You may not know the name, but you know the face — and the chin. He’s survived the ”Evil Dead” films, ridden off into the sunset in ”The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.,” and teamed up with Hercules and Xena as king of thieves Autolycus. He’s Bruce Campbell, and he’s been on the brink of stardom seemingly forever (most recently, he just missed out on the role of David Duchovny’s replacement on ”The X-Files”). Now Campbell has turned from auteur to author, penning his first tome, ”If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor.” EW.com asked this new literary giant about some of his career high (and low) lights.
You were among the first actors to set up a personal website, complete with a journal. Why?
Communication and clarification, because some of the information is so warped out there. It’s not one of these ”send me $4.95 a month and I’ll make you a member of my cool club” deals. A literary agent tracked me down and said, ”I’ve read this stuff on your site. I think eventually it could make a good book.”
Talking to fans who are obsessed with your work in the ”Evil Dead” movies — is that flattering, frightening, or a little bit of both?
Both, in that you never know how extreme they really are. I’ve met several people on this book tour that are named Ash because of the ”Evil Dead” movies, so I’m signing a book, going ”Dear Ash…” I’m not kidding! Most of it is really harmless. There’s probably 2 percent that scares me, only because we’re dealing with extreme subjects: blood, chainsaws, and axes.
Do you think most people in your profession would rather be actors or celebrities?
Oh, celebrities for sure. And there’s a huge difference. A celebrity really has a plan. From the day Britney Spears was born, she had a plan. I just hope young actors starting out have a serious talk with themselves and go, ”Okay, am I a celebrity or am I an actor?”
Your high school friend Sam Raimi is now a big budget director (”Spider-Man”). What makes his films so unique?
Sam has a great visual style. He torments his camera crew because he knows so much and he’s always trying to do ridiculous new stuff.
Wait, I thought he only enjoyed tormenting you!
Oh, no, he’s tormenting everyone around him, I just happen to be in front of the camera. Sam’s mellowed out, because once you get into Kevin Costner’s world [Raimi directed ”For Love of the Game”] you can’t be sticking cameras up his nose. But I think people appreciate that enthusiasm.
Okay, we gotta ask: Will you and Raimi make ”Evil Dead 4”?
Honestly, I actually think we would do it at this point. The reason is, I think Sam has done the sort of corporate filmmaking thing, and I think there’s a part of him still poking him going, ”You should fire up that chainsaw one more time.”
You’re very candid writing about the stuff you’ve been in that’s less than stellar. What’s your WORST film?
Let’s take ”Maniac Cop.” On all accounts, it’s not a good movie. But at the time I got a call offering me my first official role on a platter. Going in, it all seemed perfectly legit. It’s only in perspective, later, that you go, ”Wow, what a dog!”
What about ”Crimewave,” the movie directed by Raimi and written by the Coen Brothers?
We tried so hard! And it was a real heartbreaker, because, God, it sucked in so many ways. We got mugged by Hollywood. I’ve never met a meaner group of people in my entire life. At that point I thought if this is what Hollywood is like, I’ll sell insurance.
Do you think your history of doing wink-wink roles has worked against you in trying to get serious parts?
Of course! Perception is nine tenths the law. If that’s what they mostly see you in, they say, ”To hell with that guy, he does that winking, likable rogue thing. We need some SERIOUS actor.” But what they don’t realize is that if they plunk a serious script in front of the actor, what’s he gonna do, insist you put gags in it? If it’s a good script, you just do the script.