BRUCE CAMPBELL: DEFENDER OF B-MOVIES

One production he is involved with, that he is happy to discuss, is the upcoming production from the Coen Brothers called “Intolerable Cruelty,” starring George Clooney and Billy Bob Thornton. “The last Coen Brothers movie I was in was ‘Fargo,’ where I was a bad actor in a bad soap opera. It was a real soap opera that I was actually on in Michigan (that) they dug up. So in this new one I’m in another soap opera! Billy Bob Thornton and I are playing doctors arguing about a patient’s care. It is a pivotal point – I can’t give the plot away, but certain characters recognize other characters in the scene and change the course of events for the movie. So it’s a scene you have to pay attention to!”

Campbell and the Coens go way back, of course. Ethan Coen worked as an assistant editor on The Evil Dead. Raimi directed a script he’d co-written with the brothers that was eventually made as “Crimewave,” and both Raimi and Campbell were involved heavily in their Capra-esque “The Hudsucker Proxy.” And while the brothers continue to grow in mainstream stature, they continue to maintain their “Outsider Cinema” ethics towards story and character. “’Intolerable Cruelty’ is probably as close to a Hollywood movie as they’ll ever get because it stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones,” Campbell says. “So it’s a very mainstream casting, but it will still have their ridiculous sensibilities. But I don’t think they’ll ever make a Hollywood movie. They probably laugh their asses off that they’re directing two big movie stars. You know, ‘Won’t this be fun?’ Obviously, Clooney liked them because he’s worked with them before (in O Brother, Where Art Thou?), so they were probably fine with George. By all accounts, that shoot was tremendously smooth. A buddy of mine, John Cameron, is producing their movies now. The Coen Brothers – the cool thing about them is that they’re so particular, it’s not like they’ll go, ‘Oh and where is Bruce’s part?’ You know what I mean? They get very focused on what they’re doing, that they will pick the actors that they think will be perfect at that time. There are some revolving actors, the Buscemis and the Goodmans and stuff. But I find them to be very particular. They’re so mellow and so laid back. Their stuff is so planned out, that they don’t do anything that gets them in trouble. They have that creative world that makes you feel like they’re winging it, but they’re not. They’re good filmmakers to work with.”

Coming up, Campbell will get the chance to step behind the camera to direct a pair of features for The Sci-Fi Channel, including the long-awaited “Man With the Screaming Brain.” “I’ve directed television. So I’m looking forward to doing a feature because it’s easier to slow down. TV is the best B-movie training ever. TV moves even faster than B-movies and I totally respect that. I’d like to bring the discipline of directing TV to features. That’s why Clint Eastwood is done at five every day. He comes from TV! He’s like, ‘Let’s go, we’re shooting. One take, bye!’”

And there are other things, of course. The key to Campbell’s success is that he likes to keep working. Once his next book his finished, he’s hitting the screen once again. His most recent project, however, is one that will likely surprise his fans. “I’m finishing up a documentary now, a land-use documentary. Out in the West there’s a lot of publicly owned land, and it’s a big important thing about what the hell are you supposed to do with it? My wife and I are finishing it up now. My view is 1980’s Ronald Reagan clear-cut, and I thought, that’s kind of weird, what’s happening with all this land? So we interviewed everybody, the timber industry, the environmental groups, local residents – and we just got their ideas of what they think is good land stewardship. Not trying to skew anybody’s view, you know? So, I don’t know. It’s sort of a hobby, working on these side documentaries. I’m narrowing 40 hours down to two hours, so it will be a full-length documentary. Then I will do whatever any poor schmuck will do with their film or documentary, just see who would want it. Otherwise, I would just use it for educational purposes. That’s the difference between the actor and the person. There’s plenty of stuff that I’m interested in that has nothing to do with Ash. You know? I don’t grease my chainsaw every day.”

But to most people, Campbell will always be the hapless braggart anti-hero of the Evil Dead trilogy, Ash. After what is fast-approaching twenty-five years and dozens of roles in movies and television shows, people will still come up to Campbell at conventions and ask him to say “Workshed” or “Gimme some sugar, baby!” But Campbell accepts this as he does all other things: with good grace and a sense of humor.

“I don’t care one way or another. I think Ash is kind of an amusing character. I don’t really care about putting him to bed. All roads lead back to Evil Dead. I have no problems with not denying that source. It’s been a good place to have come from.”

Visit Bruce at his official website.




Posted on August 4, 2003 in Interviews by
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