Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell is one of those rare Hollywood leading men who have made a distinguished career out of playing b-movie leads. Still, fans have often wondered why Campbell with his natural charisma and acting chops is not often seen in big-budget films. In an interview with Alabama Life & Culture, the actor revealed he came close to headlining his own superhero movie until politics got in the way.
"I don't operate in that rarified air of saying, "Oh I turned Titanic down." I tried to get a part in a studio movie called The Phantom and Billy Zane wound up getting the part. And it was down to me and Billy, I was number two for the job, but I didn't really enjoy the process very much because it seemed more political than actually acting. It was amazing how many people you had to audition for, and you had to go up the ranks and each time it got a little more tense as you moved up. So I'm good doing these weirdo little movies."
The movie in question is 1996's The Phantom, where Billy Zane played the lead role of a globe-trotting superhero living in the forests of Africa. The film was based on the Phantom comics strips created by Lee Falk. The immensely popular Phantom comic series is often credited with presenting the world with the original superhero, who started the trend of skin-tight outfits and masks where the pupils are completely white.
It is interesting to consider what kind of a movie The Phantom would have been if Campbell had gotten the part instead of Zane. While the latter actor did a good job with the script he was given, Campbell had proven with the Evil Dead franchise that he had a better handle on stories that involved fantastical, often campy elements, like a superhero who lived in the jungle with his pet wolf, and who was rumored to be The Ghost Who Walks among criminals.
This would not be the first time that Campbell would miss out on playing a live-action comic book character. He was rumored to be in the running at different points to play Spider-Man villains Mr. Sinister and Mysterio, and was a popular choice to play Nick Fury in the MCU.
Still, while Campbell might not have played a traditional superhero so far, his character Ash Williams from Evil Dead is basically a superhero already. A badass normal human with a chainsaw arm and a shotgun, tasked with protecting humanity against the ever-present threat of the Deadites. While the actor has retired the character of Ash, Campbell will be serving as producer on the next Evil Dead movie, which he stated will go into production as soon as they decide on a studio partner.
"We're honing-in, circling the building now trying to lock in a partner. We have a couple of bidders and we're trying to just find the correct suitor and we have a script written and a director picked. Sam Raimi handpicked a guy named Lee Cronin, who's a very good Irish filmmaker. And it's got a very good modern tale. It's a modern-day urban "Evil Dead," it's called "Evil Dead Rise." And we're hoping to do that next year."
This Bruce Campbell news comes from al.com.