A Bruce Campbell panel, or question-and-answer session, or whatever you want to call it, is an exercise in humiliation. The veteran actor, star of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise and the hit cable-TV series Burn Notice, is a true-blue wiseass. It’s clear he appreciates his success and the fans who got him there, but it’s equally clear there’s no small amount of playful derision for the geek culture that his career has become inextricably tied to. So of course when Campbell stepped onstage Sunday at New York Comic Con to take questions from hundreds of attendees, most in garish costumes, the event had more in common with a stand-up comedy performance than a deep-dive discussion of the actor’s long and colorful career. Since so much of what was discussed is a “you-had-to-be-there” sort of thing, what follows is more of a textual “highlights reel” from the Q&A session …
Campbell On Crazed, Tattooed Fans ...After awarding a pair of fans $2 each (true story), Campbell shared this amusing anecdote: “A guy came up to me at a book signing one time and he threw a photograph down. And it was the poster from Army of Darkness. But it looked really weird. I said ‘Why does that look so weird?’ And he said, ‘Because that’s the tattoo on my back.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, right. Yeah.’ He goes, ‘No, my whole back is the poster from Army of Darkness.’ I’m like, ‘Bulllllshit.’ He took his shirt off and his whole back was the poster from Army of Darkness. I paraded him up and down the line and they cheered, tears were streaming down his eyes. It was a beautiful moment. People always ask me if that’s disturbing. I’m like, ‘Hell no! It’s a walking billboard, what are you talking about?’ As long as you get a couple of rentals off of that, it’s perfect. Actually, purchases — I don’t get shit from rentals. So download it, please.”
Campbell On Detroit, The Coming Transformers Movie ...“I’m from Detroit … it loses population every year, it’s great. You filmmakers, Detroit is a big backlot now. I was there about a week ago and Michael Bay was shooting Transformers 19, and the whole city was their backlot. It was pretty good for him. All right, another Transformers movie, alllllll right! Yeah! I’m old enough to know that those were toys. From Hasbro. If Hasbro is in the opening credits, I’m out the door. That’s not a movie, that’s a piece of merchandising right there.”
Campbell On The Ghoul Show …Fan question: Can you tell us any stories about the time you were a gofer on The Ghoul Show?
Campbell: “I was on The Ghoul Show, ma’am. I was on camera on The Ghoul Show. I was not a gofer, as you say, a lowly nobody like you’re inferring. I went toe-to-toe with the Ghoul. By the way, she’s referring to an obscure …TV-show host, he would play bad movies and dub in burping and farting sound effects and he had skits in between. He usually came on late at night. I watched the show as a kid, I was impressed as hell when I finally got on his show. When we were there onstage, the Ghoul has a big, white lab coat. And he’s always blowing shit up, all the time. His pocket was always full of ammunition. And he smoked all the time. So one day he put his hand in his pocket, it blew the whole side of his lab coat up. I met him at a convention in Baltimore about five years ago — he had the same damn lab coat on, because I could see it was all stitched up where he blew the pocket off.
Same fan: By the way, Dave Ivy says hi.
Campbell: “Thanks for the trivia that no one in this room understands. Anybody with a real question?”
Campbell On More Evil Dead …“Will Ash ever make a return to the big screen…? Boy, I sure hope so.” – lots of sarcasm there – “Those movies were a pain in the ass to make. I’m a middle-aged man. I’ll be like Tobey Maguire, I’m just gonna get digitized. It’ll be me fighting somebody, somebody else. Sam Raimi’s making too much money now, dawg. Do you think he’s going to go back to those days? He’s looking at the glory days. He gets an extra two zeros on his paychecks now. So … sorry, sir. No, I don’t know. Maybe when I’m in the rest home and Sam has one eye missing, maybe we’ll do it.
Campbell On Signing Boobs …“Signing curved objects is very difficult. Like signing a woman’s boob. We can have a quick boob conversation about signing boobs. I will consider signing you boob as long as you consider this: In order for me to properly sign your boob I have to apply pressure with the opposite hand. Here’s the thing, I’m not making this up. By applying the appropriate pressure – and I’m the only one who knows how much is proper – you then cause the boob to perk up a bit. Therefore I can sign with my sharpie across a smooth, unblemished surface. But from your boobs I don’t know if that’s possible, ma’am.” Groans from the crowd. “It’s all fake everybody, it’s all fake. So by applying the pressure, therefore the pen won’t skip. So it’s really half-fondling, half-signing is really what’s involved. And depending on the boob, it’s mostly fondling and a quick signing. So we’ll talk later out in the parking lot.”
Campbell On Not Being In Drag Me To Hell …“Why was I not in Drag Me To Hell? Because, unlike Ted Raimi, I’m a working actor. I was busy on Burn Notice… the No. 1 show on cable. That’s why I was unavailable. I wanted to be in the PG version, Drag Me To Heck.”
Campbell On Favorite Monster Movie, Current Horror Trends …“I’m not really a monster-movie guy. I like all creatures big and small. But I like horror movies like [Roman Polanski’s] The Tenant.” Light clapping from the crowd. “Okay, there’s three geniuses in this room. The Tenant is a movie where you think you’re going crazy. That, to me, scares me a lot more than putting someone’s weiner in a vice for half an hour in the Saw movies. That to me is not horror, that’s torture porn and that’s called bad filmmaking. I’ll deny it if I ever meet the Saw people that I ever said that. Because it’s private here in this room with no cameras or web blogs or Facebooks or Twitters, they’ll never know.”
Campbell On Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash …“What do I think about Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash? I don’t think about it at all. We had a conversation with New Line Cinema. They called up, and here’s what the conversation was: [simulates ringing telephone] ‘Hello!’ ‘Hi, this is New Line Cinema calling.’ ‘Oh, how are you? You’re the guys that ripped us off on Evil Dead! Yeah, that’s right. You didn’t give us any money beyond the initial advance, that’s right. Bob Shay-dy, that’s what I call him. Oh, you want to make Ash Vs. Jason Vs. Freddy. Oh, that’s a great idea. Ash can kill ‘em both then. Right? Hello?’ And that was the conversation. Because why else would you get involved in that? Why else would Ash show up just to get his ass kicked by those two losers? So that’s why that never got made — it’s a creatively bankrupt idea.”
Campbell On Playing A Superhero …“Hate to disappoint ya, but I’m not a superhero guy. I’ll tell you why I like Spider-Man. He’s a normal Joe from the Queens. From Queens, right? He’s not some freak from some other planet who can fly around the world but still has to wear an outfit. Like Superman just is weird to me. He has to have a big ‘S’ [on his chest]? What is he, insecure? He could rip your head off! Just be Superman. And who designed Superman’s outfit? His mom! Oh, she really did, didn’t she? Imagine my surprise. I’m so embarrassed."
Campbell On Bruce Vs. Frankenstein …“I’m gonna take Frankenstein down, ma’am. Someone’s gotta do it. I’ve stated that I want it to be The Expendables of horror. So give me some of your favorite horror icons: Who do you like?” Someone shouts Wolfman. “Well Wolfman, no … I’m going to kill one creature at a time. That’ll be like two sequels down the road. I’m talking about horror, like … [noted actor] Jeffrey Combs.” The audience erupts with suggestions at this point. “This is getting very chaotic. Someone like Kane Hodder. Tom Savini, that’s a good one, I’ll try to get Tom. Robert Englund, ah, he’s easy. Believe me, he’s available. And Ted Raimi is very available, so I’ll be sure to put him in it just to crush him with a bus or something like that.”
Campbell On The Current Zombie Craze …“Now Godzilla, that’s a good bad guy.”
Campbell On Growing Lavender, And Steven Seagal …“I’m associated very much with — what I do is what I am? I live in Oregon on a lavender farm. I’m not kidding. I take my lavender every year and distill it at Steven Seagal’s ranch. I live in southern Oregon and he lives in northern California. He has a beautiful distillery and he’s never home because he’s doing” — puffs his chest up — “‘I’m a cop reality show [Lawman]. Hold there or … I’ll have these other guys chase you!’ So he’s not there, so we take our lavender and use his distillery. But don’t tell Steven Seagal. It’s safe, I can tell. Our secret is safe. I see 80,000 red lights. Sorry, Steven. Great distillery.”
Campbell On Time Travel …“If I could go back in time, what would I do? Why would I go back in time? I’d rather go to the future. To prevent the shit in the past. But if you mess with the future, what happens to the past? Unless I travel in a parallel universe back there and don’t let the one universe know that the other exists! What kills me? I see people around here going [nods sagely] ... ‘Now you’re getting it. Where can I watch that movie?’ You guys love parallel universes, don’t you? And Star Trek uniforms.”
Campbell On The Weirdest Opportunity He’s Ever Come Across…“Weirdest … I don’t go for weird. Bubba Ho-Tep was the weirdest script I ever read. A lot of people have recommended Bubba Ho-Tep to other people. And if you can get past the first 30 seconds of him getting cancer on his penis and busting it by jacking off, it’s actually a really sweet little movie. I was in that first page and I was going ‘Oh, dear god. What is happening here?’ So I read it and I called [writer/director] Don Coscarelli and I said, ‘I have only one question with regard to Bubba Ho-Tep: Will you see the penis?’ He goes, ‘No.’ And I went, ‘Then I’m good.’ If he was going to show that penis with cancer on it, even this guy was gone. My kid doesn’t have to go to college that bad."