If you don’t recognize the name, surely you recognize the chin.
Actor Bruce Campbell is best known for playing Ash, a reluctant slayer of demonic zombies in longtime friend Sam Raimi’s cult classic “Evil Dead” franchise. For almost 40 years, he fought back the armies of darkness in three films and a Starz TV series, “Ash Vs Evil Dead.” After the show ended last year, Campbell said he’s retiring from the role.
Big props to fans for the effort, but I’m retired as Ash.#timetofrysomeotherfishhttps://t.co/Di1aeBV0dl— Bruce Campbell (@GroovyBruce)April 23, 2018
The actor’s had a wild career: playing Elvis in 2002’s “Bubba Ho-Tep,” cameos in all of Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies and a long stint on USA Network’s “Burn Notice.” Campbell has a new memoir out, “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor.” He’s also coming to Austin’s Paramount Theatre for “An Evening With Bruce Campbell,” which will feature a screening of 1992 film “Army of Darkness,” on Oct. 23.
Below, listen to our conversation with Campbell on this week’s episode of I Love You So Much: The Austin360 Podcast, or read an edited transcript, which has been condensed for length and clarity.
American-Statesman: So, you’re going to be at the Paramount Theatre in Austin on Oct. 23. I saw you tweeted about the low-ticket alert. Have you been to Austin before, and did you know that Austin loved you so much?
Campbell: I’ve been to Austin 400 times. Austin’s a very cool place.
Every state, even if it’s a squaresville state — because most of Texas is squaresville, let’s not kid ourselves — Austin is not. It’s the hipster hideaway, the hipster haven. Every state has a place where hipsters, gays, all kinds of groups go, and Austin is that one in Texas.
That is true. They call us the blueberry in the tomato soup.
(laughs) And you have bats! You have lots of cool bats.
We do have bats. If we had more time, I would tell you how I think the bats are kind of a scam.
Oh really, a bat scam? It’s a bunch of guano?
Yeah, it’s a bunch of guano. It stinks.
OK, well I don’t need to ruffle any bat feathers.
What should we expect from an evening with Bruce Campbell?
The unexpected. These things will go in whatever direction they go in. It’s “Army of Darkness,” I think they’re showing.
It’s fun to come and make fun of a movie that’s 400 years old and enjoy the current relevance of it, or not. You know that movie bombed at the time, but it has flourished in its afterlife. That’s mainly why I still enjoy milking it. A, because it was such a pain in the ass to make; B, because it bombed and now it’s considered, you know, it’s been on American Movie Classics. It’s aged pretty well. It’s worth taking around. Now I get to show it to the new generation, the new people.
And I think some people paid a little more to get a photo and a book. I’m there, honestly, selling books. It’s book sales disguised as an evening with Bruce Campbell.
I’m glad you brought up the book. This is round two of the memoir ride, is that right? Because you wrote “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-List Actor,” in 2002.
It is, it’s the sequel.
It’s technically part two of the trilogy. The final confessions will come 15-ish years from now. Mid-70s. Feet will be up on the porch, kind of deal.
What was different about this go around?
It’s the mature version of my career, when you start to say no to (expletive). Start to do more of your own stuff and learn what works and learn what doesn’t work. More foibles. More tears and triumphs. I’m reading a George Harrison book right now. Even incredibly famous people, holy (expletive) man, they’ve got ups and downs like crazy. Like even a guy like George Harrison can completely flame out on a tour, his 1974 tour.
He couldn’t even sing. He had lost his voice for the entire tour, and there was no pulling out, no going back.
It’s spooky season. It’s October.
That’s right, it’s my payday season. That’s my Christmas.
It’s your nightmare before Christmas. You’re very famous and beloved for playing Ash in the “Evil Dead” franchise. I know you said when the Starz series went off the air that you were retiring Ash, but I also read reports that you might be producing another film in the franchise and you might be voicing the character in a video game. What can you tell us about your place in the “Evil Dead” world?
Producing, 100%. Just like we produced the Fede Álvarez 2013 (reboot) “Evil Dead.” We’re not really calling them sequels anymore. They’re just “Evil Dead” movies.
We’re going to do a modern-day “Evil Dead,” an urban one. Sam Raimi has hand-picked a talented young filmmaker that we will torment, into hopefully doing a good, scary job.
We think there’s a lot more stories to tell of completely innocent, unqualified people having to save the world. We think those are good heroes. We think the best heroes are the ones who have no skills whatsoever. Then the audience goes, “Well, how the hell are you gonna get out of this?” If you a Navy SEAL, you’d go, “Yeah, come on dude, wrap this up.”
If you were writing the list of Bruce Campbell’s scary movie canon, what are some movies you think people should watch?
The original “Exorcist.” ... It was a great premise, I thought. A priest who’s doubting his faith, OK, let’s have him do an exorcism. His worst nightmare comes true, because he’s not sure if he can do it. Again, unqualified!
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of stories from people about what the “Evil Dead” movies have meant to them. What are some of the more touching stories, or more memorable?
I signed my first urn full of ashes to a guy who was dead — I signed it to him! Two or three friends brought him to me (at the recent Rock and Shock horror convention in Boston). ... I signed it to that dead person and then gave them their signed urn full of ashes.
It meant a lot to them, so that’s all that matters. The movies were something they all watched together, and now that person’s gone. And that person didn’t have a chance to say hi. Never got to meet me.
I know you got started with Super 8 filmmaking with Sam Raimi and your buddies. Nowadays, we have YouTube and every kid has a camera in their pocket. There are entire feature-length films shot entirely on iPhone. What are your thoughts on the democratization of filmmaking?
I think it’s fantastic. I wish the hell I had an iPhone when I was 18. We would’ve burned the chip out of that thing.
But what it doesn’t change is the ability to tell stories. Just because you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve still got to tell a story. It can be whatever story you want, but it still challenges you to create something, that you tell a story from A to Z. The old days tended to weed out the slackers a little bit. … You had to really want to do it.
Well, Bruce this has been great. Anything else you want to get out there?
I look forward to coming back to Austin, because they appreciate the arts. Some cities you go to because you have to, and some cities you go to because you kind of want to at the same time.