With a career in film and television that spans more than 35 years, actor Bruce Campbell has been a mainstay with fans since his groovy debut as director Sam Raimi’s anti-hero Ashley J. “Ash” Williams in the 1981 horror classic “The Evil Dead.” Since then, he’s thrilled fans by reprising Ash in the sequels “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness,” and reprised the chain-saw handed, boomstick-slinging Deadite slayer in the outrageously entertaining STARZ horror series “Ash vs. Evil Dead. ”
But in between, Campbell has led a remarkable life as an actor and director on several other projects; and he’s also earned a stellar reputation on the pop culture convention circuit, where he’s greeted countless numbers of fans over the years with his trademark wit and undeniable charm. Basically, Campbell has proven despite his successes in the industry that he’s just an average Joe that has worked hard enough to maintain a living for nearly four decades in one of the most competitive businesses on the planet.
Needless to say, Campbell has amassed his fine share of unique behind-the-scenes stories along the way, which he first shared in his memoir “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of B-Movie Actor” in 2001. But since Campbell’s career kept rocketing skyward after 2001, naturally he has accumulated more interesting tales, which led him to do a follow-up memoir “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor” (St. Martin’s Press), new on store shelves and online Tuesday.
While often filled with humor, Campbell’s stories, like in the first “Chin” book (an ode to the actor’s square-jawed mug) is also deeply personal and revealing. It’s that sort of honestly in both his screen and personal appearances that fans have glommed on to, mainly because Campbell is so relatable to them.
While most actors give off the whiff of inaccessibility as they attend red carpet premieres, awards shows and other events not privy to the public, Campbell is happy on the flip side to bring the show to the people who have kept him employed all these years. To Campbell, the barrier between stars and fans should be so thick.
“I’m always happy to poke a hole in that. I don’t want people to put me up on a pedestal. I don’t want to be seen as anything special,” Campbell said in a phone conversation from New Jersey on Monday. “So, maybe talking about getting a DUI will bring me down to earth a little bit in some people’s minds, which is exactly what I want. Athletes shouldn’t be put up on pedestals, politicians, no one — because they’re all going to fall. We’re humans. We make stupid decisions.”
Thankfully, Campbell believes the real dumb decisions are behind him, because now they’re viewed in a completely different light.
“Nowadays, good God, with all the social media — all the stupid crap coming out of actors’ mouths is now immortalized on the internet, “Campbell observed. “If you have one bad night and someone photographs you? Oh, baby. And if they record your rant that normally wouldn’t be happening, you have to watch out. It’s a different ball game out there.”
Co-authored by Campbell’s longtime assistant, Craig Sanborn, “Hail to the Chin” not only chronicles some of the actor’s adventures on and off the set with his longtime wife, Ida, it tells several of the stories — sometimes pretty, sometimes not so much — of his work on dozens of projects.
Included are tales of his work on the cult classics “Bubba Ho-Tep” and “My Name is Bruce,” as well as reuniting with his “Evil Dead” director Sam Raimi on the box office blockbusters “Oz the Great and Powerful” and the “Spider-Man” trilogy. Campbell also recounts his work on such television series as “Burn Notice” and “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” among many others, and his interesting encounters at conventions.
Whether he’s on the road filming, promoting his work or meeting with fans, Campbell has more than earned his reputation of being one of the hardest-working men in show business. The actor believes a lot of his attitude is rooted in the solid Midwestern work ethic he developed growing up in Michigan, along with the likes of Sam Raimi and his brother, Ted (who also frequently collaborates with Campbell).
“I don’t know any other way. We grew up in a town full of factory workers,” said Campbell, 59. “These are guys who didn’t even like their jobs and yet they worked at them. It was inspiring in a way to take that work ethic and put it towards something that we chose to do. It makes you want to work hard if you’re doing your own thing, and take responsibility for it, too.”
Campbell is no doubt working harder than ever, not only on by embarking on a three-month, 35-city book tour to promote “Hail to the Chin,” but the third season of “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” which is completed but awaiting a premiere date. Of the upcoming the upcoming season, Campbell said, “Season 3 is a piece of work. We’re hoping by the 10th episode that you’ll have to pick your jaw up off the floor.” He also said to “expect the unexpected.”
No matter how long it will be until more Ash, fans not only have “Hail to the Chin” to keep themselves busy in all-things Campbell, but several more offerings from NECA, the major provider of “Ash vs. Evil Dead” merchandise. On the slate for late November/early December is a full-scale replica of the Ashy Slashy puppet from Season 2, which Campbell tried on Monday (“It was perfect. It was exactly like we shot with,” he said.); and a before that, more action figures from “Evil Dead II” and “Ash vs. Evil Dead.”
And while the “Evil Dead II” figures are a wonderful blast from the past, the one thing Campbell said he’s finding is that the new action figures for “Ash vs. Evil Dead” are reminders of just how long he’s been in the business.
“They’ve done a great job, and they’re some of the best action figures that I’ve ever had,” Campbell said. “But I was joking the other day, ‘You know you’re craggy when your action figure is craggy.’ The new action figures got all the wrinkles and the crags, and I was like, ‘Wow. Thanks for nailin’ it.’ You think that they’d cut you a break and make you look 15 years younger, but no, no, no.”
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