The iconic cult hero chats about road trips, book deals, Evil Dead 4, Bubba's return, and playing himself
Halloween came a few days early for us. The one and only Bruce Campbell called in from the road to chat about his latest creature feature, the amazingly funny My Name Is Bruce. Written by Mark Verheiden and directed by "The Chin" himself, this hilarious self-spoofing horror film became an instant cult classic the moment that last period landed on the last page of the script. Their film has been flamed through the far reaches of the Internet for almost two years now. A lot of talk and a couple of trailers later, My Name Is Bruce is finally ready for its theatrical run.
That's right, My Name Is Bruce is coming to a city near you for a limited engagement big screen exhibition that will shock and surprise even the hardest of hardcore fans. And Bruce is tagging along with the print for more of his always-colorful onsite commentaries. Like a rock star waging war with ticket buyers, Campbell will be in attendance to answer all of your "classic" questions. He will be making the rounds between November and December. For a complete tour list of all the cities he will be breezing through and the dates and times, you can hit up Bruce Campbell's own website here.
Without further ado, here is our conversation:
Bruce Campbell: Hello! I am currently traveling through the Smokey Mountains.
That sounds like a cool trip. From what I understand, you are taking your show on the road for about a month and a half, right?
Bruce Campbell: Yeah, baby! I'll have been on the road for about two months by the time all is said and done.
I know you did this before with Bubba Ho-Tep. What are some of the benefits of traveling cross-country with your films?
Bruce Campbell: When you are working with a low budget movie, it matters. You have to go out there and support your movie. We can't do a big two thousand theater release. I thought I should show up and do some Q&As, introduce the movie, and torture the fans. At the same time, I've learned as a filmmaker what the response is. You learn the patterns over five, six, twenty screenings. You get to see what always works, what will always never work, and it is a good experience to learn from.
In doing that, do you take the response from the theatrical run and recut the film for its DVD release? Or do you just leave in the mistakes and keep it in its final form?
Bruce Campbell: Never. No, I am not one of those guys. I hate reshoots. I hate fixing up a movie after the fact. George Lucas going back to fix up Star Wars doesn't make sense to me. You make the movie, and then you are done with it. You follow your gut, and get it out there. I don't like dealing with a work in progress. I like finishing something and being done with it.
I know the film touches on your own fan base a little bit. After they see the film, and you are there in the theater with them, do they still have the same reaction as they did before, when you would show them a different film? Or do they get their guard up?
Bruce Campbell: They are more confused. I confuse them when I show them this movie.
Do they continue to ask you the same questions?
Bruce Campbell: Oh, they always ask the same questions! I could basically give you a list of the 100 questions that will be asked. And I can give you the top ten that I will guarantee you will be asked.
And Evil Dead 4 is the number one question, right?
Bruce Campbell: It's either number one or number two. Yeah. That is always going to be way up there.
Do you have a city where the fans are the rudest? Or the best to deal with?
Bruce Campbell: The Austin fans were very good. Those guys just love movies, and they love entertainment. People up in Minnesota and Wisconsin laugh their asses off. They are laughers. I could drop dead in some town and then just kill them, going up there and doing the same material. They drink beer, and they just laugh. New York is a little tough. You've got your Vinnies and your Gumbahs. Your, "hey, what the fuck you talking about, yo? That movie sucked donkey dick!" They can get a little edgy. I just throw it back at them.
I was in Los Angeles when you did the Bubba Ho-Tep tour, and it seemed like they were getting pretty rough there, too.
Bruce Campbell: Yeah, but you just got to beat them up. You have to beat them up right back. If one guy is an idiot, then I will always go back to him for the rest of the Q&A. The rest of the time, I will be referencing him again.
Do these road trips allow you to feel like a rock star?
Bruce Campbell: In a horribly low budget way. Yeah.
Mark Verheiden wrote this script. Was this his idealized version of you, or did you take the script and modify your personality to the way you wanted to see yourself portrayed on screen?
Bruce Campbell: I took what Mark wrote and made it far more horrible. Mark and Mike Richardson pitched me this idea. Which I thought was fun. I said, "Yeah, lets do it." Together we talked about the tone and the approach. We talked about how bad we wanted to go, and we all decided that we were going to get pretty bad. Just because we could. This isn't like we are fucking with someone, and we don't have their permission. You know?
What were some of the challenges of your real self directing this enhanced, persona-driven embodiment of your cult celebrity self?
Bruce Campbell: The nice thing is that I am not playing me in any fashion. I am just playing a guy that happens to be named Bruce Campbell. It is easy. I was just playing a jerk that just happened to sound like Bruce and look like Bruce. He's just a character.
So you could just come up with the worst things to say and do, and it wouldn't affect your own persona at all?
Bruce Campbell: It doesn't matter, because I am just playing a very heightened character. This movie represents my worst nightmare come to life. The movie represents something that would really terrify me. One: being kidnapped by a fan. Two: Fighting a real monster. Three: Making a movie as bad as what is portrayed in this movie.
Speaking of bad movies...These films of yours really do get their cult status rolling before anyone ever has a chance to see the actual footage. What do you equate that too? Your own celebrity, and your fans love for you and your work? Or is it something else?
Bruce Campbell: Fans have a lot to do with it. It is the anticipation. The Internet spreads news of these things like wild fire. They hear that Bruce Campbell is playing himself. And it peaks their interests. They sit up and say, "What the hell is that?" Then they get a little bit of information. A few photos sneak out. It's a process of building buzz. This film got delayed because as we were enhancing it, we got more money. The distributors liked what they saw, so they gave us more money to make it theatrical. This was not meant to be a theatrical film.
Did that happen before or after the first trailer came out? It seems like a lot of time has passed since I saw that first trailer.
Bruce Campbell: The trailer they did fairly early on. But they made that trailer once the decision was made to go theatrical. And then it took us awhile to get all our effects up to speed. And we had to get our Dolby certification. We had to go through that long process. There is just a lot of technical stuff that takes time. And, of course, the company was purchased halfway through making this movie. Image Entertainment was purchased by another company, and you never know what can happen with that. Some projects can get killed when that happens. The parent company will look at some of the stuff they have and say, "We don't want that!" They will look at something like our film as bullshit, and they will cut it off. But that wound up favorably for us. The company that ended up purchasing Image Entertainment left us alone. We were able to forge ahead and finish the film. And that was that.
How do you think this film has allowed you to grow as a director?
Bruce Campbell: My last movie was kind of bad and a bomb. It was called Man with the Screaming Brain. I learned a tremendous amount from that. The most important thing is who you partner up with. As a filmmaker, you want a producer that is actually going to allow you to do your thing. And they should allow your participation in all phases of your project. Man with the Screaming Brain didn't really offer that kind of opportunity. I really sold my soul to the devil to make that movie. As a result...I sold my soul to the devil. Last time, it was just a whole different situation with the financing, and the "this and that". My Name Is Bruce had none of those problems. This was a night and day situation.
I know you shot this film in the Rogue Valley. Did you go up to the college, Southern Oregon Sate University, and employ some of the film students there? Or did you utilize the locals and the people you already knew?
Bruce Campbell: We got some locals that we knew. We brought in some crewmembers from out of town. We cast a lot of local actors. I got most of my actors from there because of the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. It's hard to get those actors and get them scheduled, because they are always working.
Was it easy to work with those actors from the Shakespeare festival? I've worked with some of those folks, and they never seem to understand blocking for film.
Bruce Campbell: You just have to tell them how it works. You have to explain that it is a process. That this is a very precise thing. You have to hit your mark. This is how you hit it. You have to cheat it this way, look this other way. Most of those actors eventually come around. Even on stage, you have to open up and hit your relative mark. Just with films, the mark is more precise. Our actors were great.
So, there's some pretty amazing talent up in Ashland right now?
Bruce Campbell: I certainly thought so. And they are eager. They aren't these types of actors that you can never get out of their trailer. First of all, they don't even have a trailer. You have to get them out of their chair. But it was really easy. All of these actors were happy to be in this.
You guys premiered the film there, or rather showed it for the first time. What was the reaction like from the locals that got to see the film?
Bruce Campbell: I think the locals had a blast. They were pleased to see something come out of that area. The actors got really excited. They thought, "Wow, if we can get an industry here, we could make a couple of these movies ever year and really get something going." I don't know. I think they are just excited. I live in a small town. These are people that get excited about good weather.
I want to know more about the film's villain. I believe it's called a Guan Di and it is based on a Chinese War deity. Is this supernatural beast based on fact?
Bruce Campbell: Yes, it is called a Guan Di, and it is based on fact. It is. You make a horror movie, and you have to figure out whom the creature is. Is it a guy with a hockey mask, or what? In this case, we found a way to make it organic to the story. In my town, where I live in Oregon, it really is an old mining town. I took the names Gold Lick from two nearby towns. There is a town called Gold Hill, and then there is another place called Bald Lick. I took Gold and Lick and put them together. The Chinese were the people that did most of the mining and hard work. In Chinese lore, the protector of the dead is Guan Di, the God of War. He is also the protector of bean curd, which gave us his Achilles' tendon. Kind of. You have to have a way to defeat the monster. We were able to, by happenstance, get this thing to work out. And it made sense.
I haven't gotten a chance to see the film yet. But since word got out that this film was being made, there has been talk of a sequel. Is that true? Will there be a Bruce sequel? And who is going to be the monster this time out?
Bruce Campbell: We have the money for it. But it's a little silly to make it until after this one makes money. Right now, we are just going to wait and see.
So its not going to be like Bubba Ho-Tep where a sequel is promised at the end of the credits but it never comes to fruition?
Bruce Campbell: A second Bubba Ho-Tep never came together because Don Coscarelli and I could never agree on a new approach. That's why that died.
Yeah? That's too bad. How did you get involved with the Dark Horse film banner with this film?
Bruce Campbell: I knew Mike Richardson because he did The Evil Dead comics. And Mark Verheiden wrote them. We all got to know each other over time. And they knew about my stuff. I loved their stuff. We are all Oregonians now. We thought, what the hell? Lets get something together. Mike got the money, and God bless him. He is a very tall man.
That is awesome. Can you tell me anything about the next book you are writing? Or are you even going to write another book?
Bruce Campbell: I have to think of an idea first. I do have a basic idea, but there's not enough there to talk about it yet. I am doodling something. I guess that is what you would say.
But its safe to say that when you do write another book, you are going to put out an audio version of it? That is something the fans really loved last time.
Bruce Campbell: I will do that. I still need to do an audio version for the first book. I just haven't ever gotten around to it.
I didn't realize that you hadn't done that yet. You did the audio book for Love, The Bruce Campbell Way.
Bruce Campbell: Yeah, it was a huge production. It was like a movie without the picture. It has sound effects and everything. It is a six-hour epic.
And you are thinking about going back and doing that for the first book?
Bruce Campbell: Yes!
Kurt Rauf was a PA on Evil Dead. How did you get him involved in My Name Is Bruce as the director of photography?
Bruce Campbell: Well, after he was a PA that worked with us, he went on to become a grip, working on other features. He got to know those ropes. Then he became a technician, and then he became a gaffer, and then he got into lighting, and he got into the camera. He became good at what he did, and I said, "Hey, man! Why don't you come and shoot this movie?" He did, and I am really glad we got him.
So, his work turned out pretty good, huh?
Bruce Campbell: I think he did a really nice job. I told him that I wanted it to look like an Ivan Reitman comedy.
And does it? Like I said, I haven't seen it yet.
Bruce Campbell: It is a very accessible look. It is not grainy or dark. It is a well-lit movie, you know? It is a nice looking film, I will say that.
Okay, I will let you go in one second. I have to throw my one Evil Dead question in there. Hopefully, this one hasn't been asked too many times. Are you familiar with the actor Wes Bentley?
Bruce Campbell: No, not really.
Well, he had made some press rounds. And he stated that he'd like to come in and play Ash if you guys ever really do the remake. I was just wondering what your thoughts on that were?
Bruce Campbell: I have no thoughts on that. Because I don't think about it. I don't like thinking about remakes and sequels. I think Sam and I would be happy to do these things if they just sort of fell in our lap, and we had time to do it. There is a reason why these things haven't been made. Its because we don't look at each other and scream, "We've got to do this now!!!" We have done three of them, and they were all very difficult movies to make. As far as a remake, I am kind of lukewarm on the whole idea. Just because creatively you go, "Well, alright. I guess we could make some of the effects better." If we go back with a sixteen-millimeter camera and a bunch of nobodies again, then I am interested.
So, when actors come out and they say, "I want to play Ash!" You're like, "Forget you! I don't want to talk to you!"
Bruce Campbell: No, I have no ill will towards anybody that wants to play Ash. He was a fun character to play. I don't know. I'm not going to tell people what to say or do.