Capone catches up with sex-god Bruce Campbell on his MY NAME IS BRUCE U.S. tour!!!
Published at: Nov. 26, 2008, 8:47 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
So Bruce Campbell is making his return trip to Chicago this holiday weekend as part of his cross-country tour (click here for the complete tour schedule) promoting his new self-directed film MY NAME IS BRUCE, a very silly movie about a guy named Bruce Campbell who is recruited by a small town plagued by a Chinese god of war come back to life and chopping the heads of the townsfolk. Bruce is known by one young rabid fan in the town as a fighter of all things evil, but what he doesn't know is that the actor Bruce Campbell is a self-centered coward so embittered with the movie business that he's on the verge of quitting. The film actually opens in Chicago for a limited run at the Landmark Century Center Cinema on Friday, but the showings Bruce will be attending will be the 7:30 and 10:15 shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Get your tickets now, because these will sell out, I promise.
If there's on place on earth we probably don't have to go into detail about Bruce Campbell's past, it's here. But I will say that MY NAME IS BRUCE does address in a comical way some of the troublesome fan expectations and predictable questions that follow him wherever he makes an appearance. (And yes, I even manage to bring up some these topics during our talk.) In my 10 years with AICN, Campbell is probably the celebrity I've had the most repeated contact with, moderating Q&As, introducing him at screenings and conventions, or just sitting down to interview him and catch up on his career. I haven't had a chat with Campbell in quite some time, and since our last chat one of the biggest changes in his life is that he's on a hit cable TV show called "Burn Notice," show that quite subtly transformed Bruce from a B-movie actor to a supporting actor and maybe even a full-fledged character actor. Bruce has always been one of my favorite folks to chat with because he's open, honest, self-effacing, and eager to play along. Here is The Chin in all his glory--please enjoy Bruce Campbell.
Capone: How are you, Bruce?
Bruce Campbell: Good. What's going on?
Capone: Not too much. It's good to talk to you again. Where are you know?
BC: I'm in good old Baltimore now. We've got an event tonight, and then we're going to D.C. tomorrow, and then into the Heartland after that.
Capone: So you're back on the road again. It seems like you spend half your life traveling with one of your movies or on a book-signing tour.
BC: Yeah, because half your life is making, the other half is selling.
Capone: How many more of these cross-country deals do you think you still have in you?
BC: I've got a couple left, I think. My record is 55 cities for the first book; that took five months. And that broke me. I definitely left a piece of me on the trail somewhere. That one hurt. And then the next book, I think I backed off to about 35. This tour we're doing a measly 22.
Capone: That's still a lot for an actor to go around with a movie. Even a traditional stateside press tour only goes two or three weeks at most.
BC: True, but most actors aren't this involved in a movie though. This is a more like a handmade, silly project. It's fun because I do Q&As after some of the screenings. The midnight shows, I usually introduce them and then leave because I'm too old to come back afterwards. We've been having fun on the road showing it to humans.
Capone: And you started this tour in Austin?
BC: That's right, we started in good old Austin because the Alamo Drafthouse, man, there's nothing like it.
Capone: Does there come a point on one of these tours where you hear some of the same questions just one too many times and your brain just snaps?
BC: Well you go through that Lenny Bruce thing of the seven stages of questions. When you get the same questions over and over again, you practice your response. You practice making it nice and succinct, or you riff a little bit sometimes or you try something completely different--you lie! Other times you deflect the question or you make fun of the question. And right now that question is EVIL DEAD 4. That's pretty much guaranteed that I'll get that question.
Capone: Well, Sam Raimi was at Comic-Con this year promoting DRAG ME TO HELL. And he said that he and Ivan [Raimi] were going to sequester themselves soon thereafter and work on some sort of a script, either a remake or a new chapter.
BC: Sure, Sam, sure.
Capone: I'm just telling you what he said.
BC: Oh, I know. It's all been verified with bloggers with cell phones and all that. [laughs] I think it just verifies that we all have a fondness for those movies. I don't think either of us would ever rule out making one some day, but as far as when, I think that's impossible to say, because Sam just agreed to do SPIDER-MAN 4. Each of those movies takes at least two years to make. I'm under a five-year contract for "Burn Notice." So I'm not going anywhere really; neither is he.
Capone: Do you have a role in DRAG ME TO HELL?
BC: No. I was shooting "Burn Notice" during that, and I don't think there was anything there.
Capone: With MY NAME IS BRUCE…
BC: I recommend that you see this movie with more than one person in the room.
Capone: Oh I saw it with quite a few other people. And I'll probably come to at least on of the screenings in Chicago that you'll be appearing at.
BC: Yeah, there was one critic who was listing everything that the movie was missing, and my response to him was, "The only thing you're missing is an audience."
Capone: Well that's a lesson we learned from BUBBA HO-TEP on. The audience accents the experience of watching you movies. This film is sort of your version of GALAXY QUEST.
BC: That's fair enough. It's for the fans. It's a cautionary tale of why you should never hire an actor to do anything other than act. Ultimately it's serving as a comedy premise, that's all. It's not to be my definitive statement on my life or career or fans. It's a one off gag movie that hopefully people will be somewhat tormented and confused and hopefully entertained.
Capone: But you do comment on fandom as well.
BC: Of it's all over it. The fans are all over the movie. There are lots of references that mostly fans would really get. It infuriates the critics, but it delights the fans. It's okay that this movie is for fans in my opinion because I'm appealing to them with this. I don't do that with every movie, "Oh gee, will the fans like this or not?" But this movie is different. I'm supposedly playing myself. It's a parallel universe, so I'm going to do fans in a parallel universe as well. If I'm going to take cheap shots at myself, believe me, I'm going to take a few cheap shots at the fans too. Nobody is safe.
Capone: The version of Bruce Campbell in the film is remarkably similar to the more hostile version of yourself that I see do these Q&As and conventions--slightly abrasive.
BC: Well normally I don't drink cheap whiskey beforehand like I do in the movie. Only good whiskey. Look, acting is a heightened version of something. There's no such thing as a realistic actor since it's all make believe. So for the purpose of the movie, it's all about a broken down, loser, schmuck actor who has greatness thrust upon him, and he mostly fails. The fact that he's Bruce Campbell is an extra weirdo bonus that will either help or hurt. Maybe the guy should have been called Dash Riprock. There will be people who are going to be confused; they'll watch this and go, "Wow, why is he such an asshole to his fans?" I can't help it if people's perceptions are that iffy in the first place that they can't make the distinction between reality and fiction. Even during a Q&A, the reality is heightened as well. If I was the real Bruce, I'd be boring as hell giving long-winded, boring answers. It's more fun just to hurl the insults.
Capone: You've turned it into an art form, for sure.
BC: And the fans are pretty good at it themselves. They're insulting me half the time.
Capone: True enough. Did the screenplay [by Mark Verheiden, a regular writer for "Battlestar Galactica"] for this film come to you unsolicited or were you a part of its creation?
BC: Because I was one of the producers, my hands were all over it. Mark Verheiden and [producer and founder of Dark Horse Entertainment] Mike Richardson pitched the basic concept to me. Mark read a comic book years ago, a '40s comic book where a group of people kidnaps Alan Ladd to help them fight pirates because he'd played a swashbuckler. So even GALAXY QUEST is not the first time that concept has come along. So we all discussed making a twisted, updated version of that. And I thought, yeah, let's go for it. And let's not be shy either. If we're going to go for this character, he's going to be hiding whiskey bottles all over the place and pinching asses. It's all about the character; it has nothing to do with Bruce Campbell. I only pinch my wife's ass.
Capone: How was it working with the Dark Horse folks on this production?
BC: Fabulous. Mike Richardson likes movie; he's a fan. He gets all excited. And these movies are much more handmade than your HELLBOY, because that's for a big studio. You have to go through previews and jump through hoops and show it to the studio and get their approval, blah, blah, blah. Mike was my studio, so if Mike was happy, we were good to go. So this movie--good, bad or indifferent--is not a movie by committee. It's a very handmade kind of thing, and I think Mike gets very excited about that because movies can get very businesslike, and this one was a chance to get a lot of the old cronies back together, and do kind of a one-off gagfest. This is Bob Hope with decapitations; this is not SAW IX. So if folks are looking for the hardcore stuff, it ain't here. I mean, you're going to get the body count, you'll get that, but there's no torture porn in this. Torture porn, the great new phrase that's been invented.
Capone: Has being a part of "Burn Notice" opened up a few avenues for you?
BC: No, I just get recognized at airports more. That's the only difference. Because I've never really lacked for work as an actor. "Burn Notice" came out of nowhere. It does bring more of a heightened awareness. It's not that TV shows aren't good for someone as an actor. They are good because you're coming into someone's living room every week, and there's a familiarity, and they want that. And our ratings went up 25 percent last year, so we're the hot kid on the block on cable, and that's fun and very gratifying, because I've worked on a lot of things that were very difficult and they bombed.
Capone: TV, you mean?
BC: TV and movies.
Capone: Still, it's strange and exciting to see you in this sidekick role. How's that working out for you?
BC: It's great. It's the best gig on TV. Every time I've carried a show, it only lasted a year, so people can only take so much of me anyway. So it's better to be over the guy's left shoulder and be there for support in a couple of gags. It's fun and I don't have to carry the show. I leave that to my younger, studly man Jeffrey Donovan.
Capone: When I watch the film, I watch you thinking, Wow, here's this self-professed B-movie actor become a character actor, which sounds much classier by the way.
BC: The character is 50; I'm 50. So I'm finally playing a guy my age, which is great. You get to just be who you are. You're not creating anything special. It's a very character-based spy show, so you get to be a kind of wacky character. And all actors are character actors, or they should be. I'm in the character actor phase of my career now. This is my crooked politician/gym teacher phase/next-door neighbor.
Capone: You mentioned HELLBOY earlier. Paul Giamatti did an interview with our site not too long ago in which he reveals that Ron Perlman would be taking over the role of Elvis in the BUBBA HO-TEP sequel. Tell me what happened there. Why aren't you in that movie, because you were such an advocate for the first film.
BC: Oh yeah. I was a huge fan of the first one. Something I won't do is get into any kind of pissing war, because I have a lot of respect for Don Coscarelli and Paul and all of those guys. Look, franchises get to move on without actors. It's all good. Just look at the BATMAN movies. They got 19 BATMAN movies and 17 Batmen. Don and I could not agree on a script. And there were a couple of key things that we just could not get past in our heads. In the end, this is a movie; this is not life or death. I decided to let it go, and I didn't want to get in the way of him making his movie, which it certainly didn't. Both of those guys are good actors, so they'll give it their best shot and people will decide. So, it's all good. I have no ill will toward Don or anyone else. Shit like this happens everyday in Hollywood. People fall in and out of parts for all these strange reason. But my personal opinion is that they started by not getting Joe Lansdale [writer of the original BUBBA HO-TEP short story]. Joe is a very unique writer. There are very few guys like Joe Lansdale. To me, that was the first red flare, a hint that they were going in a slightly different directions. Again, I'm not here to judge, but to me, I liked the original element. It felt like plastic surgery was being introduced.
Capone: As far as film goes, is your next potential outing the sequel to MY NAME IS BRUCE?
BC: Well, we gotta make sure it's worthy of a sequel. If people show up and enjoy this one, we'll consider it. But it's not like I've got a desk filled with "The Further Adventures of Bruce" ideas. We certainly could. You could take that jerk character and put him all these strange worlds where he gets tortured. I don't know. We're going to let the masses speak or not speak. They will decide.
Capone: And whatever you do next, it will be with Dark Horse as well?
BC: Most likely because Mike Richardson was a fabulous partner. And working with Mark Verheiden was great. We have a great relationship; nobody was trying to prove anything. We all knew it was low budget, so nobody's going to make a billion dollars here. Our motives were right. Whether we pulled it off or not is for other people to decide. Sure, I'd work with those guys again in a second. We've got some other ideas we've been kicking around, so something's going to happen, hopefully next fall.
Capone: This is your second outing as a feature director. How do you rate yourself as a director today?
BC: Not great but improving. I'm a guy who can learn. And that's another advantage to going to all of these cities: if you sit through 10 or 15 screenings, you're going to know what is always going to work and what will never work. I've got gags in the movie that will always work, and I've got gags that will always lay an egg. You do the best you can when you're putting it together, but when you put it in front of humans, that's the final test. It is what it is because we want it to be that way, not because a studio made us re-edit or change something. We didn't change anything for anybody. And that's the way I like doing it. Movies are really dictatorships, they are really best functioning as a dictatorship, rather than a massive committee-based thing.
Capone: Amen. I noticed the film is set in Oregon. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you shot this on your vast acreage.
BC: Yeah, we built the whole town. I now have a backlot, the town of Goldlick is now on my property; I can't get rid of it. It's too big; I can't take it down. It took too long to put it up. Okay, it's a great conversation piece. "Hey come and barbeque, and we'll go to the Western town!" My wife and I walk around and say, "Hey, honey, meet you at the livery stable." So, yeah, it's a great little conversation piece that has no bearing on anything else right now. But building it was really the only way we could control the environment. If you don't have a lot of dough, and it's hard to block of streets and pay merchants and the cops get crabby if you're not out of there by a certain time, you can't tell a guy to shut his boombox off. Here, we controlled everything. I'm a huge proponent of backlots. The first movie I directed was MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN. We shot that on a Bulgarian backlog basically. We created a backlot for that. For me, it's all about control to create whatever loser world you're going for.
Capone: It sounds like the one on your property is a bed-and-breakfast just waiting to get opened.
BC: [laughs] Yeah. It was very funny to watch delivery guys come up there who had never been there before, and they were like, "Is this a ghost town?" They didn't really know. We used all old material for the most part on the outside of the buildings. We found an old rancher who we got a tremendous amount of stuff from. He had stuff that was already old, so we just had to put it up, and it looked like it had been there for 100 years.
Capone: Hopefully I'll get to see you again when you're in town. Good luck with the screenings.
BC: Good. Thank you. I appreciate it and the support. Bye.