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Interview: Bruce Campbell talks ‘Last Fan Standing,’ ‘Ash Vs. Evil Dead’

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By Tim Lammers

Bruce Campbell, one of biggest attractions at Wizard World’s fan conventions, is turning the spotlight on the people who’ve showed up to support his work over the years – and he couldn’t be more thrilled.

Campbell, the star of the classic “Evil Dead” movie trilogy and such hit shows as “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Jack of All Trades” and “Burn Notice,” has yet another new gig: the host of the new ConTV.com trivia game show “Last Fan Standing.” Debuting Monday on the website and other mobile platforms, the show features four fans at different Wizard World conventions facing off against each other with their knowledge of movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, horror and fantasy genres. Through a process of elimination based on points earned, the last of the four contestants is deemed the “Last Fan Standing.”

Campbell is a very affable host during the show, and often takes the time to have fun with the contestants — not make fun of them.

“You have to appreciate their love of the genres. We’re just trying to give them a chance to shine,” Campbell told me in an interview Monday. “There’s a lot of introverts who come to these things. Inside they’re dying because they want to talk about things, and in some cases, they can’t. But with the show, we’re hauling them up on stage and people are clapping, and we’re giving them prizes and stuff like that. It’s a special time for people who don’t usually get in the spotlight. They spend their whole lives looking at people in the spotlight, so with the show, we’re turning the spotlight on them. I think they’re enjoying the hell out of it.”

Campbell, who said he’s appeared at “dozens upon dozens” conventions since 1998, noted that he doesn’t take his fans for granted, mainly because he wouldn’t be where he is today without them.

“Harrison Ford was just quoted as saying ‘I don’t get this whole fan thing,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, Harrison, maybe you should get this whole fan thing.’ People are obsessed about certain things. Once you get into sci-fi, horror or fantasy, fans can let their imaginations go wild,” Campbell said.

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Having witnessed their interactions with fans at convention appearances, Campbell said he’s been very impressed with the way cast members from that monstrous zombie TV show on AMC conduct themselves with people.

“When Norman Reedus from ‘The Walking Dead’ goes to these Wizard World conventions, he is frickin’ Elvis Presley,” Campbell said. “People are bringing him stuff, and you look at his table when he’s done signing, and it looks like someone died or something. They bring him candles and gifts and strange oddities, and he’s a very gracious participant in these events. Not every actor likes being there.”

Campbell said the first season of “Last Fan Standing” shows were shot at Wizard World conventions in Louisiana and Oregon, and given the company’s ever-expanding in presence (Minneapolis, for example, was one of the cities to add a Comic-Con last year), the “Last Fan Standing” crew could very well be visiting more places in seasons to come.

“We were able to get a whole season done in two cities, because we found that it was more cost-effective to shoot more than one show per city,” Campbell said. “So if you’re dragging your crew out to do a show, you might as well do two shows a day. We did four shows in New Orleans and six in Portland and we were done. Now, granted, if the show is a success, I have five other events this year that I’m booked at, and the show could very easily go to any of those.”

Campbell said he loves how “Last Fan Standing” is shot, which bypasses all the formalities of other game shows.

“Fans walk through the doors and nobody is screened. We don’t do the crap that they do for all those other TV shows,” Campbell said. “Everyone gets a clicker and a voting device, and four people get weeded out of that crowd. Then I show up and they go at it.”

‘Dead’ again

Campbell told me he’s revved up to start filming his new STARZ TV series, “Ash Vs. Evil Dead,” starting this April in New Zealand. The series, based on his Ash character from his two “Evil Dead” movies and “Army of Darkness,” will find the wise-cracking, square-jawed anti-hero as a nomad living in a trailer park in the Midwest. Apart from the news of the addition of a couple younger co-stars who will play his sidekicks, Campbell couldn’t reveal too many details of the show – apart from the fact that Ash is reluctant to face the evil Deadites once again.

“When the evil rises to test the mettle of the average man every so often, Ash is our average man,” Campbell said. “It’s a journey he doesn’t want to undertake. It’s very much a Joseph Campbell’s hero’s story that we hope to carry over multiple years to finally flesh Ash’s character out. He’s never really been fleshed out. He’s only been in six hours of material. After this first season, you’re going to have 10 hours of brand-new Ash. He’s going to have to talk and things like that.”

While Campbell and “Evil Dead” co-creator and director Sam Raimi have been bugged for years to do a fourth “Dead” movie, the actor/producer said doing a TV show makes the most sense. The great thing for fans is in addition to Ash’s return, Raimi is directing the first episode of the series, set for debut later this year.

“We’ll be coming into fans’ living rooms every week with new stuff. I don’t know how they would want anything more than that,” Campbell said. “They’ll be getting 10 fresh hours a year of ‘Evil Dead.’ They never got that before. This is going to be a feast. They can gorge themselves on this show now.”

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