for the Hallmark Channel right?
Yeah Baby, Hallmark all the way.
Not a drop of blood in sight. So what are we getting in that movie? I read you play a musician.
Peter Gallagher is my co-star and we are aging folk singers. We don’t get along anymore. We had a disagreement over a concert kind of deal from years ago. And we have to decide whether we’re going to play one last concert to sort of save the family home. I’m having some health issues. So you know, it’s sort of a last hurrah, we’re going to do this last hurrah.
I haven’t seen the finished thing, but fingers crossed. I would do another Hallmark movie in a second. You know, you finish the day’s work. And you’re not exhausted and you haven’t had stuff thrown in your face all day. Picking your own clothes and your T shirt. It’s just a different world. You have scene after another where you just kind of talk and then the next day you kind of talk. There no green screen or stunt sequences. I didn’t have to put the knee pads on. That’s a special treat.
Yeah, I bet. Is it a comedy?
There’s funny aspects to it, but it will be more of a drama.
Got it. Do you play instruments yourself? Are you into music at all?
According to the Screen Actors Guild, I cannot divulge whether I actually played or sang. It’s a craft secret. We’ll just have to leave it to your judgment if you think I know what I’m doing.
Okay, I’ll watch it and see. Since you’re playing a musician, Can you tell us any of your favorite music artists? I think some of your fans might be curious about that.
Anything that doesn’t hurt my ears. No heavy metal. Metal can’t be anywhere near me. I’m not that angry. I don’t need to exercise my demons through loud music. I like The Carpenters. I like Floyd Cramer. He does what I call lazy fingers piano play.
Interesting. With your busy life, maybe mellow music just works. Speaking of your busy schedule, I wanted to ask about Comic Con, I noticed that you’re going to have a presence at the L.A. one this year. Do you like doing them?
Well, it depends on which comic-con. I go to about ten of them a year. They’re all sort of stealing each other’s names. I just came from an Evil Dead Film Festival in Park City [and] the Bruce Fest at the Stanley Hotel where Stephen King got the inspiration for The Shining.
It’s the best way to interact with the fans. I do my own market research, I kind of see like, which photos am I signing? What memorabilia do they buy? And why? So it’s just kind of fascinating, like, what percentage does non- Evil Dead movies factor in and like how much has crept in?
What’s the answer? Would you say it’s mainly is Evil Dead stuff people want you to sign?
Oh, yeah, it’s about 70%. But then thankfully, there’s 30% you know, anywhere from Herc and Xena to Bubba Hotep. There’s other things that the fans can kind of latch on to. I enjoy them. Some actors go to conventions and they’re freaked out. They don’t like all the attention.
But do you like it?
Well, I like the Q&A sessions. They’re very raucous. They’re very entertaining.
What do you think about the convention culture and how it’s grown?
Well, I’ll put it this way. I couldn’t have met William Shatner when I was a viewer of the original Star Trek. There was no system set up to do that. And now you can basically meet Norman Reevus, or any actor in just about any TV show, from almost any era. So it’s way more fan friendly. I’m very glad for the fan now because if you really want to see somebody, if you really want to see Bruce Campbell, and if anybody’s like, where can I get your autograph? It’s not that hard. You just got to do some research.
Black Friday is in theaters now and On Demand, Tues., Nov. 23.