See more photos in Shannon Cottrell's slideshow “Weekend of Horrors with Bruce Campbell.”
There was a lot going on Saturday afternoon inside the Burbank Airport Marriott for this year's Weekend of Horrors convention. Artists sketched guests as creepy caricatures. The stars of Dario Argento's films signed autographs. There was a costume contest as well as a gallery featuring horror-themed art from thirteen artists, including Dienzo, Todd Robey and Clint Carney. It was a great convention. But, at 5 p.m., it almost seemed as though the con had stopped, that most of the guests inside the Marriott had filed into one large auditorium for what would be the highlight of the day– Bruce Campbell.
Right now, Campbell is best known for playing Sam Axe on the cable TV hit Burn Notice. But, in this room, where the audience is clearly filled with long-time fans, he's known for movies like My Name is Bruce and Bubba Ho-Tep and television roles like Autolycus on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess as well the lead character in the short-lived series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. More importantly, though, Campbell is beloved for his role as Ash in the Evil Dead series.
If you're a fan of horror movies, you've probably seen, and may well have loved, The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Based on those movies, it's no wonder that Campbell drew a massive crowd at a genre convention such as this. But, there's more to it than that.
We cover a lot of conventions and, in the process of doing that, have attended plenty of panels and Q & A sessions. Sometimes, they can be a bit dry. You're left with the feeling that people are sitting on them because it's work, they're answering questions because that's what they have been told to do. This is not the case with Bruce Campbell, though. Frankly, he's one of the best convention guests we've seen yet. Below, we broke down the reasons why.
When Campbell walked out onto the stage dressed in a tuxedo with a white dinner jacket, one woman in the audience shouted out, “You smell good,” thus sparking a short dialogue about his Old Spice commercials.
Later on, we heard a voice in the crowd ask something about the scar on Campbell's chin. The actor invited the girl to the stage to touch his chin, mentioning that it was the same person who said that he smelled nice. Still later, a question about the short-lived television show Jack of All Trades prompted the same girl to mention that was her introduction to Bruce Campbell. And so, another round of banter began.
Bruce Campbell not only remembers who his fans are during panels, but makes them part of the event. That's the kind of connection between artists and fans we love to see.
During the Bruce Campbell Q &A session, the actor worked the room like it was a night at the theater, but that doesn't mean he sacrificed candid responses. When asked about a Burn Notice parody on Saturday Night Live, he mentioned that it was “a little awkward,” given that both shows fall under the same parent company.
“Cross-promotion,” he added wryly, “otherwise known as synergy.”
He gave his thoughts on movies like Saw (“torture porno needs to go away as quickly as possible”) and talked about the current pop culture obsession with zombies (“I wouldn't want to play a zombie, period.”). Campbell isn't the sort of celebrity who will simply stand on stage and tell you to go watch his movie or TV show. He has opinions and he will give them to the audience.
5. The tattoo contest
What's the true symbol of the success of a movie? Box office numbers? Or, is it the amount of people who have dedicated parts of their body to tattoos of said movie? At Saturday's event, there were six people in the auditorium with Evil Dead related tattoos. Campbell invited them on stage for a contest. A girl from San Luis Obispo had Ash tattooed on her thigh.
“The thigh's the limit!” Campbell proclaimed.
One young man had Ash tattooed to his arm. When asked why, he mentioned as one reason, “to keep my girlfriend company at night.”
But the winner of the $3 prize was a guy named Chris, who hailed from Chicago and had his torso inked in honor of the film series.
4. No role is too small to mention.
When Campbell's friend and former Evil Dead co-hort Sam Raimi directed the Spider-Man movies, he cast Campbell in a few different roles.
“My roles in the Spider-Man movies were pivotal,” Campbell said.
Remember in Spider-Man 2 when he wouldn't let Peter Parker into the theater?
“I'm technically the only character that has defeated Spider-Man,” he said.
3. And there's news too.
Fans were curious about the Burn Notice prequel that had been announced at Comic-Con earlier this year. Campbell noted that they're about to begin filming in Bogota and that it would be would be “critical” to the Burn Notice story. He added that the two-hour special would arrive before the next season of the series begins and would focus on events leading up to Sam Axe's arrival in Miami.
Later on, a fan asked if Campbell would write another book. The author of If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor and Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way said that he's most interested in turning his first two written works into e-books complete with video clips and photo galleries. However, he also briefly mentioned an interest in writing a travel book.
2. If you hate his movies, it's okay. Well, maybe.
Bruce Campbell has been in a lot of movies and not all of them are as beloved as The Evil Dead. Saturday evening, Campbell said that he would turn his back to the audience and we were free to shout out the name of the movie for which we want our money back. There were a lot of responses.
Regarding Serving Sara, he responded, “You're right, that one sucked.”
He then asked someone to pretend to be a studio executive and went through a pitch, rattling off the name of acclaimed producers, writers and editors. It sounded interesting, but the finished product, he revealed, was Congo. As he said about the movie earlier during the panel, “some things look good on paper.”
He won't agree with all of your picks, though, and if he doesn't, he responds.
1. There's a moral to the story.
Maybe there isn't a moral to every story, but there is one for a Bruce Campbell convention session.
“If you don't support alternative cinema and alternative entertainment, it will go away,” he said at the end of our time with the star.
Just about every convention we attend– from Weekend of Horrors to Anime Expo– exists in part to introduce fans to new and/or obscure movies, TV series, comic books, etc. related to a particular genre. We know that. It's likely that many, if not most, of the people who go to conventions know that, but it's nice to hear someone as well-regarded as Campbell reinforce that sentiment.
He concluded, “There's a lot of room for movies that don't have Taco Bell tie-ins.”