If you’ve seen the Evil Dead remake, or read Scott Weinberg’s review, you know that it turned out great. Many skeptics, including myself, had their collective minds blown at SXSW during it’s world premiere in Austin, Tx. To the delight of many, we sat in that audience with the legendary Bruce Campbell. I got the chance to sit down with him and discuss the rebirth of this classic franchise, the kind of planning it took, when he felt the original movie was truly a success, and even learned why a Deadite just might want to get an Evil Dead tattoo.
When you started Evil Dead in the '80s, did you have any idea then that it would attain the kind of cult status it has now?
How could we? The answer is no. No, it just grew over a very long period. It took four years to make, took about six years to break even. So this was a very long road.
What were your initial ambitions for the original?
To just get it made. When I saw it in my local theater, where I watched movies as a kid, The Poseidon Adventure and all these other movies. When I saw a Saturday matinee, watching The Evil Dead in the theater where I grew up, that was the success right there. Everything else was gravy because I got it, a movie that I starred in was in my local theater. That’s all I needed to see. That was enough success for me right there.
Fede mentioned you were very involved throughout the entire process including casting. What sort of things were you looking for in actors auditioning and what were some of the ways the cast impressed you early on?
They just stood out, they were different, they were better, they were appropriate, they brought energy to it. Fede worked well with them. You know, you check and see how your director responds to an actor, so I’d look at him as much as I’d look at the actor. Like, is he bored by them? Is he intrigued by them? What does he say to them? Does he want to keep working with them after? Because you know, an actor comes in and reads your scenes, sometimes you just kick them out because you only get one shot at it and then you’re “Thanks, see ya”. Does Fede stop and go “Hey, let’s try this a different way. I like what you did, but try it this way now.” So, it was good to see him work with the actors too. Then we started pairing the actors that we liked and see how they worked together, so it was a long process. Fede made these people read. Some of the actors that we met were in a position where they could say “Fuck you I’m not auditioning, give me the role or don’t.” Fede refused to do that so he made things longer and more difficult but it got a better cast. I think this cast, they’re a good five people together, they work well together. And you want those things to age well, you don’t want a clunky grouping of your cast members.
So it sounds like the reigns were pretty loose on Fede.
To the best of our ability. Sam Raimi wanted to be sure that Rob [Tapert, producer] and I did not torment him and let him do his thing, and we did. We held the reigns on the money because that’s what you have to do as a producer. We’re not gonna let that go. That was the one thing that ever went like “No, here’s our budget. You ain’t going over.”
It seemed like a remake or a sequel was discussed for years. What finally happened to make the remake a go?
It didn’t take that long to decide whether to do it or not because there was no thought process until Fede came along. We talked about a sequel more than a remake. When Fede came along, it gave an opportunity to make a new Evil Dead movie that was not a sequel. It was going to be without Ash because Sam wanted the ability at some point in the future, do another one, which we still might. So he wanted it to be different and distinct so that’s why there’s no Ash, and that’s why I’m not in it as a cameo. Why take a crappy part? I want the part of Ash. You’re going to give me a part in an Evil Dead movie, give me the lead part.
Did any of the cast bring elements or characteristics that would remind us of Ash?
No, I told them all in an email, “Do not imitate any of the actors in the original movie. Make it your own.” We told Fede, “Don’t imitate Sam’s shots or Sam’s style.” He didn’t shoot it like Sam shot it, he shot it in his own unique style which is pretty cool. He did a good job. It’s like dogs, wives, children, and directors, you’ve gotta let them run.
The sequel was sort of unofficially announced to at least be in the works last night. Was the intention always to spawn a new franchise?
We’re tap dancing as fast as we can. This is all new to us. None of this was thought out. Which, hopefully will lead us to be spontaneous and not formulaic. So the next one, Fede is hoping to make it very different. That’s how you get people like Jane [Levy] interested. You know actors are volatile creatures, you’ve gotta keep them interested because they get bored easy. If we wanted her to do the same old shit over again she probably wouldn’t be that interested in doing it. Give her something new to do, she might be there.
With so many practical elements, including stunts, was there anything the cast didn’t feel safe doing?
Oh no no, we don’t fuck with safety. Those days are gone. On Evil Dead I was shooting live shotgun rounds, blowing out windows of the cabin with live ammo. Those days are long gone. As far as what the cast went through, I think it just wore on all of them. It wore them all out. I warned them though, I told them what was coming.
I’ve never been to a Q&A with you, and at the premiere I see that your fans can get very lively...
And that was pretty subtle actually. Some of them get crazy.
What have been some of the weirdest interactions you've had with fans?
Just good ones, they’re mostly very boisterous. I love playing a game where I’ll turn my back and they can shout out the name of the movie that they want their money back for. Like what movie did I make that they thought sucked that they wanted their money back for? They’d shout the name out and I’d turn around and debate it whether I agreed with them or whether they’re full of shit. We have lots of fun interactions. I’ll do impromptu Evil Dead tattoo contests. Who’s got the best Evil Dead tattoo? Usually out of a crowd, four or five people will put their hands up, and I’ll bring them up so they can show and I’ll give them like $5 for the best tattoo.
You've directed a couple of different features and documentaries, are there any plans to continue that?
Well I’ve got my last season of Burn Notice coming up, season seven of that spy show. And then I’m a free bird in July. No strings on me. I’ll be looking for the next gig. I can’t wait, because I’ve had my life determined for the last six years. It’ll be nice to not have a pre-determined year ahead of you. I like that.
What's been your favorite cameo?
I’m not dead yet. I leave that for the pundits. I just like working with various people doing fun little bits. To me, they’re all good. As long as the check clears.