Interview: The King Is Back: Bruce Campbell talks Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Cosmic Book News attended the recent New York Comic-Con where we sat down with Bruce Campbell and talked about the new Starz series, Ash vs. Evil Dead, which premiers tonight at 9pm ET.
Campbell returns as fan-favorite Ash Williams, the blowhard monster fighter, struggling with the limitations of his middle-aged self. Over 30 years ago, saw Ash encounter creatures of unspeakable evil, and he survived. Ash has successfully avoided them since… until he makes one very stupid mistake.
Any concern about reapproaching the character?
Concern? Just the ability to do it. Just got to get a little more stretching in these, days. Yeah. You have to always have to want to know that you can step up. There are a lot more aches and pains now -- a lot more stretching and Ben-Gay.
How much of the series would you say is story-driven vs gore-driven?
You got to have a story. Something has to drive all the stories forward. We will try and tie up little loops with each episode, but new things will be discovered. It's a voyage of discovery.
Ash the idiot has unleashed these long dormant forces and is going to pay a horrible price at a time in his life where he doesn't really want to be doing this shit. And that's what I like about it [laughs]. He's just a crabby old man now who would rather just be drinking in a bowling alley minding his own business and lying about how he lost his right hand.
How long was there talk of bringing Evil Dead back, and at what point did you realize "this is really happening?"
It happened fast. It happened really fast. It happened in about a six month period. And in Hollywood years, that's like light years, the speed of light -- things could develop for five years. That's the beauty of television. It's a moving conveyor belt, and people always have to throw shit at it to fill that conveyor belt. So you hit it and it goes, and now we are on the conveyor belt. Eventually we'll wobble and fall of a couple of years from now, but we'll give it a run.
Why go with a TV series instead of an Evil Dead 4?
Sam Raimi makes really expensive movies. Should Evil Dead be $250 million? Then make $13 million? We would be doomed. We would be out of the business. So the economics of doing TV are actually way better, making it week to week, and fans who actually want more than a movie every decade - the first three movies, one was made in the 70s, one was made in the 80s, one was made in the 90s, this is our fourth decade now of making these dumb shows - but TV is better for fans. You get way more, way more episodes. You can binge watch for like a week. Just take it all in. Whereas movies, they are randomly made. It's not like we were stamping them out. We never even planned on making a sequel.
One of the iconic parts of the character is his catch phrases. Was it hard to hit that for the series?
No. No. Those are getting easier now. I've learned how to do dialogue over the years. It's the action stuff you got to get used to again. One-liners are easy.
What was it like reuniting with Lucy Lawless?
Fantastic. Great. Plus we are shooting in her backyard. We are shooting in [New Zealand]. She gets to come home and eat dinner at night.
It's great for her, and the second season she is going to be more substantial -- because we has to wait for her to get off another show. We wanted her. As soon as this was going, I got on the phone with her husband, my partner, Rob Tapert, "You better get her. You better sign her up." He's like, "Uh... She is on another show." So we are like, "As soon as that finishes, get her ass on a plane and get over here." Get her home. So that part is great.
Do you think it is important to give Ash two young sidekicks to get new viewers in?
Yes. Look at any late-year John Wayne movie. He's always surrounded by younger people. That's just a good idea. You know people who can be relevant, and I hope those two are tormented at conventions for the rest of their lives. That would make me really happy to see them signing shit forever.
Coming off the Evil Dead remake movie, is there any possible chance of tying into that?
We're leaving that alone right now, but you know the feature world could tie in with that. We are trying not to tie the TV world into that world because it is kind of a parallel universe, but we could potentially sync up the survivor of that movie with drizzled old Ash and his circumstances, so you have a master/apprentice kind of deal, and we would both would kick ass. Because Jane Leavy, I think she's great, and we would be lucky to get her. So never say never.
Hope that this show is successful, because if this show runs for another 2,3,4 years, we'll make another movie, because that will be back on everybody's radar, and the people that finance movies will go," Ah, yes. Of course. Let's make a movie." TV speaks. So many people watch it. Powerful medium.
With the focus on a lot of horror TV shows that are out there, how are you going to draw in those viewers to get to yours?
Anyone who loves horror, come on by. Anyone who loves comedy, come on by. We can't say that about the other shows. We got two reasons to come by. You don't like horror at least you got comedy. You don't like comedy, at least you got horror. There is no one like us.
We have a pace, too. At half an hour, it's the way to go, man. This show drives forward like a locomotive. It's not sitting around pondering anything. This show is on the move. That's what I like about it.
Were there a lot of practical effects or CGI used?
Both. The answer is yes. Stunts, effects, green screen, practical. We're more practical than normal. We use special make-up, effects. We don't have digital creatures. We'll enhance stuff digitally, but we won't let that do the job of spewing the blood. Sam is a paint brush and a bucket kind of guy, and it works. You don't have to recharge it; just go again. It's the cheapest blood splat you can have.
Do you and Sam have a shorthand having known each other for so long?
Yeah, pretty much. He is still is a very dominant and bossy director. I'm just really used to that. He's much more pleasant with the other actors. He's actually more polite with the other actors. With me, he goes, "Alright. Come on. Speed it up."
Did you think Evil Dead would last this long?
No. We didn't even think we would finish Evil Dead. We stalled about half way through. We ran out of money. We slowly had to finish it over about a four year period. We didn't think shit was going to happen. We shot in '79. It got released overseas three years later, and then didn't come out in the U.S. until '83. We were scraping, running out of money, filming a little more... It was a long boring process.
When did you first realize that Evil Dead was something big?
Big when it opened in the UK. We couldn't get a U.S. distributor. Nobody wanted it. They all thought it sucked. We ran into a guy named Urban Shapiro. He was 85 years old when we met him. He was a foreign sales agent in NYC. He had represented early George Ramero, even before Night of the Living Dead. We showed our movie to him, because we were like, "That guy. He sells movies overseas. He knows George Romero. He's represented a horror movie. Let's see." So he watched it and his comment was, "Well, that ain't exactly Gone With The Wind, but I think we can make some money." So he started it overseas. Sold it. Then it did so well overseas that they finally got a deal with New Line Cinema.
We knew we made it when we beat Stanley Kubrick. 1983, Evil Dead was the number one video in the UK. Shining was like number eight. Suck it, Stan.
"Ash Vs. Evil Dead" airs Saturday, October 31st at 9pm ET on Starz starring Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Jill Marie Jones, Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago on Starz; a second season has been announced.
Watch the first four minutes: