Bruce Campbell prefers monsters to Shakespeareby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
Film fans will tell you there are comedy films, action flicks, romances, and then there are the Bruce Campbell movies.
A Bruce Campbell film mixes monsters, extreme gore and corny humor.
Campbell shot to fame, in certain circles, as the star of "Evil Dead." That fame escalated, again in certain circles, with "Evil Dead 2 - Dead by Dawn."
Campbell is in Minneapolis to introduce his new film this weekend.
St. Paul, Minn. — You can learn a lot about an individual from the title of his autobiography. Bruce Campbell's is called "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor."
Campbell really does have a lantern jaw, and a self-deprecating sense of humor which has helped him survive in the blood-soaked waters of low-budget horror films.
His new movie also has an element of autobiography. It's called "My Name is Bruce" and it's about a B-movie actor called Bruce Campbell. Campbell says the film writer was inspired by a 1940s comic book about another film star.
"And that premise was about a group of people who kidnapped Alan Ladd to help them fight pirates because in the movies he's sort of a swashbuckler," Campbell says. "And so he thought, 'Let's try a really weird spin on that.' So we pitched the concept of what if an actor known for fighting monsters gets absconded and forced into servitude of fighting a real monster, what would happen? And the answer, of course, is it's really ugly."
In the film, Campbell is approached by a teenager from a town being plagued by a Chinese god of war, unleashed by a group of unwitting kids. The youngster, who has seen all of Campbell's films, asks him to help. Campbell thinks he's being pitched a movie script. When he says no, the teen knocks him out and carries him away in the trunk of his car.
Campbell, who also directed and produced the film, admits his character comes off a jerk.
"A big jerk, a huge jerk," he says. "The character would be a jerk no matter who played it. The fact that he's Bruce Campbell, that's just a weird twist. We could have called him Dash Riprock, you know B-movie actor Dash Riprock, but we thought, I've been in a bunch of B-movies already, let's just go to the next level and say it is Bruce Campbell."
When Campbell is let out of the car he chews out the assembled crowd.
"What you just did, you just kidnapped a movie star. You got that? So you just didn't commit a crime against me, which was pretty huge - you committed a crime against art itself!"Campbell delights in the confusion caused by this layering of identities, real and assumed.
"Who is the real Bruce Campbell?" he asks. "And of course I am the only one who knows that. But there's always going to be one guy in the audience who thinks I really drink cheap whiskey out of dog bowls."
Which Campbell does a couple of times in the film? The humor of a Bruce Campbell movie isn't for everyone. A running gag in Evil Dead 2 is the running battle he has with his own hand which he has amputated with a chainsaw after it become possessed.
He says "My Name is Bruce" is not a horror movie.
"This movie is Bob Hope with a body count," he says. When it's pointed out that there are several very bloody deaths in the film, he says agrees, but sticks to his position.
"I would call that 'splatstick' rather than real horror," he says.
This is a low-budget movie, and to publicize it economically Campbell is driving to 22 cities to introduce the film to fans. He'll appear at evening screenings at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis tonight through Sunday.
Campbell has a huge number of dedicated fans, who will see his films if only to complain about them.
"I met a guy who had his entire back tattooed with the poster from 'Army of Darkness,' the whole poster was on his back," Campbell says. "I thought it was amazing. I'm sure it hurt and it was very expensive so I felt bad for him in that respect. I think the movies appeal to people because they are just not normal."
When asked if he'd rather be doing Shakespeare or Pinter, Campbell looks slightly appalled. He likes doing these films, and he also likes working on what he calls his day job, "The Burn Notice" TV series. That's what's filling most of his time nowadays, but he's already looking at doing another as yet undefined project later next year.
"If the New York Times had their way, I would never make another movie," he laughs. "But I don't think they'll get their wish."
Because in the Bruce Campbell world there's always another monster or a vengeful Chinese god of war, and a few buckets of gore just around the corner.