Exclusive: Sam Raimi Talks Ash vs. Evil Dead and Working with Bruce Campbell Again
This Halloween Bruce Campbell returns as Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario, and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity, and the terrors of the Evil Dead, in the Starz series “Ash vs. Evil Dead.” When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons – personal and literal. Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its evil grip.
We had a chance this morning to chat briefly with director Sam Raimi about the series…
Dread Central: How did you find the balance to it feeling like a fresh new TV series, yet stay true to the feel of those Evil Dead movies everyone knows and loves? You really nailed it.
Sam Raimi: Well, cool. That’s such a nice thing to hear. I don’t really know TV very well. I directed a pilot for a friend of mine once, but it really wasn’t something I owned. I was doing it as a favor. So this was the first attempt of my brother, Ivan, and myself to write a TV show, and it was a real learning experience. We are still learning how to do it! But we understood that we couldn’t just have Bruce Campbell in the cabin alone like the substance of so many of the Evil Dead movies. We really had to have characters developed to a greater degree than we ever had to have for the movies for him to interact with. So we started trying to figure it out, and I am sure all writers work this way, but it’s like, “Who is he now? What’s he been doing for the last 35 years? What is it he wants, and what kind of life has he been living?” We needed to figure out what types of people he might be interacting with, what conflicts he might run into, and that’s what we did when we set out to write it. I hope it works.
DC: Did Bruce also have input since he is, after all, the face of the show?
SR: Yes, Bruce has always had a lot of input, in the Evil Dead movies and now. When Ivan and I were writing it, he gave us some notes, along with my partner, Rob Tappert, some very good notes, and we took them. But most of Bruce’s input is on set. He comes up with a funny bit, or he finds a way to change a line – shorten it and get the same point across. He’s a very efficient actor and good at contributing with good ideas.
DC: What I love about the character of Ash is he does such dumb things, but he’s so likeble and he always manages to turn things around and somehow triumph out of every sticky situation.
SR: He’s the dumbest hero that’s ever been.
DC: How’d you work that out with his return… did you take into account what fans said they wanted to see, or did you work more in a vacuum?
SR: We did work in a little bit of a vacuum, but that’s a vacuum after having made three Evil Dead films, doing the DVDs, and reading what the fans liked and didn’t like over the years. I’ve had so much experience that even though we were not actively monitoring an audience’s anticipated response, we were very aware of trying to please the fans. That’s really why we did this show. I’ve done many movies that people didn’t want to see, and then even sequels to some of those movies people maybe didn’t want to see, but I’ve never made a movie because the fans wanted it. After 35 years in the business, this is the first time I’ve stopped and said, “Okay, if you really want to see this, then I guess I will make it,” because they kept asking for it. So the fans’ enjoyment was really forefront in my mind when we’d be writing this pilot and the series. So we really did try to give the fans a rockin’ good time.
DC: Well, you just brought it up – I love the rockin’ good soundtrack. The use of Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin’” in the beginning sets just the right tone. Did you have a music supervisor who chose those songs, or did you tell him or her what you wanted and they got it?
SR: Well, my brother, Ivan, was telling me he thought Ash’s character hasn’t really grown in the last 30 years. He’s digressed, if anything. So Ivan thought the music should be of that time, the 70s and 80s, when Ash was last active in our world. Ivan had some great choices for the music. I love that song, “Space Truckin’.”
DC: I thought your zombies, or demon-zombies actually, were really incredible too – because they are more sophisticated now thanks to advances in makeup and of course budget, but they really stay true to the spirit of your original creations. Tell me about that juxtaposition.
SR: Roger Murray and Clare Ramsey and the whole department and teams of artists are incredible. They did a great job. I remember we discussed the look of the Evil Dead and originally we had a makeup artist, Tom Sullivan, who designed that look. And even though we had incredible makeup effects companies come in on Evil Dead 2 and 3, it was always based on his original look. So this new company from New Zealand had the same marching orders: Bring your own ideas to it, update it, but let’s still base it on that original look so that they are, in fact, the Evil Dead. So they don’t just look like a zombie. It’s the combination of artists really working together that makes the look of the zombies, and then… they’re smart. They’re much smarter than Ash. The Evil Dead are not zombies; they’re really these demonic spirits called forth from the Necronomicon. They come from another world with wicked thoughts, intelligence, and dark desires. They love to torment human beings and make them crazy. They can be very conniving. They’re not just dumb, dead things reanimated – they have a plan.
DC: One last question – since we were lucky enough to be sent to Budapest to watch Fede Alvarez working on his next movie, the one you’re producing… is it still called A Man in the Dark? Or… I heard they’re changing the name.
SR: Sony Pictures might change the name. I don’t know. That’s always been a working title, and I don’t know what they’ve settled on yet. He’s just finished shooting, and he’s in the midst of editing right now. I have not yet seen the first cut but the dailies are incredible and Jane Levy is so good in it.
DC: She is! And Fede showed us some of it in his office on the set; it was a sizzle thing… it was amazing. I can’t wait for the movie.
SR: He did? You’ve probably seen more than me! How was it?
DC: He’s such a master of suspense in the visual. You’ve really discovered a wonder talent there, and I hope to see more collaborations between you two in the years to come.
SR: I’m really excited to work with him again. And again. We want to make another Evil Dead movie together one day.
“Ash vs Evil Dead” premieres Saturday, October 31st, at 9:00pm ET/PT exclusively on STARZ with a 10-episode season.
The cast is led by Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, “Burn Notice”) in the role of Ash Williams; Lucy Lawless (“Salem,” “Spartacus,” “Xena”) as Ruby, a mysterious figure who believes Ash is the cause of the Evil outbreaks; Ray Santiago (“Touch,” Meet the Fockers) as Pablo Simon Bolivar, an idealistic immigrant who becomes Ash’s loyal sidekick; Dana DeLorenzo (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas) as Kelly Maxwell, a moody wild child trying to outrun her past; and Jill Marie Jones (“Sleepy Hollow”) as Amanda Fisher, a disgraced Michigan State Trooper set to find our anti-hero Ash and prove his responsibility in the grisly murder of her partner.