Bruce: 'I'm a huge Three Stooges fan, and I can never apologize or back away from it. Those are my influences, so I'm always going to go broader and more vaudeville, because to me with entertainment, there's nothing real about it.'
Evil Dead trilogy, as Elvis Presley in the critically acclaimed Bubba Ho-Tep, and even the namesake of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., a quickly-canceled series on Fox, seemingly a prerequisite for any underground phenomenon. He's also garnered fame with cameos in the Spider-Man films, and is building a new audience as Sam Axe in the hugely-successful cable series Burn Notice.
With a tremendous debt to his fans, Campbell is now touring the nation in support of My Name Is Bruce. This new film finds the actor playing a version of himself, tasked with fighting an ancient Chinese demon at the request of one among his legions of fans. He is on his way to Madison for a quartet of screenings at Sundance Cinemas on Wednesday, December 3.
The Daily Page caught up with Campbell for a brief conversation during a break on his tour.
The Daily Page: What is My Name Is Bruce? I watched it and it seems to create more myths than it dispels. Who is the real Bruce Campbell?
Campbell: The real Bruce Campbell made a movie like this because it's a simple comedy premise. It's not an ode to myself. It's served up as a spicy meal to my fans, where we poke a little fun at everybody, including myself, my dog, people in wheelchairs, old Chinese men... it's not a safe bet, this movie. Why bother with anything that is?
This was a concept that was pitched to me by Mark Verheiden and Mike Richardson, who run Dark Horse Comics. Been pals with Verheiden for years. They knew I wanted to make movies, and they based this pitch on a comic book called The Adventures of Alan Ladd that Mark had read years ago. It was an old comic book from the '40s, the premise being that people kidnapped Alan Ladd to help them fight pirates because he was at the time a swashbuckling actor. And, so you know, they pitched a demented version of that and I jumped all over it.
So, from the beginning it was supposed to be you playing yourself, or a version of yourself? The version that would enjoy playing himself?
Yeah, a horrifying parallel universe version.
You are touring with the movie, how has the road been so far?
The road has been awesome. We've been on the road for half the tour, 11 out of 22 cities. I'm in Detroit right now, my home town, and we had some good screenings. And we're on to Chicago later this week, and beyond until mid-December. So it's been good. This movie is for the fans, not for the critics, Thank God! And they're responding how I would have hoped.
Your roles always seem to have an element of fun. Is this because these are the kinds of roles written for you, the kinds of roles you take? Is it your performance? Even in your most dramatic moments there always seems to be a wink. It seems like you're almost always aware of the fans and what they want.
It's been hard for me to take this stuff too seriously. We have a job to distract the masses from their daily misery and that's really it. We're the little monkey up on the hill entertain the masses. I enjoy what I do, I don't want to work in a cubicle, I don't want to wear a tie to work everyday. To me that's a victory.
I should note that I am in a cubicle wearing a tie right now.
Right, well, you're probably very happy. It's never been my bag.
My dad got me started. My dad wanted to be a painter. His father, my grandfather, was like, "What are you, nuts? Go get a real job!" So my dad got into community theater as a diversion. When I saw him, I was like, "What is he up to? What is my dad doing? This is not like my dad." I saw a different side of him, a much more playful side, and it dawned on me that if you had that job you wouldn't have to end your childhood.
Because I had a really good childhood, I enjoyed being a teenager and running around suburban Detroit doing crazy things, and I didn't want that sense of fun to end, so I found that through the arts that that gave me more of a continued outlet. This is the kind of cheesy humor that I like. It isn't always going to ring true to everybody, but it was what I always wanted to do!
You have an sang "Hungry Like The Wolf" in a commercial. Where do you turn to for entertainment?
I just read a good Cary Grant book. I like a lot of the classic actors and I wanted to kind of see what they used to go through, what their working day was like, what their off hours were like.
I'm into more reality than fiction when I'm not working, only because fiction is my day job. So I tend to seek out things that are real, anywhere from news-based stuff to documentaries. I'm more of a news junkie when I'm not working.
I assume since you work closely with Dark Horse, you obviously signed off on a lot of the Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness books.
Anything that Dark Horse does, I'm involved in, and anything that Dynamite does, we're not. We don't control Ash versus all these other creatures.
So it wasn't up to you to fight the Marvel Zombies?
No, I had zero to do with that. Almost nothing to say since we don't participate.
Do you appreciate that the character of Ash now has a life of its own?
I'm split, because it is great for the perpetuation, but I don't know that it would be Sam's first idea, or my first idea to have him just fighting whoever willy-nilly. Because the more you do that, the more you exploit that character, the more bland and washed out it becomes. It's not written by the original writers. You start getting removed from the original beast, and I'm always going to stand up for anything that is less derivative.
In that regard My Name Is Bruce is the genuine article since it's done by you and your friends at Dark Horse?
It's handmade! Again, I'll take the blame. If this movie blows, I'll take the blame. It's as handmade as you're going to get.
I shot it on my property, I built that western town on my property. It's the most Little Rascals I could get. And so it shows that this is my sensibility, and this is the Mike Richardson sensibility and the Mark Verheiden sensibility. Together, the three of us actually had no qualms about making this movie whatsoever. [Laughs] None.
I'm a huge Three Stooges fan, and I can never apologize or back away from it. Those are my influences, so I'm always going to go broader and more vaudeville, because to me with entertainment, there's nothing real about it. You can have the most serious scene on the planet, but the actors aren't making up most of that dialog, so there is nothing real about it.
Can we expect to see the fake Bruce Campbell again? Will there be a My Name is Bruce 2? My Name is Still Bruce?
It all depends. It would be silly to plan on it now.
If there is a demand for it, we'd be happy to supply the further adventures of this hapless hero as he fumbles through.We have an ugly American version of that where Bruce goes to a European convention, and it just goes horribly wrong. We're actually toying with the idea of getting other real characters. Getting Robert Englund [Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street] and Kane Hodder [Jason Voorhees of Friday The 13th], who would also be at this convention playing themselves, and get them in a caper as a parallel universe version of themselves. You can get really twisted here, you can go nuts. But if there's no demand for it, we'll all move on to other stuff.
Speaking as a fan, and I'm sure fans of Freddy and Jason and any other horror icon would agree, it would be great to see them get the same treatment.
Well, I would love to see the three guys at some pub in Europe getting in an argument over why Bruce didn't want to be in a Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash film, and get in a fight, and then a fan sees it: "Hey! It's Ash vs. Jason vs. Freddy!" So many opportunities for gags we can do. I don't know, I don't intend to make every movie about myself.
We're really looking forward to having you at Sundance in Madison.
Madison is a great town, and you guys love to laugh so I'm looking forward to it too.
Think we missed a critical question? Bruce Campbell will be holding question and answer sessions immediately following My Name Is Bruce at Sundance, so you can ask the legend in person. Want a taste of the movie? Watch the trailer.
My Name is Bruce is screening four times on Wednesday, December 3. The 7:00 p.m. show is sold out, but tickets remain for screenings at 7:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. Fans are also planning on gathering at the second-floor Bar Bistro 608 for a happy-hour celebration of all that is Bruce.