If you read my recent Cinematical Seven about my favorite Bruce Campbell moments, you know already how much I enjoy watching the actor/filmmaker onscreen. I was one of the people who refreshed her browser window continually in order to be able to score tickets to the Austin screening of My Name is Bruce, Campbell's latest film, which he directed and starred in. The first screening sold out in Austin in record time. (They added two more screenings as a result, which also sold out quickly.)
So you can well imagine my reaction when given the opportunity to interview Campbell while he was in Austin for the screening. I had fleeting nightmare visions of the interview sounding like Bridget Jones interviewing Colin Firth in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, or like one of those interviews Chris Farley used to do on Saturday Night Live ("You know that scene in Army of Darkness where you were fighting yourself? That was awesome."). Fortunately none of that happened, and the professional interviewer won out over the fangirl. After I saw My Name is Bruce and enjoyed a lively audience Q&A -- Alamo Drafthouse has posted video highlights on YouTube -- I met Campbell in a small office at the back of Alamo Ritz. We chatted about My Name is Bruce and the road tour Campbell's doing for the movie, other projects he's working on, and of course the whole Evil Dead 4 thing. Check it out after the jump.
Cinematical: You're taking My Name is Bruce on this cross-country tour --
Bruce Campbell: We're going to 22 cities and we're going to do it for two months, from now until mid-December.
Cinematical: I know you've done the road trip thing a few times.
BC: Yeah, with a couple of books. I did massive touring with those. The first book [If Chins Could Kill] was 55 cities in 5 months. That broke something. Something deep inside broke, I can never do that again. Never that many.
Cinematical: How have things changed since the first time you took a movie around on a tour like this?
BC: Technology has started to change. When I take a movie around, if I have it on a DVD, some theaters can play it. That wasn't the case before. You'd go into a movie theater and you'd see two projectors. Well, now you're starting to see one in the middle that's a digital projector. That's fun to see because that means even a local filmmaker can go to his theater and say, "Hey, can I arrange a screening on a Tuesday night, and show a DVD of my movie?" You can do that, you don't have to make a print. We made prints this time, because we wanted to be able to get into whatever theater we want. We considered a digital release, but this is better.
Cinematical: What made you want to not just star in, but direct My Name is Bruce?
BC: I directed another piece-of-crap movie called Man with the Screaming Brain, and I wanted to get in more of that -- and to have a little more control over my destiny in the low-budget world. I don't mind working in the low-budget world. It's fun to dip your foot in the Spider-Man things and have fun on somebody else's big huge movie set. But in the low-budget world, I don't want any chefs anymore because I have as much experience as anyone else on that set. This is the first time I've had enough control, where I have one person to answer to, and that's Mike Richardson [producer of My Name is Bruce and founder of Dark Horse Comics]. And he's a reasonable guy.
Cinematical: From Dark Horse.
BC: Yeah. I don't have anybody breathing down my neck. That's the appeal, to make a movie in a world where no one's really bugging you. That's the goal.
Cinematical: What if you were offered the chance to make a studio movie?
BC: I'd have to think real long and hard, because you're not getting final anything. It's a matter of -- are you doing it for the money? What are you doing it for? I know why I'm showing up for these low-budget movies, because it's a world I want to be in. I want to be there! I don't really care about budget, it's all about creativity. What's the best environment to do your thing, whatever that is.
Cinematical: And you guys were able to shoot this movie in, what? Less than a month?
BC: Twenty-three days. HD. On my property.
Cinematical: You hardly had to leave home.
BC: It's the first time in 10 years I could make a movie and sleep in my own bed. That was weird. I could call "Cut!" and wrap for the day, and literally walk about 50 feet and fall into my bed. It was awesome.
Cinematical: I remember reading an interview with you where you talked about the digital movement in theaters, and it sounded like you were promoting a return to regional filmmaking?
BC: Well, yeah! I think that if a guy can go to K-Mart, get a camera -- they've got HD cameras that are 800 bucks now. I've got a little HD camera, 800 bucks. You can buy it, shoot a movie, edit it with publicly available software on your computer, digital sound, and by God you can make a movie. And we could never do that before.
The missing link with low-budget filmmakers is distribution. But YouTube's helped, now everyone's got something on YouTube, and the internet has helped a lot for getting the word out. I hand-hold everyone through this tour on my Web site -- go here, get tickets, here's parking, here's a map, the whole bit.
Also, the theaters are getting more interesting now. Because of Landmark, because of places like this [Alamo Drafthouse], you can now go to theaters that have a bar on the roof. The experience is changing, and it's more adult. I like that. I'm sick of making movies for 17-year-old kids. I want to make stuff for adults.
This movie [My Name is Bruce] isn't for adults, necessarily. I don't know who it's for.
Cinematical: Where else has My Name is Bruce screened so far?
BC: We had little sneaks at CineVegas, and two or three other little festivals, where we thought, "Let's just sneak in and show it, and we'll see."
Cinematical: Did you pick up anything out of those screenings?
BC: I always see the lines that fall flat, and now they'll fall flat forever. That's the beauty and the curse of movies, because you can't really tinker with them. Unless you're George Lucas, going back later and fixing the stuff that didn't work, which is so offensive to me.
Cinematical: You don't want to go back and fix anything?
BC: No, because I would feel like a spoiled brat. [whiny voice] "I want to fix my movie!" Hey, man, you had a chance to fix it. So you have to live with all that, you have to live with the stinkers, and then you get to rejoice over and over to every gag that works. It works both ways, it's heaven and hell. But you learn. The idea is to come across better as a filmmaker. And a live audience will tell you anything you need. It doesn't matter if they know you're there in a theater. They don't have to respond, and they won't if they don't want to. You can't make an audience respond.
Cinematical: One thing I noticed about My Name is Bruce is that it is full of in-jokes from other movies -- actors from some of the other films --
BC: That was for the fans. I tried to get Evil Dead in there, so Ellen Sandweiss is in there, from the original Evil Dead, she plays my ex-wife. And then a guy from Evil Dead 2, and then a guy from Army of Darkness, and Ted Raimi's always in whatever I do, because that way I look better -- I look like a better actor by putting Ted in it. So yeah, a lot of it is for the fans.
But I'm hoping that the basic premise, even if you remove Bruce Campbell out of it, will still function as a story of a B-movie actor who's being thought of as a hero -- let's get him, and he'll help -- and being forced to confront our false conceptions of who these people are.
Cinematical: People are talking about JCVD in the same way, have you seen that?
BC: I finally heard about that the other day. That was the first I'd heard about it, that he was doing the same type of dealio.
Cinematical: It would make a great double-feature.
BC: And Galaxy Quest, and Three Amigos --
Cinematical: You could have a whole film festival.
BC: Of people being not who they think they are.
Cinematical: How did you like playing the horrible version of yourself?
BC: The idiot version of myself ... It wasn't hard, actually, because it's just a character. As far as I'm concerned, it's not Bruce Campbell ... I'm playing a Bruce Campbell, who drinks rotgut whiskey and abuses his dog. That wasn't a problem. I never thought, how would the real Bruce do this. I thought, how would this other guy do this. So I wasn't really thinking about Bruce Campbell, because I'm going to look like him anyway, and sound like him, so I can do whatever.
Cinematical: But how did you develop this character that's ... not you?
BC: Well, I like redemptive stories. So if you make him a jerk, maybe he's 4 percent less of a jerk by the end of the movie, after going through the big adventure. I figure if you make him an asshole, you've got somewhere to go.
Cinematical: A lot of your roles have that type of change --
BC: Yeah, the semi-unredeemable idiot. I like that, I like to see people improve, even jackass characters, just a little bit.
Cinematical: We did a Cinematical Seven this week on our favorite Bruce Campbell roles.
BC: Oh, boy.
Cinematical: Are there any that movies you especially enjoyed doing that no one ever seems to mention?
BC: A cool little film called Running Time. It's black and white, it's a crime drama, done in real time. The whole movie's one shot, just like the Hitchcock movie Rope. But we're going into vans, there's a real-time bank heist, there's a real-time love scene, we're going upstairs into rooms, out into alleys -- it's pretty ambitious for a really, really low-budget movie. People will find it over time, maybe.
Cinematical: As we noticed during the Q&A [of MNIB], people get very excited about the Evil Dead movies -- the idea of Evil Dead 4. It's been more than 15 years since Army of Darkness. What do you think is driving this?
BC: Just a sincere desire to have more. But as every year passes ... Sam [Raimi] has no ill will toward any of those movies, neither do I. They did a lot of good for us, got us started in the business. But they really take a lot of effort. Army of Darkness took 103 days of shooting. That's as much as Back to the Future 3. And that wasn't even second-unit or reshoots of any of that crap. That was a big ordeal. Hours and hours of makeup and special effects. To run that through our head again and process that, you have go to -- ooof, wow.
Sam has 5 kids now, he's this ultimate family man. And he's making Spider-Man 4. So when on earth would that [Evil Dead 4] ever happen? He said it himself, "We can always make Evil Dead 4." But he's riding a big fast train right now, and he has no intention of getting off it. Big-budget movies and Sam are a great match, he's always thought big. Always. We could never afford to do what Sam thought of -- we always felt bad as producers, we could never give him what he really wanted. And now with Spider-Man, he finally gets it, now he can go insane.
Cinematical: What's coming up next for you?
BC: Well, they ordered Season 3 for Burn Notice, so that's coming back. Whenever I'm a star on a TV show, it lasts for one year. And then whenever I'm not, it lasts for much longer. That's my cue, and now I know -- never star in a TV show again. Always let somebody else star in the show, and then just crack jokes on the side. So I'm going to let Jeffrey Donovan work his ass off for four more years, and I'll be the guy over his right shoulder.
And eventually another movie with Mike Richardson for the fall of 2009. If this [My Name is Bruce] makes money, we'll do My Name is Still Bruce -- we have an Ugly American version of that where Bruce goes to Europe and battles a succubus. So we can do that, or something else, we don't know yet. It all depends on whether anyone bothers to watch this movie. It'd be a little silly to dive in without getting the full feedback.
Cinematical: The screenings sold out here [Austin] in something like five minutes.
BC: Yeah, that was fast. The real test will be what happens when I'm gone. When I'm not in the building.
Cinematical: It sounded like people were really enjoying it here.
BC: This is a good place to launch, and if we get a good start here, the bloggers will get the word out. They're the best word of mouth you can get now, bloggers, it's like wildfire. So what we'll be relying on is good old-fashioned word of mouth. We'll see if it picks up in New York, and test different markets -- where do they like it? where do they not? We'll be going to a little of Middle America, not too much -- Decatur, Illinois, there's another cool theater, the Avon Theater, I've had some good screenings there.
So ... that's my vacation. And then back to work to pay for my vacation.
Check out Bruce Campbell's Web site if you want information on his road tour with My Name is Bruce.