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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.

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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: Groovy Bruce Campbell talks ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ Season 2

ash-3Back in the old days of the “Evil Dead” movies and “Army of Darkness, writer-director Sam Raimi used to take great pleasure in playfully torturing Bruce Campbell in any way possible, filming several exhaustive slapstick-infused scenes that would do the Three Stooges proud.

Of course, putting Campbell through the physical ringer wasn’t enough, so Raimi would proceed to drench his longtime friend with gallons of fake blood, always striving for the most repugnant result possible.

Fast-forward to 2015, where Campbell decided it was time for his character, Ashley J. “Ash” Williams, to share in the glory gory. For his outrageously entertaining  STARZ series “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” the groovy actor recruited a couple of sidekick deadite hunters, Pablo and Kelly (Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo), and a ambiguous nemesis, Ruby (Lucy Lawless), effectively ending his days of being the only goop-drenched punching bag.

And as Santiago, DeLorenzo and Lawless found out, Season 1 was only the beginning.

“Wait until you see Season 2,” Campbell teased in a recent phone conversation. “Pablo is going to have a really rough time, Kelly is going to be getting buckets of blood on her, and even the great Lucy Lawless is going to get slimed multiple times this season … nobody got off easy this year. I have a torn hamstring to prove it.”

Ash Williams Evil Dead II Sixth Scale Figure

Fresh off the Blu-ray premiere of Season 1 (Anchor Bay Entertainment), Season 2 of “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” which premieres Sunday on STARZ, finds Ash’s dream life in Jacksonville, Florida, interrupted by a deadite attack. It seems the Book of the Dead is too much for Ruby to handle, and they need to travel to Ash’s hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan, where Ash, Pablo and Kelly need to help get their enemy out of a hellish jam.

Also in Elk Grove is the newest “Ash vs. Evil Dead” cast member, Lee Majors, who plays Ash’s dad. Like Raimi and Campbell — who were born in the same hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan — the “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Fall Guy” icon is a native of the Wolverine State. Campbell said he takes pride in his Midwestern upbringing and work ethic, and Majors recognizes that.

“Believe it or not I think that’s why Lee Majors likes us,” Campbell enthused. “Lee has a great work ethic, too, that’s why he never leaves the set. He’s one of those guys who says, ‘I’m fine over here, just give me a chair.’ He doesn’t play any games. He was amazed that we (Campbell, Raimi and Rob Tapert) are still partners. It’s coming up on 37 years after we did the first ‘Evil Dead.’ I’ll walk into the office and there’s Rob Tap

ert, same guy. It makes working a lot easier. These shows are really difficult to do, and it helps to look across the table and see the guy you’ve known for years and years.”

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Needless to say, Campbell is thrilled that Majors is playing Ash’s dad. It only takes a mere glimpse at the veteran actor in “Ash vs. Evil Dead” to see he’s got the same square-jawed looks and “I don’t give a damn” swagger of his chainsaw-wielding, boomstick-carrying son.

“He’s absolutely perfect as Ash’s dad,” Campbell said. “He’s an ass grabber. Bigot. Socially unacceptable. He’s just perfect. He’s the guy we wanted from the start.”

Raimi, unfortunately, will not be directing any episodes for Season 2, Campbell said. Raimi, who went on to direct the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” trilogy, as well as such other hits as “A Simple Plan,” “Drag Me to Hell” and “Oz the Great and Powerful,” is instead staying behind-the-scenes as one of the show’s creators and executive producers.

Campbell said he was just happy that Raimi was available to help the production kick the show off in style last year.

“We were lucky to get Sam for that. He came down off the mountain top to help us out, and now he has to go back on top of the mountain,” Campbell said. “He’s a big movie director and his schedule doesn’t allow it, but he’s a great voice from above and he’s keeping his eye on the show, and that’s what matters to us. Plus, he gave us the street cred. He directed the pilot and set the bar very high and the tone for the other directors. He was glad to be able to do that.”

STARZNot just for laughs

While “Ash vs. Evil Dead” has its share of high comedy, Campbell said the idea of scaring audience members is not lost on the production. Episode 1 of Season 2 is proof of that, as Ruby’s evil spawn return — and they’re all grown up.

“The one thing that we do serious on ‘Evil Dead’ and the one rule that we enforce is, ‘Evil is scary. Evil is not funny,'” Campbell said. “Evil can be malicious, which is thereby secondary funny, but primarily, evil’s main goal is to mess with your head and kill you slowly if they can.”

MORE: Bruce Campbell talks Ash’s presidential run

While Season 2 has yet to officially get underway, Campbell said he wants to be back in “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” too, and not just for another season.

“I’m going for five. I’ll take five seasons,” Campbell said. “Five will give fans everything they need – pretty much the equivalent of multiple movies. That way, we can get all the character development out of it, and look, never say never — maybe we could turn around and go make another (‘Evil Dead’) movie. Success begets success. I have a bold theory that Season 2 is where this show is going to stick. I’m lobbying STARZ for Season 3 and 4 pickup to give the fans a vote of confidence so they can know that there will be a stream of shows coming. We’ve got your back. We’re going to give you what you demanded.”


One good sign that there’s a big enough fan base is the demand for merchandise tied into the show. New Jersey-based collectibles company NECA is getting ready to release “Ash vs. Evil Dead” 7-inch action figures — including Hero Ash, Value Stop Ash, and the evil entity Eligos – and Campbell couldn’t be more thrilled. In the past, the company has produced other “Evil Dead” merchandise, and also has a 7-inch “Ultimate Ash” on the way.

“People still like stuff to hold in their hands in this digital age,” Campbell said. “They like something they can shove on my tables at conventions and say, ‘Sign my Ash figure.’ I’ve signed a lot of myself.”

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Movie reviews: ‘Hands of Stone,’ ‘Don’t Breathe’ on KQRS

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Tim Lammers reviews  Edgar Ramirez and Robert De Niro’s Roberto Duran boxing drama “Hands of Stone,” as well as horror thriller “Don’t Breathe” on “The KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard and the crew. Tim, Tom and the crew also weigh in on other movie releases and their box office prospects Hear the segment starting 10-and-a-half minutes in.

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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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