With a jut-jawed profile, gregarious persona, and filmography steeped in genre fare, Bruce Campbell has for years been a favorite of the convention set, treated like royalty and greeted with his trademark lines upon his arrival. So it makes a certain amount of cosmic sense that in Campbell's new movie, the horror-comedy My Name Is Bruce, he plays … himself. Mistaken for his character, Ash, from the Evil Dead films, Campbell finds himself drafted into doing battle with a real monster. Vulture caught up with him via phone to talk about his new film and his recent "Centrum Silver moment."
When I first heard about this film, it seemed like an "of course" moment — that, given the nature of your celebrity and the fervent regard in which you're held by so many fans, you deserved your own Being John Malkovich–type project. How were you first approached with the idea?
Mike Richardson, a very tall man, owns Darkhorse Comics. And he had worked with Mark Verheiden, the film's writer, on The Mask and Timecop — they were old pals from Portland. And so I knew Mark, we enjoyed each other. I'd directed a film a couple years ago and wanted to do another one, and they pitched me the idea, which was kind of based on a comic-book idea from the forties where Alan Ladd is kidnapped to help fight pirates. So, Mark adapted the idea, saying, “What if we put an idiot like Bruce Campbell in this scenario and see what happens?” They pitched it to me and I said, “Where do I sign? I've gotta jump all over this.”
In addition to starring, this is the second narrative feature you've directed. What was the shoot like?
It was pretty quick and professional. I have a motto: “We're not making friends, we're making movies,” because I find it to be a very concentrated period of time. We had about eighteen days to shoot it, but we wound up shooting a few more later. So we shot for 23 days on my property in western Oregon. But we're shooting six pages a day, so there's no crapping around, no head-scratching going on. I try and prepare as much as I possibly can because I don't want 60 people looking at me, waiting for something to do.
Is there a good bit of action in the film?
I'd say that there's a reasonable amount. This is a comedy, so I didn't feel compelled to try to do anything other than get people to be entertained. So there are bloody decapitations, there is carnage and mayhem, but I wouldn't jump out there and say it's a scary horror movie. This is like a Bob Hope movie with decapitations.
Where would you say you learned most of your directorial tricks?
Over the years you look at how you like how this guy got performances out of actors, or how this approach didn't work. It's a way to present good communication with the cast and crew, and hopefully a reasonable working environment. When I direct, we only work twelve hours a day, because I won't work longer than that. You hear all this crap about all these hot-shit independent filmmakers who are shooting eighteen hours a day? They're morons. If you're shooting eighteen hours a day, you either don't know what you're doing or you're being abusive to your crew and cast, and you will not get the best work out of them.
You turned 50 this year, so how is the milestone treating you?
Two days after I turned 50 I pulled my hamstring fighting a stuntman. It was perfect, like my expiration date just went. It was totally a Centrum Silver moment, where you go, “Wow, I guess I can't do that crap anymore.” So I went through six weeks of extensive physical therapy, because I'd never really hurt myself doing anything. But it's good — I'm a lot wiser than I was at 30.
The Evil Dead films in particular have inspired a lot of devotion. What's the weirdest fan encounter you've had?
They're not bad. You just get people that are really into stuff, because people don't go to conventions if they're only casually interested in something. One time a guy throws an 8x10 in front of me, and it's the poster of Army of Darkness. But something was off, so I said, “Why does this look weird?” And he says, “Well, it's because it's on my back.” It was a picture of his back. I go, “You're shittin' me.” But he turns around and takes his shirt off, and sure enough, there it was. I was like, damn. I mean, I don't think Tom Cruise is getting that kind of love.