With the release of Evil Dead on Blu-ray and DVD looming we got a chance to catch up with franchise icon Bruce Campbell who spoke about the home video release as well as potential sequels to the remake. Read on for the whole enchilada straight from the chin himself!
J. Blake: I’m curious to know what you think a young Bruce Campbell, circa 1978/79, would’ve thought if he was told that 35 years later he’d be producing a remake of Evil Dead and Sam (Raimi) would be directing an epic prequel to The Wizard of Oz.
Bruce Campbell: I think that guy would say, “Fuckin’ eh!” (we laugh) It was our first movie. It took us four years to finish it and it didn’t take off right away. So we didn’t know if this was a one shot deal. You know making a movie; if you fail with that one shot…we certainly would’ve failed with our investors in Detroit if it had failed. So we didn’t even know. No we couldn’t have known. We thought we were lucky to make that one movie, just to finish it and get it in a theater. So I guess it is all a bonus. It’s all downhill from there.
JB: I don’t think a lot of people realize that in addition to being the star, you were also one of the producers of the Evil Dead films. How did your role as producer for the new remake compare to what you did on the original series?
BC: Well now that we all have day jobs — Sam was making Oz when we were doing the remake. Rob Tapert was finishing up with Spartacus and I was in my sixth season of “Burn Notice,” which is seven months out of my life. So we tag teamed it. You know you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get it made. Rob oversaw the nuts and bolts of production. That’s why we did it in New Zealand, because he’s based out of there. They have excellent crews there; just topnotch people. Between Hercules, Xena and Lord of the Rings, as well as other shows, you have an industry there. So Rob did that part and then I’m a big fan of post (production), of editing and sound and all that. So when the season of Burn Notice ended, I hung out in L.A. right at the time when they were taking care of that business. So that’s when I jumped in and Rob backed off a little bit. And Sam (Raimi) is the grand poobah. He’s involved in all the editing decisions and the look of the movie and the sound of the movie. So he’s not distant from it, but you know he’s making these gigantic epics. So he’s not going to micro-manage. And he’s very pro-director. I think Fede Alvarez (the director of the Evil Dead remake), if he works with other producers one day, I think he’s going to go, “Wow those guys were pretty good actually!” We rarely got in his face…only a couple of times.
JB: Judging from what is listed as the “special features” on the upcoming Evil Dead Blu-ray and from what you’ve said in recent interviews, it seems like you also had a bit to do with the casting and working with the actors.
BC: Right! That’s right, I forgot about that. Again tag teaming, casting is important to me. At least that is one thing I can participate in as a thespian. I can at least bring my side to it and the coolest thing about it was, actually, you’re sitting in a room with these actors. You know they can’t hide, because they are right there just a few feet from you. If they are faking it, you can smell it a mile away and I got to watch Fede interact with them to improve from take to take and to explain things…and by the end of the first couple of days, I was like, “We’re fine.” Because this director knows how to talk to actors and he knows what he’s doing and he is not full of shit. And I was like, “Oh thank God!” So that is half the battle right there, because if actors believe in their directors they will do anything for them. If they think their director is a jerk, then you’re doomed. So that was very helpful to me and then also, to be there when the lead people were cast and Fede and I had no major disagreements on that. We’d look at each other and go, “Yeah that guy was basically the best of the bunch” and believe me, we went through a lot. Evil Dead had a decent enough name that we got good actors to show up. So I thought that we put together a decent cast. Because these movies are hokey no matter what you’re going to do, but at least this time around we cast actors that had been in movies before. On the first Evil Dead none of us had done shit and you can kind of tell, but we had a lot of enthusiasm. That is what we had going for us, but I warned these actors too. I told them, “Hey, get ready! This will not be like any other movie you’ve made. You will go through a lot of physical issues. So don’t party. You’ve got to stay focused. This movie will end one day, but you’re going to wish it were going to end after only five days of shooting.” And I was right. (he laughs)
JB: Were any of them big fans of the original series?
BC: They were all pretty aware of it. Honestly it was their parents who were fans. They’d go, “Oh my God, my dad showed me that,” etc. So they were actually all too young to be direct fans of it, but they were all very aware of it and they were all aware that it is regarded as a decent low-budget weirdo horror movie. You know, they weren’t showing up to mock the movie.
JB: Was it weird working on an Evil Dead film that you weren’t starring in and Raimi wasn’t directing?
BC: Yeah it was, because it was its own beast. We couldn’t help, obviously, to have those influences…I mean I stuck so many of the original sound effects in that movie. If we needed something Fede would look over at me and go, (with an accent) “Bruce do you have any of your nostalgic effects,” that he would say with a little bit of distain and I’m like, “Yeah I got something right here.” We had all of the first couple of movies; they’ve re-mastered all of those horrorish sound effects tapes that we had and we have them all catalogued now. So I had a ball. I went into the studio with a sound editor for like four days and basically put together a “Roger Corman” sound job of the movie based on our original effects and I could always offer those up whenever we needed a little something or Fede was looking for something. I didn’t try and sell them too hard, but there are a couple of effects in there that, basically, only Sam Raimi and I know where they’re from and what the circumstances were for those particular sounds…which is fun. That is just a dumb thing that keeps us amused. We throw in little things.
Like there is one part in the cabin where the bad stuff happens in the new movie; there’s one room where all the shit goes down and that has a secret, buried in, original sound from the original wind in the original cabin, that we recorded for (the original) Evil Dead; that’s through most of the movie. We put it really low just in that one little room. Just to give it that same kind of feel, because it is a real creepy wind. We thought, “What the hell, let’s put a nice crisp clean version of it in there.”
It was actually fun working on an Evil Dead movie where you had sound that you could whiz around the room. The first Evil Dead was in mono. It wasn’t even in stereo for God’s sake! Now they go, “Where do you want that trap door?” “How about the lower right over here?” You know? “And then let’s move it over here to the left.” It draws your attention and it is just so clean and sharp and Roque Baños was great with the score. He basically did an operatic score. It couldn’t have been any bigger, but Fede wanted people to take it seriously. So he treated it like it was an epic story, even though it is kind of cheese-ball over the top.
It’s had a decent enough reaction, from watching enough screenings now…anyone looking for that, I think they will be fine with it. There are obviously going to be some people that are not looking for that and they didn’t have the same impression.
JB: Well I really enjoyed it and so has everyone that I’ve talked to. So it must be gratifying that the fans who are embracing it are being satisfied by it.
BC: Yes and that’s true, because they were very violently opposed to it. I love how (the original) Evil Dead suddenly got better the second we mentioned that we were going to do a remake. “You can’t remake that! That’s a classic!” I’m like, “Yeah? I read the reviews pal, from way back when.” (he laughs) It was not an instant classic. The L.A. Times called it an instant classic, but there were plenty of newspapers that were like, “This thing is the sickest of the sick.” It’s fine. I’m glad that it has aged well.
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JB: Well the Evil Dead films have been a bit of an “evergreen” for the DVD and Blu-ray markets. They just keep churning out new editions…
BC: Yeah no shit! Jeez louise…
JB: Those and Halloween. They are the big ones.
BC: (he laughs) Okay. Yeah.
JB: Fans can’t get enough of those releases I guess. I know you’ve often said that horror films are not really your bag, but when you guys were making the original (Evil Dead), were there any specific films that you found inspiring?
BC: Well the really recent one at the time was Halloween. That was fresh in our minds, because of how cleverly John Carpenter could orchestrate the misdirection. You hear a sound over here, the character turns around. BAM! The guy is right there behind you. Those are things that are not “torture porn.” You’re not putting a guy’s wiener in a vice for half an hour. That’s not even scary. That’s just twisted. Scary is making people actually jump and another one that affected me, that was again not too much earlier than Evil Dead, was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Which with the opening credit sequence…I almost wanted to leave the theater by the time the opening credits were over. The horrible imagery of corpses that have been dug up by these local creeps and draped over tombstones and (he laughs) those are the credits! These disturbing images of like bright photos of them, like police photos. I was like, “Oh man, I don’t know if I can take this movie.” And no one had even gotten killed yet. So I think those films were really landmark in creeping us out, being scary and making you jump at the same time.
We had good influences right around then. Time Magazine had Hollywood’s scariest summer in 1979. So we were just following through with, “Hey look, horror movies are starting to be an accepted genre.” So I think the decision was if we were going to make a horror movie, don’t dick around, because we didn’t want to get buried in the shuffle. We didn’t want to do a “guy with an axe” movie. So Sam concocted this whole, much more supernatural approach; much more like a monster movie.
JB: With the new Evil Dead coming out on Blu-ray, do you know if there are any goodies that fans should keep an eye out for?
BC: I think they’ve got a making of that is pretty decent. They covered all the basics I would say. I didn’t do the commentary for it. That was Fede and some of the actors, which was appropriate, because they were the ones there. If you were there day to day you know the film so much better and you know more of the things that happened. We kind of got reports beamed back to us. So we didn’t know a lot of that day to day stuff, but I think there are obviously interviews and all that. It should be a very acceptable package to the fans, because these days if your movie is an hour and a half, you have to have 17 hours of extras. I am sure there are multiple hours of galleries and all that. I think that Sony did a good job.
JB: There seems to be a big debate online as to whether it is a remake or a sequel. Do you have a viewpoint on it?
BC: Oh boy…I just look at it as another whole group of semi-young adults who spend a shitty night with this evil book. It just takes place in another universe and in the same sense I don’t see why we couldn’t make ARMY OF DARKNESS 2 and still run in our universe and then make a sequel to this movie and then they’d both be running in their own parallel universes.
JB: It is very “comic book” in a way.
BC: Yeah it is and fans ultimately drive this and the reason why we did a remake is because there was such commotion for a sequel, more than anything, but then Sam ran into this filmmaker Fede Alvarez who pitched him a remake idea and it caught his fancy. I am glad we picked Fede, because for a first time director, boy we got lucky and I’m going to say that only once. I will deny it in the future, but I think we got lucky. And Jane Levy, we got lucky with too, because if you’re a lead actor in an Evil Dead movie, you’ve got to bring it. You’ve just got to bring it and I thought she did. I thought she really committed and you know she’s going to get work. I think she’ll work. She won’t always have to strap that chainsaw on, because she’s got some tools in her little kit. I’d like to see her future stuff. I really would.
JB: I know you’ve got to be sick of answering this question, but I have to ask it. Is there any update on Army of Darkness 2?
BC: There’s no update other than the fact that Sam desires it, but everyone has the reality of their lives and I think he is going to continue on with making one large motion picture after another and in between time, he spends time and dicks around with his brother Ivan back in Michigan and supposedly this summer they are going to go noodle with some more ideas. And then they’ll get closer and they’ll threaten and then Sam will send me cryptic emails with things like, “How soon can you get back into shape?” And I’m like, “As soon as you cough up act one.” It is how it is. It is just a fun little game right now, but you know Evil Dead, the remake, honestly put it back on the table, because it was the first time Rob, Sam and I actually went, “Alright, what’s the deal? Would we want to do another one of these damn movies? Could we even? And what kind of budget would it be?” You go from (the original) Evil Dead, a $350,000 movie, up to Evil Dead 4 or Army of Darkness 2 and if Sam directed it, it would be $100 million. That would be cheap for Sam. Sam is like, “Well, I will do it for a third of my usual rate. I will make it for a 100 million.” So that’s what baffles me and we’ll see. Sam’s a master filmmaker, but he is usually a guy that is not quick.
JB: Do you think there is any chance it could be called Evil Dead 4: Army of Darkness 2?
BC: Yeah there would be. Yeah.
JB: I think that would satisfy everybody.
BC: Right. (he laughs) Well that is technically what it is. You know it was only the studio that wanted to change the name. It would’ve been Evil Dead 3, but they wanted it to stand on its own. It’s like, “I see.” They were in denial. They wanted it to be more popular than just for the cult horror crowd, but those movies have their own limits. You know? They have their own limits of how many people can handle crazy weird horror, because it is not for everybody and why should it be? That’s why I think they need to be cheap. Horror movies should always be made cheaply. An expensive horror movie is bound to fail, because there just aren’t that many people who want to see horror movies. I’m always wrong though, of course The Exorcist made a hundred bazillion dollars and was a big Hollywood production, but still the classic M.O. should be that they should be under $5 million.
JB: Is there anything else you want the fans to know about the new Evil Dead (remake) Blu-ray and DVD?
BC: No. I’m just excited for everybody who wanted to see the movie, but did not get their butts to the theater. Now’s your chance. Here you go. Bring it to your living room. Comin’ at ya! Nice and easy. And I hope they enjoy it, because I think it’s good. Get a group of friends and get them around. Get a couple people that don’t like horror movies and the rest of them should be horror movie freaks and I think they will have some fun experiencing that in their own home. But everyone’s system is getting bigger and bigger now. So they’re almost the size of movie theaters, which are getting smaller and smaller. So, I think it’s good.
JB: Well thank you so much, this was great. I really appreciate you give me a little bit of your time.
BC: Thank you sir. Have a good afternoon.
Evil Dead will be available July 16th on Blu-ray™ and DVD with UltraViolet™ from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Evil Dead was written by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, based on the motion picture The Evil Dead, written by Sam Raimi. It was produced by Rob Tapert (30 Days of Night), Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Drag Me to Hell) and Bruce Campbell (original Evil Dead series). Executive producers are Nathan Kahane (Hope Springs, The Grudge), Joe Drake (The Hunger Games, Juno), J.R. Young (The Possession), and Peter Schlessel (Drive). Co-producers are Nicole Brown (The Possession, 50/50) and Matthew Leonetti, Jr. (The Possession, The Amazing Spider-Man).
It has a run time of approximately 91 minutes and has been rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.
A secluded cabin. An ancient curse. An unrelenting evil. The original producers reunite to present a genuinely terrifying re-imagining of their original horror masterpiece. Five young friends have found the mysterious and fiercely powerful Book of the Dead. Unable to resist its temptation, they release a violent demon on a blood-thirsty quest to possess them all. Who will be left to fight for their survival and defeat this unearthly force of murderous carnage?
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