I do certainly hope that if you’re reading CHUD.com that you have at least a passing familiarity with the career of Bruce Campbell. He’s long been a fan-favorite (and might be the most fantasy cast human being in history), and in recent years he’s shown that while he’s not ashamed of being the Evil Dead guy, that’s not all he is.
Today sees two important Campbell releases at your local store – there’s the audio book of Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, which isn’t just a dry re-reading of his novel, but is actually a fully acted out radio drama. It’s six hours of good listening, and really worth picking up. I’m not quite certain that the latest edition of Evil Dead II, this time in a Book of the Dead cover, is as worth getting if you already have two or three copies of this film, like I do.
Next week sees two more Bruce DVDs – there’s Alien Apocalypse, where Bruce battles alien termites who have taken over the Earth for our lumber (…) and his feature directorial debut, The Man With The Screaming Brain.
Last night I had a chance to talk to Bruce on the phone, and this is what happened…
Q: The next two weeks are big Bruce Campbell weeks in your local stores.
Campbell: I’m everywhere. You can’t get rid of me. This summer and this fall I’m everywhere. Things just line up some times, and this summer and this fall have been when everything has finished up.
Q: Today in stores we have the Make Love audio CD – which I thought was great. I didn’t realize it was going to be a radio play. What made you decide to do it that way?
Campbell: People that follow what I do don’t like the normal stuff. They don’t like the “he said, she said” sort of audio books. They’re more demanding. And I’m a big fan of radio stuff, so I was happy to do it.
Q: How hard was it to format from a book to a radio play.
Campbell: You take logical steps. I sent a Word file to a friend of mine and had him convert it to a screenplay format, where stuff that you’re thinking in the book becomes a certain way and dialogue becomes a certain way. The formats are completely different, and this way we can put it into a format we can break down. It turned out to be like 400 pages. I thought it was a mistake or something was wrong, but it turned out to be a six hour recording, which I guess is not that unusual for an unabridged story.
Q: This is just a blast to listen to. How many actors are in it?
Campbell: We had about eight of them to play all the different roles. Half of them are from my local Shakespeare Festival, in the town near me in Oregon. These are the most working actors you’ll ever run in to. It’s amazing. It’s hard to schedule them.
Q: Also today is the Evil Dead II Book of the Dead edition. Do you have a whole shelf just for Evil Dead DVDs? There’s like 30 of these.
Campbell: Yeah, no kidding. For Army of Darkness I have its own shelf. Here’s what happens – every so often they’ll come across new things to talk about. I think this new version has the “Ladies of the Evil Dead” documentary, stuff like that. Consumers will just have to decide for themselves if there’s enough stuff on it. But people love collecting stuff, there’s no doubt about it.
Q: And they love collecting stuff involving Evil Dead. That’s an empire unto itself – toys, video games, t-shirts, posters, comic books… You guys can’t ever have imagined it would be like this.
Campbell: How could you? When we made the first film I was satisfied, I said we had achieved victory when it played at our local Cineplex, the place I went to watch movies as a teenager. All our goal was was to get it in real theaters like everybody else, and sell it around the world. Beyond that you can’t expect what happened. But it’s still a cult film, let’s not kid ourselves. It might be in a K-mart, but you say Evil Dead to half the world and they haven’t heard about it.
Q: But it’s amazing that the other half HAS heard about it. I remember when it was so hard to find on VHS.
Campbell: Technology has helped put it in the right hands.
Q: Technology has helped you. You have this great website, which lets you stay in touch with your fans. How technologically savvy are you?
Campbell: I’m pretty low on the totem pole. I like the idea of the internet, I like the idea of websites, but I couldn’t run a website. I know what I want to put on it, I know what I want to tell people, what we want to link up. I think I can understand the purpose of a website.
Q: What is the purpose for you?
Campbell: It’s a clearinghouse of information. If you want the real information about something or someone you’re following, you go to the website.
Q: I love the fact that on your website you have a specific page for Evil Dead IV, and it’s about two sentences long. Are you sick of hearing the question?
Campbell: How could you not be? It’s like you being asked every day, ‘Did you get your new haircut yet?’
You say, ‘What new haircut?
‘I heard you were getting a haircut.’
‘There’s no haircut.’
‘I read you were getting a haircut or that you got a haircut already. I heard you got a haircut.’ And it goes on and on and on. Imagine hearing about your haircut every day.
Q: Especially if there’s no haircut.
Campbell: Especially if there’s no haircut. If there’s a haircut, you talk about it. But if there’s no haircut, you just make stuff up to make interesting answers. I’ve started rumors that we finished it years ago and shelved it because it didn’t come out right.
Q: That’s going to get out now. I’m going to write that down –
Campbell: Let’s start some vicious rumors! I used to do a routine this summer, because the question would come up, ‘I hear you’re going to remake Evil Dead.’ And I would say, ‘Yeah, it’s going to star Ashton Kutcher.’ And then people react and I say, ‘Don’t you want to see him raped by a tree?’
Now what’s happening, in an interview earlier today, a guy said, ‘I hear Ashton Kutcher is going to be in the Evil Dead remake.’ The more you do that and people put it out in blogs and you see it in articles, people misinterpret stuff. It’s just something that happened casually over the summer. That’s the downside of the internet, there’s no checks and balances. Nobody checks the facts.
Q: Anybody can write what they want.
Campbell: I say, if it isn’t on my website, it isn’t. If there was something, I would talk about it.
Q: I was surprised that Make Love was a novel. I thought it was going to be more non-fiction. When did you decide to go into the novel business?
Campbell: You have to have something new. You can’t write the same damn thing over again. It was a way to branch out, to do something new, something familiar. It’s still me in the book. It’s still about Hollywood. It wasn’t about me doing a tender love story about a young boy growing up with his grandfather in Oklahoma.
Q: Was writing something you wanted to do? I imagine writing a memoir is easier –
Campbell: It is easier, because you can look up a date and figure out what happened. And you know how the story ends.
Q: This might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I was surprised at how well written this was. Considering this is a first novel from an actor, I wasn’t expecting it to be so funny. Was that a challenge, or is writing something that comes easy to you?
Campbell: It is a challenge. Any creative endeavour is a challenge because the creative stuff isn’t that easy. You’re really making your brain fire with as many pistons as you’ve got. Sometimes your brain doesn’t like that. I have to stop writing by one o’clock in the afternoon because my brain is done. I write from about 5 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon. After that I want to mow the lawn or pound nails with hammers.
Q: It’s interesting because your career has changed to exist more in the creative end. You used to be just an actor but now you’re writing books, writing comics, directing movies. What made you want to tackle this end?
Campbell: You get tired of running on somebody else’s wheel. You want to run on your own wheel. If I’m going to be in low budget movies, I might as well direct them myself, since in many cases I have as much experience as anyone else doing it.
Q: Probably a lot more actually.
Campbell: For set experience, yeah, but that doesn’t make me a good director.
Q: How was the directing?
Campbell: I love it because your day goes really fast. When the day goes fast, in my opinion, that’s how you know you’ve fully engaged yourself. If you get home from work and you go, ‘God, that just just blew [by]!’ then you know you’re working yourself right up to your fullest potential. To me that’s what directing is – it just splits your head open all day long. People are asking you questions constantly, and you really need to have the answer.
Q: And that’s probably something you’ve picked up from the directors you’ve worked with. I know that a lot of actors directing their first feature aren’t aware of how much preparation you have to do.
Campbell: I agree but I had directed television before, and having been a producer on stuff, I knew the basics of why a set breaks down. To me it’s mostly communication. I knew that we’d be best suited if I could communicate everything I wanted to every department all the time. You never want to hear an actor going, ‘What are we doing in this scene?’
Q: The DVD of The Man With the Screaming Brain is the theatrical cut. Most people probably saw it on Sci Fi Channel. What’s the difference?
Campbell: The difference is that on the DVD version it’s structured like a feature, not an 8 act movie, it’s structured now like a 3 act feature. Because you have to break all the time for commercials, you have to mess with scenes in order to make it work for television. You have to change the length and stuff like that. With a feature you can let stuff play. Also you get to talk like a real human. You get to swear. Television doesn’t let you act like a real person?
Q: This began as a theatrical movie or as a Sci Fi Channel movie?
Campbell: In my head it was always the theatrical version because when I shot it, I shot it with full swearing and everything. In fact the Sci Fi Channel bitched and moaned about that and I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll get the Sci Fi version. But I got other clients I got to sell this movie to and it ain’t you.’
Q: You work with the Sci Fi Channel a bunch. Is it a good experience?
Campbell: It’s a good experience to work in a genre I’m familiar with and to work with someone who’s financing those movies. I always have my opinions about whether their opinions are correct or valid. They make movies for a certain demographic, and if you don’t make movies for that demographic, you’re going to be at odds with them. So as long as you’re into making certain movies for certain demographics, you’re going to be fine. But if you want to bend it and twist and push the envelope, you’re going to have a little problem.
Q: Your first book was The Confessions of a B Actor, but with Bubba Ho-Tep I think you showed that wasn’t the correct term for you – you were just a great actor in that film. Are there more solid acting opportunities for you in the future?
Campbell: It’s all the same – it’s all serious enough. Even if I do a comedy I take it seriously, but no one takes it serious. If you do a comedy, they think that you’re not working as hard. That’s so silly. I love the fact that if your movie is called The Man With A Screaming Brain it won’t be taken seriously. Most of what I do is not taken seriously. In some cases that’s OK, but some cases you go, ‘Bullshit,’ because even making a silly movie for the Sci Fi Channel takes an incredible amount of work and concentration and effort and attention span and all that. It kind of bugs me that some movies are taken seriously because they have no jokes in them.
Q: But to be fair there is a difference in perception between a movie where you’re fighting termite aliens and a film like Bubba Ho-Tep, where you have this very well written character to play.
Q: And you were so great in that film. So are there maybe more deep character roles that you’re looking for?
Campbell: For me I just got to stick around long enough and stuff will pop up. I don’t really look for it. I have been developing my own stuff now, because it’s easier to do and I can tailor stuff to how I want it.
Q: One last Bubba Ho-Tep question. I have heard rumors of a sequel – is this true?
Campbell: I think MGM is interested but they were just purchased by Sony, so these are things that – there is going to be a year of chaos. They won’t make any real decisions for a long time. They have bigger issues to sort out.
Q: A couple of weeks ago I was in Toronto and I interviewed Danny Elfman for The Corpse Bride. He said a couple of things about Sam Raimi that I wanted to run past you, to get your comments on. He said that working with Sam on Spider-Man 2 was “intolerable” and “he went to sleep and somebody put a pod next to him and when he awoke, he wasn’t the same person I’ve known for a decade.”
Campbell: Oh really? What was his beef?
Q: Just that Sam was impossible to work with.
Campbell: That’s out of my league to comment on, because I never knew there were any issues. Sam to me has always been Sam Raimi. The only comment I can make is that maybe when stakes get raised, so does everything else. Those guys were tight for years, so I’m surprised to hear that.
Q: But your relationship with Sam is the same?
Campbell: Nothing has really changed. But granted, I’m not the composer of his movies, either. So that’s a different relationship, I’m sure.
Q: But you are the ring announcer and door bouncer of his movies. Is there a cameo for you in Spider-Man 3?
Campbell: Of course! It’ll be another critical role.
Q: Will you defeat Spider-Man again?
Campbell: It’s entirely possible.
Q: What is next for you now that The Man With the Screaming Brain is hitting DVD and the Make Love audio book is out? I know you like to keep busy.
Campbell: I’m going to make a movie for Dark Horse this fall. I’ll play myself in the movie. It’s a small town that’s having problems with a monster, and nothing’s working and someone recommends, let’s just get the Evil Dead guy. Of course in reality, in the real world I have no gun and don’t know how to use a chainsaw, so more people die after I show up to help than before I got there.
Q: Are you going to direct this?
Campbell: Yeah, I’m going to direct it. Mark Verheiden is going to write it. He wrote Time Cop and The Mask. He’s writing it and Dark Horse will get involved – and they’re shooting in my home town.
Q: Is there a title?
Campbell: It’s just The Untitled Bruce Campbell movie right now.
Q: I’m assuming there will be a comic book component.
Campbell: If it’s Dark Horse, you can probably count on it.
Q: Thanks for taking time to talk tonight. Good luck with all the stuff you have going on the next two weeks. And I have to tell you – the audiobook is really fun. I was listening to it on my iPod on the subway and laughing out loud. I was getting dirty looks.
Campbell: Good, whatever works to get you beaten up on the subway.