If you are a genre fan, there is little doubt that you have a weakness for a cool Bruce Campbell flick. He made the name “Ash” one of the most iconic characters in film with his work in THE EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN and ARMY OF DARKNESS. He has also taken time out to do the occasional blockbuster with a cool cameo like in the SPIDER-MAN franchise. You want T.V.? He has done some good stuff there including the criminally underrated “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.”, and some scene stealing work on “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”.
Over the past few years, he has finally found success with the quirky and entertaining “Burn Notice” on USA. But that hasn’t stopped his film work. This includes what may be his most personal role to date… Bruce Campbell. In MY NAME IS BRUCE, he portrays a fictional account of himself. Although I haven’t had the chance to see the film, I can most certainly promise you that I will be there the second I get a chance. It looks to offer up the kind of film that is entertaining and slightly bizarre, much like his cult classic BUBBA HO-TEP.
I’ve met the man a couple of times, and I couldn’t have been more excited to speak with him again. He is always nice and just a cool fellow. I have a bunch of respect for the work he has done, and of course for his infectious sense of humor. So make sure you look out for MY NAME IS BRUCE if you are a genre fan. It looks to be fun times had by all.
Oh, its been pronounced dead several times. Here’s the truth of it… it’s like the old joke, independent movies aren’t released, they escape. In that, real independent movies don’t have a machine. You figure out a way to get the money together and so we did. And we shot the movie. And then, really it was designed just to go to DVD. But then when we showed it to the financers, they got excited about it. They said, hey, if we did blah, blah, blah, you know, maybe we can do a theatrical release sort of like BUBBA HO-TEP. You kind of move around your market slowly and you don’t try and hit two-thousand theatres, you just do ten theatres here, ten theatres there. It’s an old-fashioned, kind of Seventies method. So basically, that’s what it evolved into.
And so what happened as a result, we brought up all the effects to a theatrical quality. We went back and we shot a little more stuff, you know, bump the movie up a little bit knowing that we wanted to put it out in theatres. Which meant we wanted to spend a little more time on sound and the whole bit. And all that takes time to go back and open up the can of worms again. So its never really been dead… plus the show “Burn Notice” came up for me and you know, television eats you alive. So I would go back and work on the movie in the off season. Fortunately it is all finished now and timed up and ready to go.
It’s finally, actually happening. No rumors, there’s no one to make us re-cut it so it’s not like the studio didn’t want to release it. It just took us this long to get it in theatres. It’s really how independent movies are made. Two years is actually, fairly quick to get a movie, shoot the movie, show it around, test it… do this, do that… and it’s all our own little screenings that we set up, it is never anything that’s set up by some major focus group. So it’s all kind of handmade and that’s what I like about the project. But it does take longer.
It also has to be exciting for you to offer your fans a sort of self parodying of “Bruce Campbell” a little bit.
Oh man, no, it’s horrible… people are going to be very devastated when they see what I’ve done to “Bruce Campbell”. It’ll be very disturbing. Because I’m the only one who can do it so I got to do it with impunity. And you know, the basic premise is, them kidnapping Bruce Campbell to help fight a monster in a small Oregon town. And it just turns out to be a really, really bad idea. The “Bruce Campbell” that I’m portraying is, you know, a jerk, a loser, a drunk, asshole… he’s completely and utterly worthless.
That must be fun for you though…
Oh yeah! Because now I can treat my fans for example, like that Bruce Campbell, the one that’s in the movie, can treat his fans however he wants. There is one sequence that’s kind of fun ‘cause it’s everything I ever wanted to say to fans [Laughing], but never could. But hiding behind a character you can… they go, ‘Why were you so mean to that fan?’… what do you mean you, you know, it was a character that I played. So I can hide behind it. But that was the fun aspect of it, of being able to do that.
Yeah, even in the trailer, pushing the guy in the wheelchair is hilarious.
Well again, I’m sure there’ll be some people who gasp, but hey, when else will you be able to do that in a movie?
And you’ve always had a really good relationship with your fans… always.
I have. And I feel that I have the right to insult them because I do meet them, I do go and shake their hands and sign their stuff. You know, if I was living behind some ivory tower and never going out, I don’t think I could behave that way because, you know, I’ve done my time in lines and signing stuff that I think I can do that. Because you hear all the stuff that fans tell you and you see their perception, so part of this is just tweaking that because they shouldn’t be having these perceptions of me. Nobody should have false perceptions of any actor. I mean, they’re not special ANYTHING, most actors can’t do anything. Which means they fake it, so they’re actors. You know, we’re not really a cowboy, but I can play a cowboy. But I’m not really a cowboy. It’s important that we don’t put people up on pedestals, and I’m sure there is some underlying Freudian thing that will be deep within the bowels of this movie.
That is also kind of an American thing too. I remember reading an interview with Lena Olin who came out here to do a film years and years ago, and she was shocked that they had a stand-in for her. She thought it was strange that actors didn’t do that themselves.
Oh right! Absolutely. That is the American system of how pampered our actors get. And I actually get to make fun of how un-pampered they are [Laughing].
You work in the B-movie side of things, you’re not nearly as pampered as in the A world.
Of course… and you’ve seen it from both sides. You’ve had the privilege to do both. Obviously Sam Raimi has come up through the ranks…
Oh, yeah, he’s a playa!
He’s a playa big time!
But it’s great to go hang around on his sets ‘cause you go, ‘Damn! This must’ve cost a lot!’. But in the same sense, you’re not moving as quickly, I like the more rough and tumble pace of sort of the more low budget movie where you can’t really dick around. You gotta know what’s going on, because you’ve got eighteen or some odd days to shoot this puppy.
How long was the shoot for MY NAME IS BRUCE?
Was that tough for you? You are directing, you’re playing yourself…?
Well, I’d directed a bunch of television so I actually get the pace, I understand the pace and what it takes to shoot six or seven pages a day. And so that was not a surprise. I’m used to acting at that pace, I’m used to directing at that pace so to me it was kind of normal. The truth is, was actually getting everybody else up to speed in that… okay guys, here’s how this is gonna work. You know, you’ve got to get used to twelve long hours to work, kind of going the entire time. We’re not here to make friends, we’re here to make a movie. It’s a pretty serious business.
You’ve also really taken this one on, not only as a director and an actor, but you’ve got the promo tour coming up. Sort of like you did with BUBBA HO-TEP…
Well this movie is pretty personal because I am much more involved in it. There is much more at stake, it’s more of a handmade movie. It’s sort of a love/hate letter to fans. It’s like, it is meant to torment them and reward them at the same time.
How did you find the write screenwriters to take this on?
Well they pitched it to me. Mark Verheiden, the writer is a good friend of Mike Richardson, who owns Dark Horse Comics. And so those guys were old pals that go all the way back to Portland in their youth, in their high school days. That was sort of their version of me and Sam Raimi. So then they pitched me this idea that they came up with and I’m like, ‘yeah man, let me at it. I’d love to be a part of this.’ So Mark did a couple of drafts and because I was directing, I took it on and made it more specifically what I would do. That’s the nice thing, being able to customize it one-hundred percent of what you want to do.
It must have been so cool for them to tweak with this and having you so involved…
Oh no, and look, there were no restriction. I said, ‘Look, forget it… do this. Make it a character.’ Because you still have to have [the character] take a journey, being a loser to being less of a loser by the end of the movie. And so, I said it’s okay. As a result, you’ll see in the finished product that when his dog’s hungry or irritable he just feeds it whiskey [Laughing]. You know, I mean he is that type of character.
What was the casting process like?
They were either old friends or complete novices really from my area, from Southern Oregon. In Ashland, Oregon they have a huge Shakespeare Festival that’s active about nine months out of the year. They actually have a bag full or really good, trained actors. So I got my leading lady, she was local, Grace Thorsen. The main kid, Taylor Sharpe was a local also. He had just done a play at Ashland High School you know, so…
Oh yeah, none of these people had ever been in a movie before. None of ‘em.
What was it like directing them?
It was awesome because if I felt they were right for the part, I didn’t care if they came from L.A. or not. We couldn’t afford to bring somebody in from L.A.
I think it’s great that you did that because it is such a hard business to get into, and to be given an opportunity like that is awesome.
Oh man, yeah, it’s fun to just drop something right in their lap and say, ‘Okay, local casting director… let’s start beating the trees’… ‘cause I gotta find everyone from this to that. And then the other side of it, I got a guy from ARMY OF DARKNESS, a guy from EVIL DEAD 2, Ted Raimi plays three parts, so… and the rest of them were just filled out with cronies that I knew through different things. And so I fleshed them out. The crowd is a half blend of old cronies and people that I’d never worked with before.
That must have been such a pleasant experience for you.
It was… it was cool. So now we’ll see if it is a pleasant experience for the audience.
I want to bring up one last question in regards to “Burn Notice“. First off congrats on being picked up for a third season.
Yep, third season.
Now I have to say, you and Sharon Gless are terrific together.
Seriously, besides the fact that, she is one of the best television actors out there…
Yeah, no, she is like the Gielgud of television. She has a bunch of Emmys. And she is so unassuming, it’s awesome. And coming up, we’re back on the air with six new episodes in January or February. And we’ve got whole sequences together near the end of that, where I’ve got to help her out because guys are coming for Mike’s family and all that crap, so we’ve got a lot of scenes together. She’s great, it helps when the other person is engaging and you know, she’s very sweet and she’s not like the characters she plays. She’s really fun to work with.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.