by Bob Sassone
The first time I saw Bruce Campbell, his disembodied hand was trying to strangle him, and he was covered in blood.
Of course, I should mention that this was in a movie. Evil Dead 2, to be exact, the more-a-remake-than-a-sequel sequel to the surprise low budget hit. It’s an incredible performance, full of humor
and remarkable physical action that makes Campbell seem more like a live-action cartoon than real-life human. But even then, way back in the late 70s, the energy and talent shined through.
Bruce has always been the guy whose face you know but whose name you just can’t quite place. But this is a strong point: he loves doing roles because the roles are good, not just because it’s a quick buck. That’s why you’ve seen him as reluctant supermarket clerk Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy; the unlucky explorer who gets killed at the start of Congo; a cynical reporter in The Hudsucker Proxy; the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills in Escape From L.A.; a hot-tempered cop on Homicide; a guest shot on Knot’s Landing; a gun-happy crook in Blaze of Glory; the star of a soap opera the two kidnappers are watching in Fargo (an actual soap Bruce worked on in the 80s, Generations); Ellen’s boss at the bookstore; Autolycus on both Hercules and Xena; and even some CD-ROM games, Cold-Blooded and Broken Helix. You also might have caught him, briefly, as one of the many faces of Darkman, at the very end of that film.
He can currently be seen, well, just about everywhere. On your local Best Buy shelves, on the DVD of Spiderman (he’s the wrestling announcer who gives Spidey his name); at the bookstore, as author of
the bestselling If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor; on your Xboxes and Playstation 2s, reprising his role as Ash in the Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick game (which he promises is “a whole new bucket o’ blood”); at your movie theaters (soon), playing a 70 year-old
who thinks he’s Elvis, in Bubba Ho-Tep; and in the documentary A Community Speaks, which he co-produced with his wife.
But he’s most remembered for his role as Harvard-educated gunslinger Brisco County, Jr. in the very much missed western The Adventures Of Brisco County, Jr., which ran on FOX several years back.
I caught up with Bruce just before he started work on his next book, which he describes below. It’s always scary to interview someone that you’re a big fan of. You’re afraid the person will turn out to be a jerk, or worse. I’m happy to report that Bruce is one of the nicest person I’ve ever interviewed. Which is good. Now I don’t have to write nasty things about him.
OK, let’s get the inevitable Evil Dead 4 question out of the way first. I read an interview with
Sam Raimi at Movie Hole, where he says “I’d like to do it now. Bruce Campbell is just the best, and they are so funny to do. I like horror movies, and with Bruce, they are just the biggest fun.” So, is the fourth installment a reality now, or what? Is it just the matter of a script?
No. Sorry, but I haven’t heard boo. Tell you guys what, I’ll post it big and loud on my web site when it happens. Sam has to get past Spidey fever before anything happens.
You didn’t just have a cameo in Spiderman you’re actually the guy who gave the webslinger his name! Was that part of your agreement with Sam, let me give him his name or I won’t do the movie? And will you be back in the sequel?
I told Sam that I must have the “pivotal” role, and he listened! No news on the sequel yet…
How about a little background history?
Well, I grew up in Birmingham, Michigan, which is just outside of the Detroit area. My interest in acting began at an early age, stemming from my father’s interest in art. My father Charlie worked
in advertising, but spent his spare time as a member of the local community theater. When I was about 8, I watched my father perform in a production of The Pajama Game. Realizing that adults could also
participate in this form of make believe, this event left a lasting impression on a young me. Soon after, I was cast in my first play, The King and I. I was only in the chorus, but as fate would have it, a much
bigger role presented itself: the king’s son! The boy originally playing the role became ill, and I was mysteriously cast in his place. It was my first opportunity to speak lines and even sing in front of an
audience! The experience turned out to be a good one, and I was hooked. The following year brought more roles for me, and I was finally able to join the community theater at the age of 18.
Any struggling actor stories?
I had to endure such heinous jobs as security guard and taxi driver to make ends meet during my whopping six months of college.
How did you meet Sam Raimi?
I met the poor sap in high school drama class. From there I worked as his magic assistant doing birthdays and bar mitvahs. Then we moved on to Super 8mm films, and eventually Evil Dead.
What’s the best and worst part of being an actor?
The best is the places it takes me, the people I meet, and the integrity of the “on-camera” experience. The worst? I hate the politics, the BS, and the over-technicalization of the process.
How did the role on Ellen come about?
As far as landing the role, I was a midweek replacement for some other poor guy. I went in for a meeting that turned into a rehearsal. Seven episodes later…
Is it true you were almost The Phantom?
Ah, yes, The Phantom. I screen tested for that, me and Billy Zane. But he’s the one who got to wear the purple tights.
How was it working on The X-Files?
Hard and serious, but fun. It was good to work on a hit show, the one that used to come after Brisco!
What’s been your favorite role to date?
I’d have to say Brisco, because I had the chance to “be” him for the better part of a year. I had to audition six times before they let me ride the horse, so to speak.
What has the reaction been to your book? How did the tour go?
The hardcover got on the NY Times bestseller list and the paperback sold well too. What can I say – there are a lot of classy folks out there…
What was it like to actually sit down and write the book?
Keeping focus was the hardest part…what was the question?
Writing about my life wasn’t hard, since I knew how the story unfolded – I didn’t have to make anything up. The challenge was not to bore readers with my BS.
Tell us a little about Bubba Ho-Tep.
Bubba is the story of Elvis Presley at 68 years old in an East Texas rest home (he’s still alive, see?). He hooks up with fellow resident Ossie Davis, who thinks he’s JFK to defend the rest home from a
soul sucking mummy. Yeah, baby!
You seem particularly open to meeting/talking with fans.
Because fans pay my salary, I guess! I don’t really go fishing with fans and such, but I make myself pretty available via book tours and conventions. We may not have breakfast every day, but I’m
happy to sign a picture and shake fan’s hands – under the right circumstances!
You know what would be a good idea? A Brisco County TV-movie! Come on, you and Bowler have one more adventure left in ya. Maybe Bly comes back through time or something.
Okay. You make the call to Fox, Warner Brothers, the estate of Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse and we’ll get right at it. Some things are very complicated.
Describe a typical day in the life of Bruce Campbell.
When I’m working, it’s up early, bed late. When I’m not working, it’s up later, bed earlier, or something like that. Actors are like sharks. They have to keep hustling for work. When I’m not working, I’m looking for it!
What’s the new book about?
It’s called Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way. It’s a gag look at relationships – the “non-PHD author” kind.
So what makes you an expert?
Therein lies the gag. The basic premise is that a friend asks me for love advice – thinking that a Hollywood actor would have the answers – and in reality I have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s a celebration of ignorance!
Birthdate: June 22, 1958
Status: Married, two kids, several cats (Carpenter, Edison, and Darcy).
Favorite TV Shows/Books/Movies: CNN Headline News, The
Simpsons. Non-fiction books. Good, strong stories, impressive acting,
and innovative direction.
Favorite Place To Vacation: Utah
Favorite Food: Hot Grape Nuts
Favorite Drink: Tea
Dream Car: My ’91 Saturn. It’s all I need.
Favorite Cereal: Cap’n Crunch, when I was a kid.
If You Weren’t An Actor You’d Be: An oligarchist.
The Best Advice You Ever Received: Never sit in the bulkhead of an airplane.
And The Worst: “Bruce, you should do Moontrap!”
You’d Make A Good James Bond Because: I’m the best there is at baccarat!
What Are Five Items In Your Glove Compartment Right Now?: Year-old parking tickets, bribe money, a half-eaten club sandwich, a lottery ticket, and a carton of free range eggs.
Your Idea Of Sexy Is: Divine in Pink Flamingos.
Leno Or Letterman?: Neither. I’m in bed by then.
And, most importantly, paper or plastic?: A hemp shopping bag.