Bruce Campbell is of course best known for his role as Ashley J. "Ash" Williams in his high school buddy Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead," "Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn" and "Army Of Darkness" films. He also appeared in Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy in a variety of roles. And speaking of Elvis, he recently portrayed the King himself in the very popular "Bubba Ho-Tep," which pits Elvis against a mass-murdering mummy.
Campbell will make his directorial debut this fall with the release of his new film "My Name is Bruce," written by "Battlestar Galactica" scribe Mark Verheiden. The movie revolves around a group of fans who mistaken Campbell for his movie alter ego "Ash" and kidnap him to help them fight a Chinese war deity. That's right, Bruce is going to play Bruce! Groovy.
No stranger to television, Campbell appeared in the cult '90s series "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.," "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess." The actor made his return to television last year with USA's hit spy show "Burn Notice." The series centers on a spy who finds himself suddenly unemployed. Campbell plays the spy's pal, Sam Axe, an ex-Navy SEAL who when not helping his friend spends his days drinking and freeloading off rich older women. Season Two of "Burn Notice" premiered this week.
CBR News spoke with Campbell about the new season of "Burn Notice," directing "My Name is Bruce," and the "Bubba Ho-Tep" sequel that you'll never see.
CBR: "Burn Notice" did quite well in its first season, what is it about the show that you think has really caught on with its audience?
Bruce Campbell: My feeling is the show is gaining popularity because of what it is not. I think it is a very unique show that can basically not be compared to anything on television. I think that's so refreshing and not to disparage any of the cop, doctor or lawyer shows, but enough is enough. So hopefully we can be a bit of fresh air out there.
Has shooting Season Two been any easier now that you know you're working on a successful show?
I feel the second season has been easier because everybody knows everybody. You know the crew, the guests and who is doing what. You know the writers, they know you, we're not trying to guess if we should do something specific to make this show a success. There's no more second-guessing, we're just working now.
Because so many of your fans know you as Ash, what's it like to have a whole new generation of fans that may only know you from "Burn Notice" or even as the Old Spice guy?
It's kind of hilarious and very refreshing to have a guy come up and go, "Man, I had no idea who that old guy was on 'Burn Notice', until I found out later what you had done." So it's okay to get fans retroactively. But most important right now, I want to make sure that we please the fans of the current show, and hopefully we're doing that.
You've really been able to pick and choose very creative roles on television and in the movies. Is it difficult for you to wait for good roles rather than just taking jobs to keep working?
I've tried not to take jobs just to do work because I feel that puts me in a terrible situation and I hadn't done television since 2000. So it took a lot to kind of drag me back into what is a challenging format of entertainment. A one-hour [episodic] is the hardest gig in show business, so it takes a lot for me to move entirely across the country diagonally and work. I'm really glad I made the decision to get involved in "Burn Notice" because it hasn't let me down as an actor or as a person. And the people that they got are all very serious, committed actors so it makes the day go a lot easier.
As far as series television goes, how has it evolved, for better or worse, since you were in "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.?"
How has series television evolved? You know what, it hasn't really evolved that much. They usually pick seven or eight days that you get to make your episode. You either have a support crew to shoot stunts, carnage and mayhem, or you don't. Generally speaking, you're shooting between six and nine pages a day, which is really fast, really aggressive. And so those aspects really haven't changed. Somebody came across these genius amounts of days to make a TV show and everyone has stuck with that. So the actual process of shooting episodic television has not changed that much aside from a second camera. But, mechanically it's similar.
"Burn Notice" is about a spy who gets fired from his job. Have you ever received a burn notice from an employer?
Yes. The second movie that I was going to make as an actor, I was supposed to star in. It was a movie written by the Coen Brothers of all people, called "Crime Wave" and the assumption was that I was going to play the lead. But the word eventually came down through the studio that, "you can produce this movie, Bruce, but you ain't going to be in it." Well so, you know, that was an early taste of studios and Hollywood. It left a little bit of a bitter taste, I must admit. So you have to keep going. You have to battle on and know that sometimes personalities are involved and it's not just you being a loser actor, you know. So you have to get a little bit of a thicker skin and have confidence in yourself.
The director of that film was Sam Raimi, your friend since high school. So when the studio told him that you couldn't be the lead did he find you a smaller part in the film to make up for it?
Well, no one saw the movie, so it's only the people who rent the movie that will be able to answer that. But basically, yes. In fact, I took a supporting role and we expanded it. I probably had more fun doing that goofy supporting role than (if I had been) the lead guy. So it worked out fine and I'm still standing. I guess it's because I'm like a bad rash and I never go away. I just never stopped. I never left. I never gave up. So that's what happens, if you stick around long enough, you get some really good roles. I think I can say unequivocally that I have found an excellent role with "Burn Notice."
You starred in and directed the film "My Name is Bruce," which is being released this fall. How did you like directing yourself in a movie?
Good, I felt I had to prove to the world that I can do more than memorize seven lines of dialogue at a time. It was very difficult directing myself because I got in raging arguments with myself all day long. As you know, I'm very difficult. So that's really the biggest trouble. Next time I'm going to do the sequel without Bruce.
At the end of the closing credits of "Bubba Ho-Tep" there was a tease to a second film, "Bubba Nosferatu: Curse Of The She-Vampires." Was that just a tease or are you planning on making a sequel?
Well it's a bit of a tease. But I must say that the truth of the matter is I couldn't come to an agreement with the filmmaker about what type of sequel we wanted to make. We felt it was best, rather than jeopardize what I consider to be a good friendship, that we let it go. So it fell apart and I don't think it'll come back together again. Instead, watch for "My Name is Bruce," this fall.
Finally, your image appears in a lot of comic books. I was wondering how you feel about that and if you ever get a chance to read any of them? There's a bunch including "Evil Dead," "Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness," "Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash" and "Army of Darkness vs. Xena: Why Not," just to name a few.
Well, send me a nickel for every one that you see and I'll be done with show business. I don't know how that happens. I think I do have a face that's pretty generic. I'm described by my lantern jaw and if you're describing hero-types with their dark hair, then hey, you're going to use that as a model. But I don't think it's necessarily my face as a model so much as it's an archetype.
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