When you mention the name Bruce Campbell, the first thing that readily springs to most people’s minds is the boomstick toting, chainsaw-wielding final guy of the Evil Dead franchise, Ash Williams. However, for some of his fans, he will be forever linked with the Harvard educated, resourceful bounty hunter, Brisco County, Jr. Then, of course, there will be those devotees of Burn Notice that will be quick to let you know that Sam Axe, the ex-Navy Seal with a love of Mojitos and Tommy Bahama shirts is their guy because we all know, “Chuck Finley is forever.” For those of you that have never had the pleasure of watching the inventive spy show, Chuck was Sam’s alias that he would use as a cover on certain operations. The mere fact that Bruce Campbell is a part of three vastly different fandoms says quite a bit about his ability as an actor as well as his likeability quotient.
A headliner on the convention circuit for years, the minute he is announced as a guest, tickets go flying out the door and venues sell out. Campbell understands what the people want and he is more than willing to give it to them which is why most promoters clamor to book him. His Q & A sessions are legendary and audiences love the way he sarcastically banters with them. In addition to being an accomplished actor, director and producer, Bruce is also a New York Times bestselling author with four books under his belt. If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way and his soon to be released, The Cool Side of My Pillow.
His latest book is a collection of essays or as he would say, “rants.” This venture is unlike any of the previous mentioned titles and perhaps his most personal effort to date. In a sense, you get to take a trip inside Campbell’s mind. He expresses his feelings and opinions on a variety of topics from current events and social media to his code of ethics. I was fortunate enough to chat with Bruce about The Cool Side of My Pillow, and his future projects. After reading his book, you come away with the knowledge of how genuine and thoughtful he is which is refreshing in this day and age.
Bruce Gets Real
Diabolique: What I like so much about The Cool Side of My Pillow is your honesty. Your writing style makes the reader feel as if they are having an intimate conversation with you. You don’t hold anything back. There are certain aspects in the book which made me feel a tad uncomfortable because you shared some information that was deeply personal, in my mind. I don’t know if I would have included some of the things that you did.
BC: Oh, sure. You always have to decide where you stop. Where is the line? For me, it depends on the type of book. It depends on the type of subject matter. Every project is different.
Diabolique: Were some of the subjects you tackled cathartic for you?
BC: I don’t normally do that sort of stuff. I’m happy to share if I feel something is useful. In the chapter, “What Are You On?” I’m not ragging on people who have habits. I have habits that was the point. There are very few people that just go through their daily life without jacking themselves up, knocking themselves down, knocking themselves out, you know? So, its kind of amazing. The human condition fascinates me.
Diabolique: “A Little Effort Goes a Long Way” is one of my favorite segments. A tale of hard work, ingenuity and perseverance. Which is key to succeeding in the entertainment industry. Where does your drive come from? Some people can pinpoint it to relatives, a mentor…
BC: I do attribute some of it to the Detroit metro area. A lot of my buddies worked on the line, they worked in the factories, it was a great summer job that paid really good money. In Detroit, it was weird. There weren’t a lot of discussions about hopes and dreams. But I could see things happen incrementally that encouraged us. My grandfather worked for ALCOA Aluminum for over 40 years. Would he want to do that job? Was it his favorite job? He wouldn’t even know; it was his only job. He had that job for his whole adult life. My dad wanted to be a painter. I call him a “go betweener” because he didn’t do exactly what he wanted to do but he didn’t do what he didn’t want to do. He got into advertising because it was sort of creative but it wasn’t creative enough so he got into community theater which was more creative. That filled a very strong niche for him and so he kind of straddled the line and then I came along. He allowed me to pretty much do whatever the hell I wanted to do in whatever industry I wanted. He was the first investor in Evil Dead. So, I benefitted from the transition of ONLY having drive. Meaning, you just go to work, it doesn’t matter what the job is. The next generation is, “Well, the job kinda matters.” My generation is, “The job matters a hundred percent,” because it determines what you’ve decided to do with your life. So, I am grateful for having enough drive but grateful for being injected with enough freedom of thought to then do my own thing. Partly the drive is the Midwest because you put a tie on, put your sport coat on and you go to work. Get your briefcase, shine your shoes and off you go.
Diabolique: Do you think it is important if you want to be in the arts to have a benefactor? Not necessarily monetarily but someone who encourages you like your dad?
BC: Well, my mom did sort of amateur writing so she was sympathetic at least to that side of the arts. She liked that creative side. My dad was way more interested in acting. So, I saw him in plays and stuff. I definitely benefitted because I had a sensibility that was similar to my dad. My two older brothers could give a shit about acting. They never touched it. I think my dad saw, “Hey, the young guy likes acting just like me.” That was probably an advantage.
Diabolique: Another thing about that particular section that is fascinating to note is your resourcefulness. The anecdote that you recount about having to come up with a way to deliver newspapers in a horrendous snowstorm and the lengths that you went to just to do your job is inspiring. I feel like that isn’t something that would be done by the younger generation, these days.
BC: We were pre-slackers and again, this isn’t to sound like a crabby, old guy on a hill shouting down about the great old days, at that time there were no other options. Our boss dropped off these papers at the top of a hill. That was as far as his van could go. He dumped the whole thing on me and my brother. We delivered them together (the resolution involved Bruce donning hockey skates and a toboggan). So, we thought okay. There was no option of saying, “Dude, I can’t do it. They’re just not going to get their papers today.” That would be the current response. You would wait until the roads were plowed, like that night, and then you would get your damn paper the next day and you’d end up getting two papers. It wasn’t an option. There was nothing in my upbringing that said, you can tell your boss, no. Now, if I thought it would have been very dangerous or life threatening, I probably would have said, no but short of that, there was a slightly different mentality in the air. You did what you were fucking told, for the most part which is a little bit different now.
Diabolique: “The Princess Di Factor” was a thought-provoking chapter because you talk about the click-baiting, disinformation and too much information that occurs on social media. Some of your peers have their PR reps handle their feeds but you are very present in yours. Do you think someone who is interested in getting into show business has to obtain “influencer” status?
BC: I think there is certainly pressure to do it. The old actors when they were doing a film could get away with telling the local studio, “By the way, I don’t do social media.” They say, “I’ve never done it. I don’t have a Twitter feed. I’m not starting now.” They can get away with it. But a younger thespian has a website and at least two or three social media platforms. I think its important to get a distinction of what are using them for? Facebook is all mercenary. Whenever I post, its just for a link to get tickets. I just do that to keep the account warm but I won’t add to it. That one is really inflammatory. They are finally starting to take the misinformation down. It should just be illegal. The stats are mind boggling. Something like 65% of the people who refuse to do social distancing and stuff like that get their information from YouTube. Its not news sources. Its like the Wild West. I think it needs to be settled. I would introduce journalistic standards and practices where by if you tell a little white lie, you get yanked and if you get fact checked and the facts say you’re wrong, that gets yanked.
The Brave New World
Diabolique: At the beginning of your book, you discuss the toll of COVID-19 isolation and changes to the convention and motion picture industries. After presenting the Ashland Independent Film Festival awards virtually, do you think conventions might go that route in the future? San Diego Comic Con has gone entirely online which is surprising. Galaxy Con is another.
BC: If we don’t straighten this out, yeah. Sports are going to be weird for a while. Large venues are just going to be strange. How are you going to figure out the San Diego Comic Con? How are they going to make people feel comfortable jamming 125,000 people over a four-day period into that convention center which is already elbow to elbow and unhealthy? I don’t know. I’ve talked to promoters about a bunch of different things. I’m doing a Drive-In tour. Also, some theaters have opened up again so I am going to encourage and reward that so I have added five theater dates for later this summer: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. I’m getting back out on the road. This is not a tour year at all but when I heard that drive-ins were making a comeback, I thought let me be part of that. Some of them are struggling to open and I want to help. I’m tired of being on the sidelines. I want to get back into it. Drive-ins are perfect. You’ve got your distance. I can go up to cars and hassle them and there’s no problem. I can shine my flashlight in the cars, see if people are having sex, there’s a lot of fun stuff we can do. I want to be the first guy they meet when they come into the place to park. I want to be the guy that parks everybody. It’s time. Everyone wants to feel normal again. Eat the meatloaf sandwich. Going to the drive-in is the oldest meatloaf sandwich you could ever eat. Bring the hooch. Hide it under the seat. Bring a cooler, bring your reefer…
The Rise of Tartan Media and New Horizons
Diabolique: In The Cool Side of My Pillow, you mentioned that you were going to attend San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con and the 2020 Electronics Expo which were all canceled due to the pandemic. Were you going to promote the Evil Dead game?
BC: That’s what I was going to do. That’s what I was going to those conventions for.
Diabolique: What’s the status on it?
BC: I have been looking at and approving a bunch of new stuff. They are full-fledged, full bore into it. I think they are talking 2021 for an actual release. Its rolling along, looking great. It got delayed because of the nightmare of video games. Platforms change and evolve. You look at somebody else’s games and go, “Shit! We have to change everything now.” We have to stay current. I have to finish doing the voice work.
Diabolique: I know you are aware of all the rumors surrounding potential work in the future. You even mentioned in your book that you had a few offers. Is there a possibility that you might show up in Doctor Strange 2 and Mall Rats 2?
BC: The Kevin Smith thing could happen if it all winds up together but we haven’t had serious conversations about it. For Dr. Strange, everyone is at the mercy of what Marvel is going to do and this backlog of movies they’re going to do now. So, I think it won’t be until 2021. Marvel has to figure this all out. They have to figure out what movies they are going to do next, what movies they are going to delay, what movies they are going to shit can, what movies they are going to advance and speed up…the marketplace is ever fluid.
Diabolique: Do you have a release date in mind for The Cool Side of My Pillow?
BC: I have to say summer. We’re blasting away. We’re finishing graphics and photos and all that. We’re doing some legal crap. I’m starting a publishing company too. Tartan Media is going to release it. It will be my Campbell clan logo. It will be just to put things out. Movies, TV shows, whatever. That’s the new shingle.
Diabolique: Is there anything else on the horizon?
BC: Because the book isn’t going through Simon & Schuster, they’ll kind of have to find it where they find it. I’ll tweet about it. It will hopefully be available later this summer through Audible. I am going to do the audio book myself within the next two weeks because I want the e-book and the audiobook to come out at the same time. That way it gives you a choice. I want this to be a summer read.
Diabolique: Any updates on Bruce vs Frankenstein?
BC: With Bruce vs Frankenstein, I talked with Mike Richardson, who is my partner on this and we’re going to start with a graphic novel. So, I am going to adapt the screenplay. We’re going to put that out first so people in the industry can get a better sense of it. Mike has been selling a lot of projects to Netflix and he said that’s kind of the way to go with his material and fantasy stuff so he suggested we do that first. We’ll get a great artist, sell it in comic book form, people can totally see it and as a director, its kind of like doing storyboards. It’s a tremendous amount of extra prep that I can do just by going through it because I actually have to think about pages, panels and descriptions. It’s a format that’s not my normal format. Screenplay format, I can fart, I got that down. This is different with the way it looks on the page so it will be a very interesting translation process.
Diabolique: Are you doing any projects outside of Tartan Media?
BC: There’s this movie, 18 ½. It’s directed by Dan Mirvish. He’s with Slamdance. The story is about the missing minutes of the Nixon tapes and what happened to those minutes. Originally, I got hired to play a character in the movie and I couldn’t do it for a number of reasons and then the guy came back and asked if I would play Nixon.
Diabolique: So, the audience will just hear you?
BC: Yes. Apparently, it’s this 18-minute-long fight scene where you will hear Nixon in the background. Ted Raimi comes into play Alexander Haig and Jon Cryer is playing Haldeman. We did all these sessions over Zoom and we each recorded them separately (saying this in Nixon’s voice) having our conversations. They will put it all together and put it in the background.
Diabolique: Anything new to report on Evil Dead?
BC: The official name is Evil Dead Rise. We’re getting a new draft in. I don’t think anything will happen until 2021. Full bore ahead, we’re very excited about it. A whole, new ballgame. No more cabin in the woods.