TF: It looks like it was a lot of fun to make, what was the most…
Bruce: No, no. I should dispel that immediately. Nothing about any of the Evil Dead movies was easy to make, or fun to make.
These are incredibly difficult, physically challenging movies.
But the thing that got me through it was the creative aspect of it, working with Sam and the day-to-day joy we would get working together.
The first Evil Dead was a 12-week shoot. I mean, low budget movies don’t shoot for 12 weeks they shoot for three weeks, and so everything about these movies is extraordinary.
TF: There were several versions of the script before Sam and Scott’s draft, including one that didn’t take place in the cabin. Can you tell us a little bit about the plot of that version of Evil Dead 2 ?
Bruce: It didn’t last long so I don’t remember much of it.
Scott and Sam were working down the hallway in our office and all I remember is hearing them cackling with laughter.
Their favourite part of the movie to write was also my favourite part - Ash alone in the cabin.
And the funny thing is I remember Dino De Laurentiis being very nervous that there would be one actor on screen alone for twenty minutes.
He didn’t like that idea. And for me that was the best part of the movie.
TF: How did you feel when you read that finished version of the script?
Bruce: Well, as a producer, you know Rob Tapert and I and Sam were all very closely connected.
So they were feeding us pages, because we had to put them into a computer and do the first word processing script that we’d ever done.
So we saw every page as it came in, so there was no big surprise.
Robert and I would always look at each other about the budget we would read what they wrote and be like 'yeah, really? Ok guys, yeah sure.'
Budget-wise we thought they were over-reaching but we liked the fact that they were writing really creative stuff, it was fun to see what they would come up with.
TF: Obviously you were the producer as well as the lead, were you involved in the casting and the audition process at all?
Bruce: Everything. You know, as a producer, you are as involved as you want to be because no-one can tell you ‘You can’t come in this room.’ So you get to go wherever.
I just recently I sat in on casting for the Evil Dead remake, and it was very important to me.
So yeah, casting is important. That’s a key element of your movie.
TF: What do you remember about the audition process of Evil Dead II ?
Bruce: You’ve gotta make sure people can scream.
You know, at the end of the day, sure, go ahead and audition but let me hear you scream.
TF: You must have sore ears at the end of the day.
Bruce: Most people can’t scream that well. Yeah, it’s very rare to get a really good screamer.
First day on set
TF: What was the first day on set like for you?
Bruce: My friend, that movie is almost 30 years ago, I have no idea. I have no idea what the first day of filming was.
All I remember is that was one of the most organised shoots that we’ve ever had, because the first Evil Dead was a disaster of a production.
It went way too long - it took us four years to make. Our second movie was Crimewave - it was our first studio movie, it went over budget... there were all kinds of disasters.
And basically on this one, we were determined to be organised and efficient, and plan it, and it was one of the best shoots that we’ve ever had.
We did not go over budget, we had the proper amount of preparation time. It just, for some reason, that one just worked out.
TF: There were problems along the way, you had some difficulties with your crew. Is that correct?
Bruce: Yeah, we fired, after the first two weeks of shooting, we fired the camera department, the grip department and the electric department, all in one day.
They were questioning the way we were filming this movie and it’s like, my good friend, it’s not your job to question what we’re doing.
You know, your job is to pick up that camera and move it over there. And so, Sam Raimi is very definitive like that, if you question what he is doing and you’re impeding the process, which they were, they were all really.
And of course they went absolutely dead pale because they were so immediate and they said well, but we’ve just bought all this new equipment for this movie.
We went, ‘keep the equipment, we have no problem with the equipment just keep it! Come back in 12 weeks and pick it up!’
We were serious. ‘We’ll keep your stuff, we have no issue with that.’ Sam Raimi can be really tough like that.
TF: And what was the toughest day on Evil Dead II would you say?
Bruce: Again, you’re asking me which day was worse, the day I injured myself or the day that I worked 17 hours or the day, you know.
There was no worse day or better day.
Every day was the longest day of my life (laughs).
But, we filmed in North Carolina in the summer, which was extremely hot, and the blood that I had on my face and my body was still a sugar based syrup, so I had flies all over me for the entire time. I would take naps with the fly swatters because there were flies everywhere. I was basically rotting.
TF: That one shot where you go spinning through the trees before dropping down into the puddle sounds and looks really tough.
Bruce: (Laughs) Yeah it was ridiculous. I defy any actor to do that shot.
Being latched to a frame, held up in the air, spun around at 360 degrees while people were smashing you with branches the entire time was the most bizarre exercise and torment that I’ve ever experienced.
TF: How did you feel the first time you watched the film with an audience?
Bruce: Great, great. We did it with a test audience in Burbank, California.
It had temporary music and temporary sound effects and everything, it was just a roughly put together thing but they clapped at two or three points and we looked at each other and we were like, okay they’re clapping and cheering at these points – we’re good to go! And the response was just what we’d hoped for.
That movie is a success story, more so almost than the others because the first Evil Dead had production problems and took a long time to get out, it opened overseas first.
And then Army Of Darkness was re-edited by the studios and that had budget problems, too.
Part II will always hold a special place in my heart because it was a difficult shoot but there were no problems.
We had very little studio involvement, we didn’t go over budget, the movie was in profit before we started shooting.
Rob Tapert came onto set and announced that, because of the success of the first Evil Dead , we were able to pre-sell enough to different territories around the world to actually bring in more than the budget that we were filming with.
So, he announced that we were already in profit before we started shooting.
So everything about that was ideal, the audience response was very good, whereas Army Of Darkness we had test screenings and their response was not that great and this and that, so Evil Dead II is probably my favourite out of the three.
Army Of Darkness 2 / Evil Dead 4
TF: You’ve talked about producing a sequel to the remake and possibly a sequel to Army Of Darkness and maybe even a crossover movie, where are you with those projects at the moment?
Bruce: Well the crossover movie is just fan-boy bullshit, there is no reality to that.
That’s never been a real conversation.
We will let the box office and the public demand determine whether we do another one of these.
TF: Well it’s doing pretty well so far…
Bruce: It’s done very well. And it’s opening in the UK very soon. That’s where it began, that’s where Evil Dead got its life so it’s sort of like coming back to the womb!
So really, the market will drive what we do.
TF: In terms of the Army Of Darkness sequel, is that a market thing or is that more just something you guys want to do?
Bruce: It’s a little more than fan-boy bullshit, but not much more.
Sam Raimi threatens to write that with his brother this summer and you know, he threatens that every three months.
But you know, he wants to keep that dream alive just like we do, we want to be able to do another one of these.
I think we’re getting to the point where we might take it more seriously.
TF: When I interviewed Sam Raimi for Oz a few weeks ago, I asked him what it is that makes the Evil Dead films so special and he said Bruce Campbell.
I was wondering what you think makes these films so special.
Bruce: (Laughs) Sam Raimi. And I really believe that. From the very beginning, Sam just was different. His skills were accelerated, his learning curve was huge from movie to movie.
I worked with him most in his formative years. And he just soared from one movie to the next and you’re like ‘Jeez where did you learn that trick?’ and the next movie you go ‘Wow, what are you up to?’
And he was always a step ahead you know, he’s the mad genius and he’s a special character too, he’s a special guy so I enjoy working with him.
TF: What was it like working with so many special effects like the make-up and creatures?
Bruce: It’s a certain way of acting and filmmaking and it’s so artificial and everything’s so stylised that you become part of a different type of world and then you go to work on other movies and they’re so different how they make them and the approach, the working atmosphere, everything is different!
All acting is make-believe, even in theatre where it's live in front of you, but this is a case where it's the most make-believe - 'there’s a monster in front of you, now you take the chainsaw that’s on your arm and you swing it around...' you don’t really get that in your average movie.
It’s a world of hyper make-believe, so it’s okay because the funny thing is then you go back and work on a normal drama and they seem easy.
You know, these movies are the most difficult I could ever imagine doing, technically, physically and, you know, in every way.
Horror movies may not get much regard, but I have a reverse arrogance that if you can do a horror movie, you can do anything.
TF: I know it was a really tough shoot but do you have a particular happy memory - even 5 minutes of joy?
Bruce: (Laughs) Yeah, we played softball every Sunday.
The cast and crew would show up and we would have a one o’clock in the afternoon game and it was fun because it gave us an outlet and everybody’s the great equaliser and you know, Sam Raimi comes up to bat, they want to strike him out, they want to get him out because that’s just the way it worked.
That was a lot of fun, it was a good stress release just playing softball. Then we found a place nobody used on a Sunday and had the place to ourselves.
TF: Who was the best player?
Bruce: I was, of course. I published a newsletter that came out the next day with early word processing.
I created a newspaper that was very scandalous counting my efforts and belittling Sam’s efforts and it was a scandalous rag sheet that came out every Monday.
TF: What’s it like when you meet fans of Evil Dead ? Is it a generally fun experience or an intense experience? What is that interaction like?
Bruce: It’s intense for the fans, not for me.
I have done convention appearances since 1988, so this is a very normal occurance for me.
The fans are generally so shy and reserved that they will not actually say anything.
80 per cent of the people who come up to my table after waiting two hours in line will not say a word until I have to drag it out of them.
I’m like ‘Hey what’s up?’ ‘Oh, hi.’ Where do you work? ‘I don’t know.’ What do you do? ‘Not much.’
I mean, it’s really difficult sometimes because I think sometimes they’re just not sure what they should say and if they would just relax, and just have a conversation [they’d have fun].
You know, but they’ve got all that time to think up something. If I was going to see my favourite actor, I would know exactly what I was going to say to him, I mean, I’m an actor so I do like an actor.
TF: who is your favourite actor and what would you say?
Bruce: William Holden is my favourite actor. I just think he did great work and I really enjoyed his persona and the quality of his acting was really good.
I would ask him all about the studio system because he was part of it and he moved beyond it but he was part of the last third of the studio system, and as an actor who’s been under contract himself, I would just ask him what his experience was like.
That’s why I love reading books about actors, I get to learn the things that they go through from a business point of view too, not just creatively.
Evil Dead II is out on Special Edition Blu-ray now. It includes a brand-new documentary, and you can watch the first 10 minutes below.