What is there to say about Bruce Campbell? For horror fans the world over Campbell transcends “actor” status and lands firmly in the category of “icon”. Today I was lucky enough to fulfill a lifelong dream and interview the man, the myth, the legend; the chin himself. Needless to say, it was awesome. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is a classic of the genre and when the remake was first announced the general reaction was skeptical, to put it kindly, so when the film premiered at SXSW earlier this month fans breathed a collective sigh of relief as positive reports poured out of Austin.
Shortly before the Evil Dead panel at WonderCon (here’s our recap), I sat down with Campbell for an exclusive interview. He talked about the success of the premiere at SXSW, the communal experience of watching horror films, why it was surprisingly easy for them to get an “R” rating, his hands-on approach to producing, carrying that over to the sequel, and the toll filming took on the actors. We also discussed the possibility of Army of Darkness 2, his presence on twitter, and his post Burn Notice plans. Check out the full interview after the jump.
Bruce Campbell: We were very relieved, because you don’t know until you put it in front of the real masses and Austin’s a great test, because they’re savages there and that’s what you want. You want them talking back to the audience, like there was a woman in the audience just going, “No, no, no, no, no, no.” She was trying to stop what was happening and she knew that she couldn’t stop it and she knew it was going to be bad when it happened. So there was a lot of dread.
I encourage people to see this movie with the biggest screen and the most people at midnight because it’s that audience dynamic that is part of the experience. That’s the beauty of a horror movie. Only comedies can get you that engaged in a movie, dramas people just sort of sit there and eat their popcorn and nothing really happens, they might cry a little bit, but that’s it. Horror movies are talking at the screen, guys are elbowing each other, laughing at each other because they got scared. I saw a bunch of football players punching each other after they got scared because it was like they had to release some nervous energy. I watched a couple watch the original Evil Dead movie in a coat and they’d watch through a sleeve of the coat and when it got too horrible they would close it off and then a little fist would come through and open it again. They would look away to other parts of the screen if it was too horrible and then look back, it was great. Only a horror movie does that. I think it’s a fun genre to do that and this movie is not what I would call torture porn, its more…we got past the ratings board without doing much.
Campbell: Very surprised, I thought they were coming for us with both barrels, because two out of these three movies were “Not Rated”, we did not go to the ratings board. They don’t like that. You went around them; bad, bad boys.
You bunch of cheats.
Campbell: Yeah, we cheated, we cheated the system. They were good because, I honestly believe this; they thought the gore in it was more exuberant. It’s over the top and you go, “What the hell am I watching?” Rather than torture porn which makes you want to go back to your hotel room and hang yourself. At the end of this movie, the screenings I’ve seen, when the lights come up everybody’s talking and they’re like, “Man, I’m still alive” they’re all glad they’re still alive and that’s the right reaction. So far, so good. Fingers crossed.
What was it about Fede that made you guys go, “This is the one, this is the guy to do this”?
Campbell: Sam started it. He met him because Fede put a short he did up on the internet called Panic Attack! and it went crazy, it went viral and Fede came to Hollywood and was meeting with everybody. He got an agent at CAA, I can’t get these bastards on the phone and he’s got a big agent, a manager, and projects stacking up at his feet and one of his meetings was with Sam. He was a big fan of Evil Dead, and you can tell when someone’s bullshitting about being an Evil Dead fan. If they don’t shut up about it then they’re an Evil Dead fan. Sam was going to make a feature version of Panick Attack! with him and when that project got stalled for whatever reason Fede was pitching ideas about a remake. We never thought about a remake, we always thought about maybe a sequel, but a remake was a new idea to us, and one that didn’t have the Ash character was very appealing to us because Sam didn’t want this, and I didn’t want it either, to prohibit us from making more of our own with the Ash character. So the fact that there’s no Ash in this one, we thought it was great. Fede can make his own series. We’ll keep ours, he’ll do his.
Well, they did recently announce that they’re planning to make a sequel. It’s well known that you guys were really involved in this film from start to finish; do you plan on carrying that level of involvement through to the next one?
Campbell: You have to because otherwise they get away from you. You have to keep it in the certain world that we think fans want, so there were times when we would encourage Fede to do something a little more with a fight scene or something to enhance it. So that’s our job.
So you guys were giving really specific notes?
Campbell: Sure, and then casting. I was in on casting, sitting in the room while they were auditioning, and that’s how you get a sense of that actor. Are they a little cry-baby? What are they like? Have they ever been covered in special effects makeup? These are the factors that matter in a horror movie, it really matters. Because if you have someone who can’t handle it, if someone’s claustrophobic, I mean fucking Jane Levy was buried alive. If you have issues with that then this is not the movie for you, so bail now.
Did the cast ever come to you like, “I can’t take this”?
Campbell: Yeah, each one of them had what we call the latex point where they snap and each one of them kind of had their own way of doing that. Rob Tapert, who was the day to day producer down there, told each one of them “This is going to happen and when it does, no problem, just go back to your trailer and have a good cry and we’ll get right back at it.”
So at least you set up a safety net for them.
Campbell: There was a safe house; it was like a halfway house for crazy actors.
You mentioned that you might want to make another Evil Dead or Army of Darkness, whatever you want to call it, and those rumors have been around for years.
Campbell: Of course, of course.
But we’ve been hearing a lot about it lately.
Campbell: It’s going to get amped up because of all this bullshit, but this may cause it.
I was just going to ask, is all of this making it more likely?
Campbell: Yes, this is making it much more likely because it now becomes part of our conversation, and if this gets enthusiasm up then you go, “Hmm we can continue the new series and then maybe crank up the old one one more time.” It’s all speculation, it’s all bullshit, there are no answers to any questions yet, but it’s now part of the conversation whereas it hadn’t really been before.
I’ll take it. You guys have, rightfully so, been very protective of the material. What level was that on? Did you straight up say no to things?
Campbell: Well sure, you have to as a producer, and you have to also enforce other things. You have to have this in the movie, so you’re always going to have that, but it’s a lot of give and take. Fans have this whole thing of “No, say it ain’t so!” There was a lot of pushback on this thing, but the thing that most fans don’t realize is that this is the movie that got us into the film business; you think that we’re going to fuck around? You think we want this to fail? You think we want this to suck? We care way more than you, the most ardent fan with an Evil Dead tattoo on their back; we care more than that person, so I want them to know that. We don’t want this to screw up. What are you, crazy? This was my first movie; I don’t want it to suck. None of us do. So we did what we could, mostly just get the right cast, get a good script and the right director.
When everybody came out of Austin and saying it’s really good, were you kind of like, “Haha! Told you!”?
Campbell: I accept their apology in advance. You don’t want to say “Gotcha” too loudly because there’s some other way that you’ll fail and they will laugh at you again. You have to be careful with fans, they’ll turn on you. They turn quick. Twitter can go dark fast. If you talk about something serious on Twitter, you better be ready. If you try to pull out real facts or talk about political opinions or something religious, forget it. Like if people asked me who I was voting for, you couldn’t touch that one.
You have really embraced twitter; do you have as much fun with it as you seem to?
Campbell: It’s fun. It is fun, yeah. I don’t know who would use it who’s not an actor though. For me, I go “Hey, 3:00, I’ll be here.” You tell everyone your schedule and you can keep things in people’s minds. What I like about it is fans will send me a clip that I wouldn’t have known about, “Hey, here’s you at WonderCon,” so then you can share that link and people who couldn’t make it can at least watch it and have that experience. Its good, but I’ve got a cyber-stalker out there who swoops in and says the nastiest things, swoops in and puts like six of the nastiest shit you’ve ever read in your life. So I delete all that shit. I posted one as an example of why celebs leave twitter, because of shit like that, it’s not worth it.
Campbell: Yeah these sort of veiled threats and shit like that.
Before I let you go I have to ask, you are just about done with Burn Notice, which is a great show, do you have something lined up after that or are you looking forward to being a free agent?
Campbell: I’m God’s lonely man after this, it’s kind of bizarre, I’ve always had something on the horizon. I’m going to get back to books and movies again. Last year, because I knew Burn Notice was coming to an end, I started developing scripts. So now I’ve got three scripts of all different kinds. You can’t get a movie made without a script; it’s the blueprint to your building. So now I’ve got some blueprints.