Category Archives: Books

Interview: Groovy Bruce Campbell talks ‘Hail to the Chin’

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.

Bruce Campbell 2

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.”

Bruce Campbell and his Ashy Slashy Puppet in Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2

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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Interview: Leah Gallo talks ‘The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’

Quirk BooksWhile fans of Tim Burton are waiting with burning anticipation for the release of his latest, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” one of the celebrated filmmaker’s closest collaborators has another look at the film in a most peculiar way.

In the new book “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (Quirk Books), photographer/writer Leah Gallo documents the making of Burton’s new adventure fantasy. In addition to a myriad of behind-the-scenes photos and portraits of cast members, the book features an introduction by Burton as well as a foreword by Ransom Riggs, the author of the best-selling novel that the film is based upon.

“Ransom is such a genuine, down-to-earth human being, and he just brings a lot of enthusiasm to everything he does,” Gallo, a Pennsylvania native, recently said in a recent phone conversation from London. “Just being around him, it’s contagious. It’s always fun to hang out with him. We did photo shoots on the film, including Belgium, and he was a lot of fun to take photos of because he was game for whatever.”

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df-08993Leah Gallo. (Photo: Jay Maidment, courtesy 20th Century Fox)

Like she did on her last book on a Burton film, “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art,” Gallo doubled her chores by writing the text as well as taking on many of the photographer duties. While on-set photographs from the making of the film were taken throughout the shoot, the most intensive period of work on the book in terms of the photos and writing took place between November 2015 and May of 2016. Joining Gallo on the book was her longtime collaborator Holly Kempf, who was in charge of design.

Gallo’s “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was unique in that the idea of Riggs’ novel was borne out of photographs, assembled from the author/filmmak

er’s collection of unidentified vintage portraits that he assembled through trips to flea markets, antique stores and the like. Many were mysterious, if not eerie photographs of children, which led Riggs to conceptualize them in writing as “peculiar” with supernatural abilities.

As a result, Gallo created similar vintage portraits of the characters in the film, which in effect placed her in a parallel universe, effectively, by recreating the original photographs.

“We wanted to keep the vibe of the original photos as much as possible. Whenever we could, we tried to be true to the essence of the photos and the ways the subjects posed in Ransom’s book,” Gallo said.

But unlike Riggs, Gallo said she doesn’t collect old, unidentified photographs of people — nor has she ever had the desire to.

“Whenever I see those old photo bins, I just feel a sense of sadness in a way,” Gallo said. “It’s like they’re pieces of orphaned history that creates a mystery. ‘Who was this person?’ It creates limitless possibilities. That’s why I think Ransom did a great job of curating his collection for his book, and choosing ones that were very striking, intriguing and creepy. I certainly appreciate them and find them compelling, especially in the way he’s constructed the narrative around them.”

“The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” includes dozens of interviews with cast and crew members from the film, including executive producer (and Gallo’s husband) Derek Frey, and of course, the filmmaker behind the peculiar vision that fans will see on the big screen when it opens across the country Friday.

leah-gallo-3Leah Gallo, sketched by Tim Burton, from “The Napkin Art of Tim Burton” (Steeles Publishing).

Gallo recalled the first time she talked with Burton about what inspired him to make the film.

“The photographs from Ransom’s book are what attracted Tim to the project,” Gallo said. “He found them compelling and mysterious. They were a huge part of why he wanted to do the film. I think that’s he was attracted to doing the story of these peculiar children. There’s a similar narrative in a lot of his films, of the misunderstood.”

While she’s collaborated with Burton for 10 years, Gallo said it’s always fascinating to talk with the filmmaker about his newly realized big-screen visions. Essentially, no matter how much she thinks she knows Burton, she always ends up learning so much more about what goes into bringing those visions to life.

“Whenever I interviewed him for the book, he always had answers that surprised me,” Gallo enthused. “The depths in which he thinks about every little detail is amazing.”

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Interview: Jackie Collins talks ‘family’ reunion with ‘The Santangelos’

'The Santagelos' Jackie Collins (St. Martin's Press)

It almost goes without saying that when famed author Jackie Collins begins to write a new novel about the Santangelos, it’s like visiting with family and old friends.

“I like visiting with them because they really exist for me. I see them as real-life characters and so do my readers,” Collins told me in a call from New York Monday. “They come to me on Twitter and Instagram and write these wonderful messages, like, ‘We want to see more of Lucky,’ ‘Where is Gino?’ and ‘How is Max doing? How is Bobby doing?’ This family has been with me a long time.”

On Tuesday, for the ninth time in the past 34 years, Collins is back with yet another page-turner about the  dire trials and tribulations of the once-connected Italian American family, in a novel simply titled “The Santangelos” (St. Martin’s Press). It’s there where fans will get the information they’ve been pining for about Gino, a former gangster now in his 90s; his daughter, Lucky; and her children, including Max and Bobby.

So not to spoil any surprises, but Gino appears to be living the quiet life, while Lucky’s marriage to Lennie is as vibrant as ever. Max, now 18 and independent-minded, is in Europe on the cusp of a huge modeling contract, while Bobby is finding huge success as a club owner with venues across the U.S. But the family’s past in organized crime has never fully disappeared, and it’s about to hit them hard on many levels.

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The great thing about Collins’ saga of the family is that you don’t have to necessarily start the series from 1981’s “Chances” and proceed to read the following seven releases to pick up and immediately understand what’s going on in “The Santangelos.” The wickedly funny and whip-smart Collins, 77, manages — as this first-time reader of her work found out — to quickly bring you up to speed on the background of the characters in the novel’s opening chapters.

“You can read ‘The Santangelos’ without reading any of the other books,” Collins said. “The new book stands on its own and that’s what I like about it. But what I hope will happens is, once people read the book, they’ll have to read all the other Santangelo books. They’ll want to read about Gino when he was 13 and he came to America, which is what happens in ‘Chances’; and then read about Lucky and how she becomes the woman she is, and how Gino marries her off at 16, which is in ‘Confessions of a Wild Child,’ and so on and so forth.”

Essentially, Collins wants to make sure all her readers, from the newbies to the long-faithful, are ready for the latest salacious

story of money, power, crime, greed and true to her continuing promise, lots of sex. That last element in particular is something that’s lacking in movies, Collins said.

“There are no characters there with these sequels going on all the time, and if you’ve noticed, the other thing that is missing is foreplay,” Collins said, laughing. “Now you just see a scene where they get together at a party, and then it goes to a hotel room and the woman is ripping the man’s shirt off, and then you see them in bed. That’s it. The movies just don’t know how to do sex anymore. Even the ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ movie was very non-sexual. It was beautifully shot — the camerawork was incredible — but it was so boring.”

Since she lives in Beverly Hills, California, Collins has often been asked if the characters in her books are based on real-life celebrities, and one particular supporting character in “The Santangelos” seems to fit the bill perfectly. Still, Collins said, despite having the same hair color, acting background and scandalous past as former child actor Lindsay Lohan, the controversial actress is not the basis for the character Willow Price.

“Willow is not based on Lindsay, she’s based on a number of different young women in Hollywood,” said Collins, who’s sold more than 500 million copies of her books worldwide. “I loved writing the character. I liking taking the essence of the characters from real people.”

While some of the characters in “The Santangelos” are inspired by real-life people, she runs the story parallel to names people will recognize. After all, you can’t have a story about Hollywood without having names in it like Jennifer Lawrence, Rooney Mara and Kristen Stewart (Willow, by the way, claims she’s more talented than all three combined).

And, sometimes, Collins noted, what she writes is almost a foreshadowing of big things to come.

“I’m a popular culture junkie, and when I’m writing about people, I’ve really studied them and know a lot about them,” Collins said. “I also love all kinds of music, so I like to mention things in my books that I think are going to happen. I remember when I first saw Alicia Keys before anybody even heard of her and put her in a book, my editor said, ‘Who’s Alicia Keys?’ and I said, ‘Just you wait.’ A year later she was so famous.”

Interview: Tim Burton photographer, writer talks ‘Big Eyes: The Film, The Art’

Director Tim Burton’s acclaimed new film “Big Eyes,” of course, tells the strange but amazing true story of famed big-eyed children paintings artist Margaret Keane created and her fight to reclaim her identity. And thanks to the sharp lens of Burton’s longtime photographer, Leah Gallo, the film and Keane’s portraits are being examined more in-depth.

New on store shelves and with online retailers Tuesday, “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art” (Titan Books) features behind-the-scenes and photographs by Gallo during the production of the film, which recently earned Golden Globe nominations for stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and songwriter Lana Del Rey – and a win for Adams in the Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical category. In addition, Gallo includes several of Keane’s original paintings, as well as rare, behind-the-scene photos of the artist at work.

Big Eyes Book, Leah Gallo Derek Frey
Left: ‘Big Eyes: The Art, the Film.’ Right: Leah Gallo, Derek Frey.

Gallo, a Pennsylvania native who first worked on “Sweeney Todd” in 2006 and officially started with Tim Burton Productions in London in 2008, said while companion books have been produced for all of Burton’s films since the film about “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” there was a burning creative desire to make sure “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art” made it to shelves.

“We thought ‘Big Eyes’ was a very special film, and while it’s not as fantastical as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or ‘Dark Shadows,’ the film reflects the interesting history of Margaret Keane’s life and artwork, so there was a lot to say and show with the book,” Gallo told me in a recent call from London. “About half of the book is about the making of the movie, and the other half is her actual artwork. It’s the first time her artwork has been published since the ’60s.”

Interview: Tim Burton talks “Big Eyes”

Gallo, who previously edited and wrote “The Art of Tim Burton” (Steeles Publishing) in 2009, said “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art” was very much a “hurry up and wait” process, while she and Tim Burton Productions designer Holly Kempf need to line up a publisher and take care of other business matters. Amazingly, Gallo, who also co-edited the book with Kempf, said the production of 192-page tome was completed in very intense two months.

Starring Adams as Margaret Keane and Christoph Waltz as her husband, Walter Keane, “Big Eyes” reveals a complicated time in Margaret’s life in the 1950s and ’60s where Walter scammed the public and art world into believing he was the creative genius behind the art of the big-eyed children, until Margaret found the courage to expose the hoax to the world.

A 10-years-in-the-making passion project for screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who also co-wrote Burton’s “Ed Wood”), the film also stars Krysten Ritter as Margaret’s best friend DeeAnn, Danny Huston as San Francisco newspaper columnist Dick Nolan, Jason Schwartzman as a snobby art dealer and Terrence Stamp as a pompous art critic. Margaret actually appears in cameo in the film, too, sitting on a park bench in an early scene while Adams and Waltz “paint” nearby.

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“Big Eyes” once again has personal meaning for Gallo in that it’s executive produced by Derek Frey, her husband who has also been a collaborator of Burton since “Mars Attacks!” in 1996. The book captures Burton in a very unique environment that the filmmaker hasn’t visited for 20 years — a small-budgeted movie — and Frey believes the intimate atmosphere brought out something unique in the filmmaker.

“It’s probably the smallest movie Tim has ever made,” Frey told me in a separate interview. “He kept saying, ‘I’ve made a movie for this budget before, but that was “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985.’ Because of that, ‘Big Eyes’ was a very different approach for Tim as a filmmaker. It was like he cleared out of his life all the big Hollywood franchises and all the movies that came with extra baggage, like a remake or a reinterpretation, and took on something that he could make his own and run with it. I’m really glad he did it.”

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Behind the ‘Eyes’

Gallo said the book features interview excerpts from Adams and Waltz, naturally, as well as Burton, whom she sat down with on a couple different occasions to discuss the film. And while talks with Burton all the time as one of the core members of his office, interviewing him for the “Big Eyes” book was fun and unique because she discovered little tidbits of information from him that she never knew before.

“In ‘Big Eyes,’ I found out there’s a little bit of (famed Italian horror director) Mario Bava in the film. It’s subtle, but you can see it in some of the lighting, it’s really interesting,” Gallo said. “It’s fun being reminded again and again how deeply Tim thinks about things. It may not seem so obvious, but he thinks these things through a lot. There’s a lot going on in his head.”

As Gallo found out, she wasn’t the only one fascinated by the untapped corners of Burton’s mind. Among the cavalcade of creatives she interviewed that have worked with Burton on many occasions — including costume designer Colleen Atwood and composer Danny Elfman included — the common theme she encountered that was that his collaborators keep working with him because they want to access those untapped corners, too.

“Getting perspectives of Tim in the interviews really made me aware of how admired he is. It’s easy to forget that when you work with somebody every day that they’re a creative genius,” Gallo said, laughing. “And then, after interviewing people who have worked around him before who’ve been in the film business for a long time, and hearing about their awe and admiration of him and illustrating all of his creativity, it reminds me that he’s pretty great at what he does.”

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