The legendary actor talks about his new film, his experiences with the fans and future projects
You don't have to know what a "boomstick" is to know that Bruce Campbell has been a beloved figure in cult horror circles for decades. He has amassed a huge following over the years from his starring roles in films like The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, Army Of Darkness, Bubba Ho-Tep and hordes of other films. These days he's been having mainstream success with his role as Sam Axe in the hit cable series Burn Notice, but he's going back to his roots with his new film, My Name Is Bruce, which hits the DVD and Blu-ray shelves today, February 10. I spoke with Campbell earlier today about this new cult film that he both directed and starred in, and here's what he had to say.
So, what was your first reaction when you took a look at Mark's script and were you always in line to direct this as well?
Bruce Campbell: There was no script. We developed it together. The idea was pitched to me as a real loose concept, then we developed it together. Then Mark (Verheiden) wrote a couple of drafts and, as a director, I wrote a draft and then as an actor I wrote a draft. So there's a lot of drafting going on, but it was a process we were very much all involved in. I thought it was something that could be a lot of fun. When they pitched the idea, the task is to make yourself look like a jerk for an hour and a half, so I said, 'All right. Let's do it.'
Yeah, I thought your version of yourself was hilarious. With the scenes towards the beginning with the fans that were mobbing you, do you get that a lot in real life? People coming up to you with The Evil Dead questions?
Bruce Campbell: Well, that whole sequence out in front of the studio, from shooting a hard day of Cave Aliens 3, every one of those questions was verbatim, including, 'Did working with Ellen (DeGeneres) turn you gay?' The person in a wheelchair, I met at a convention and was the rudest human being I had ever met on the planet. So, what do you do? In real life, you've got to take it and be very gracious, but in the movie, I get to kick him in front of a bus.
So this is all kind of what you thought in your head?
Bruce Campbell: Kind of, yeah. This movie represents my wildest fears coming true and it's a vicarious way to destroy those who have built me up. Because, look, there's going to be somebody out there who's going to think that I drink cheap whiskey out of a dog bowl. No one is going to believe that, at the end of the movie, so it's a risk that you've got to take.
There was quite a delay with the initial release and I read that you were given more money to do reshoots. What kinds of things did you guys add in to beef it up for the theatrical release?
Bruce Campbell: Well, mostly the expense went to upgrading the digital effects from the resolution that you could see on your television, to the resolution you could see on a screen. Most of it was that, and that took more time. And we wanted the monster to kill some more people, so we went back and killed one or two folks and also just rounding some stuff out. To flush out some things we thought was too cheeseball when we did it the first time. That, and I was busy doing Burn Notice, so that kind of dragged things out too.
So what was it like working with Grace Thorsen, Taylor Sharpe and some of your old buddies like Ted Raimi, Ellen Sandweiss and Timothy Patrick Quill and the others?
Bruce Campbell: Well, it was good on two fronts. One, there was a whole group of people I had never worked with before, which was Grace and Taylor, and they were locals, local here in Oregon, so they're basically my neighbors. It nice to work with someone who doesn't have much experience, that I could mold them and torment them. Then the other half are old cronies and I can torture them because we've known each other for so long. That was really a bonus for the fans. What I really wanted to do with the Ted Raimi's and the Ellen Sandweiss', I wanted to get someone from each of The Evil Dead movies as a little bonus for the fans. This movie is for the fans. It's certainly not for the critics.
Absolutely. It really seems like you just had a blast playing this version of yourself and, with directing yourself, is that a freer way to go, or is it more hectic when you're directing yourself?
Bruce Campbell: It's both, you know. You look around the set and you realize that there's no one who's going to tell you anything you can't do. It's all yours. You get to do whatever. Then the bottom line is you have to do it. You have to be in it and direct it and manage all the affairs. But, the lower the budget, the more I want to do. The higher the budget, there are a lot of trained people who can make you look good and all that, but at the low end, I'm the most experienced guy on the set. I don't want some 20-year-old punk telling me what to do.
I'm actually from Minnesota and my brother actually went to the premiere in Minneapolis at the Lagoon Theater in December.
Bruce Campbell: Yeah. We all froze our asses off out there, man, I'll tell you.
(Laughs) Yeah. Maybe you should've picked a July premiere than December, because December is not a good month to go there.
Bruce Campbell: I know, I know, but it was fun. The nice thing about Minneapolis is they're hearty people. It takes a lot to stop them.
Oh yeah. It did great that weekend. I think it was $17,000 for that one week so it did really well there.
Bruce Campbell: One thing that's nice too, is there is poetic justice out there. Changeling, a very highly-regarded Clint Eastwood movie, we beat the crap out of them on Halloween weekend, so nobody messes with us on Halloween.
So you really took this on tour to all these different cities, so how was that whole experience just bringing this film to all these different places?
Bruce Campbell: 22 cities, we did by car, city by city. I, for the most part, enjoyed it. You know, you get beat down by the rigors of the road, but it's great going from town to town, an old dog and pony show. It's the only way to get real feedback. I know now, at the end of this movie, I've got my whole list of what not to do or what to do more of. They're always very helpful, even if the movie is not received well, either way, it's a learning experience.
Mike Richardson from Dark Horse said that a sequel called My Name is Still Bruce is in the works. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Bruce Campbell: (Laughs) Well, I think we could do it if we wanted to, but I think I'm good playing me for a little while. I think it's time to move on to other characters. We'll just kind of see how the cookie crumbles.
I have to ask about The Evil Dead remake that you're on board and producing. Are there any updates you can give us about that?
Bruce Campbell: No, because IMDB has it listed, doesn't really mean anything. There's no script, there's no start date, there's no director, so, unfortunately, there's nothing to talk about. I think we're all going to get to it when we get to it. Sam (Raimi) is doing another Spider-Man, I'm under contract for Burn Notice for five more years, so when in the hell are we going to do it?
There are a few more episodes left of Burn Notice and then you'll start up with Season 3 right away?
Bruce Campbell: Yeah. In March we go on Season 3, but these last few episodes that are coming, oh, it's all coming to a head baby. Nasty stuff is going to happen. The spies will kill me if I tell you more.
Oh, of course. They're all over the place. So, is there anything you're lining up for the future, either acting or directing-wise that you can maybe spill a little bit about?
Bruce Campbell: Well, I've got another book deal. I'm writing another book called Vagabond: The Gypsy Life of an Actor and it's sort of the off-screen adventures. It's like, what's it like to shoot in Bulgaria for two months. It's not about the movies, it's just about life on the road.
So, out of this whole experience of My Name Is Bruce, do you have a favorite moment, from either filming or taking it on the road or anything like that?
Bruce Campbell: Beating Clint Eastwood, that was probably the highlight. This movie had gotten some of the shittiest reviews on the planet and it was just very gratifying to see that we beat the Changeling on Halloween weekend. That made it all worthwhile. It was the number one movie, in per-screen average that weekend.
So, finally, you hit it on the head when you said this movie is one of the rare movies that actually is for the fans. What would you like to say to all of those who have followed and supported your career throughout the years?
Bruce Campbell: Well, watch the movie because you're the only one who's going to get it. This is a tailor-made movie for you, so you might as well check it out, because it's cheap.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you today, Bruce. Thank you so much for your time and the best of luck.
Bruce Campbell: Thank you. Bye, man.
You can catch all the cult hilarity of Bruce Campbell when My Name Is Bruce hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on February 10.