Interview: Bruce Campbell Might Be the Hardest Working Actor in Hollywood
Bruce Campbell is that rare breed of actor who has the looks of a classic matinee idol but the soul of a character actor. In a career that has spanned over four decades, he has conquered every genre you can think of; there is nothing he can’t do.
At age 63, when most people are planning their retirement, Campbell is reinventing himself. Not one to sit idle, he has been extremely busy throughout the pandemic working on various productions.
Over the summer of 2020, he did voicework on Dan Mirvish’s darkly comedic Watergate era thriller, 18 1/2 .The actor portrayed President Richard M. Nixon for the indie film director. Following that experience, he landed a role in Casey Tebo’s upcoming holiday horror flick, Black Friday, which premiered last month at Fantastic Fest.
Tebo’s venture marks Bruce’s long overdue return to the silver screen. Screen Media recently acquired the film for distribution and fans will be able to see it in theaters next month.
Of course, 2021 has also proven to be a productive year for the actor as well. In March, he starred in a pilot for ABC called Adopted, which unfortunately was not picked up by the network. A stint on the successful Peacock series A.P. Bio followed, and Bruce even found the time to fly to London and do some work on his old pal Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Whether or not his part in the picture ends up making the final cut is anybody’s guess at this point in time.
Maintaining such a hectic schedule like Campbell’s has the potential to be taxing but quite the opposite is true for him. It seems to reinvigorate the thespian. In between his acting gigs, Bruce can be found wearing the hat of producer on the latest installment in the Evil Dead franchise, Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise. Not to mention the fact that he will be reprising his role of Ash Williams for Evil Dead: The Game.
Perhaps the most exciting news to come out of his camp concerns Highly Functional, a feature that has been in the can for four years, which may finally see the light of day under a different title. In the original version of the picture, Bruce plays a down on his luck country singer named Chili Youngfield who is kidnapped by a young man named Bobby (James Frecheville).
He believes that if he can get Chili, who happens to be his dying guardian Dan’s (G.W. Bailey) favorite entertainer to perform for him, it just might give him the will to live. It’s an offbeat road trip flick and Campbell even does a bit of singing in it.
Oh, and did I mention that the actor is also starring in a Hallmark Christmas movie called One December Night?
I chatted with Bruce about his eventful year and what the future has in store for him.
ScreenAnarchy: The pandemic has been an extremely productive time for you. In the midst of the craziness, you cut an album with Ted Raimi, you published a book of essays, completed a drive-in tour, started appearing at conventions again and you managed to squeeze in a stint on A.P. BIO, not to mention a couple of movies. What challenges did you face doing COVID productions, and how have the protocols changed the landscape for live performances and the convention scene?
Bruce Campbell: Generally speaking, Covid precautions are just a pain in the ass because they slow everything down and I'm sure it's more expense for the producer. Being in quarantine twice and tested numerous times is not fun at all, but I'm happy to do it in order to stay employed - same goes with vaccines.
Hell, yes, I got the vaccine because I travel a lot and interact with people. It is nice to see production up and running again, so it's worth it to me. Conventions are coming back to life slowly, and we'll see how they do - each state is different how they handle this. Fingers crossed.
18 ½, (where you lent your vocal talents to play President Richard M. Nixon) is on the festival circuit and receiving rave reviews. I was fortunate enough to virtually screen the film. It is a brilliant indie effort with a well-written script that serves up a few surprises. Your portrayal of the beleaguered Commander-in Chief is pretty spot on and not an impersonation. Dan Mirvish said that he felt you were “perfect for the role” and that you added “gravitas” to the character, which really worked for the absurdity of the former President. How did you prepare? Did you listen to Nixon’s speeches and interviews? You grew up during Watergate, so you had those memories to draw upon.
Everyone of my generation has an imitation of Nixon in their pocket. The trick, like playing Reagan, was to not parody, but Nixon came close to it without trying. There were some things on the real tapes that were simply over-the-top.
BLACK FRIDAY is also on the festival circuit and was picked up for distribution by Screen Media. Jonathan, the store manager, is a different kind of role for you. He has been described as being “uptight, somewhat bumbling and decidedly less heroic” than some of your other more notable characters like Brisco County, Jr. or Sam Axe. Plus, this is another indie production with practical FX something that you are exceedingly familiar with. You must get quite a few projects that cross your desk that you say no to. What made you choose this particular movie to mark your return to the big screen?
I like the sociological aspects to Black Friday. Few genre movies make any commentary at all, so this was refreshing and fun. I just wanted the director to know that he was NOT hiring Ash.
Plus, it had the right elements to be appealing. It's just as simple as that. I also wanted to get back to work, post-pandemic. That was critical for my industry.
Much like your 'Conversation with Bruce Campbell' series, where you screen the EVIL DEAD trilogy at various venues, do you have any plans to go on the road with this one?
Yeah, I'll tour with that if it helps.
Speaking of “going on the road,” this past summer, you took your 'Keep Your Distance Tour' to several drive-ins across the country. You were set to premiere your “lost” film, HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL, at one of your appearances. Then, it was replaced by one of the Evil Dead flicks. Was there a reason why it was pulled from the line-up?
The producer (Alphonse Ghossein) felt that it needed more work and I agreed. He was also concerned about privacy during screenings, which is legitimate.
According to IMDb, it would appear that HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL has been re-worked and retitled. Now, it is known as HARDLY FUNCTIONAL and it is listed as being in post-production. Some of the cast has changed as well. Tell us about this development, because all of your followers have been waiting patiently for this movie to surface since 2017.
I'm a big fan of the film. It was retitled because of how IMDb operates.
We have a very dedicated producer who is trying to salvage this project, and he's been doing a great job thus far. I hope it's out next year.
The news that you were doing a Hallmark holiday movie was a pleasant surprise. According to ONE DECEMBER NIGHT’s producer, Tony Grazer, this venture is about “friendship, music, family and the things that ultimately bring us all together.” Without giving too much away, can you tell us some of the highlights of ONE DECEMBER NIGHT? What attracted you to your character of Steve Bedford?
It's a classic Hallmark Christmas flick. The appeal was no blood, never having done one before and the chance to work with Peter Gallagher. He was great.
Hey, Hallmark has a built-in audience. I've done a lot of things that never see the light of day. This drops November 13.
So, the long awaited EVIL DEAD RISE is in post-production. You have been extremely hands on with the latest incarnation in the franchise. From what behind the scenes photos we have been privy to, the Sam Raimi trademark gore is definitely there. Can you tease a little bit of what fans can expect? There is a lot of buzz surrounding Lee Cronin’s film.
I'm not gonna tell you anything other than that it's urban, it's current, it's relatable and it's going to be terrifying.
Fair enough. Surprises can be fun!
There was some disappointment when it was revealed that EVIL DEAD RISE would be going straight to HBO Max. Are there any tentative plans to release it into theaters as well?
New Line might still release in theaters.
Is EVIL DEAD: THE GAME still on target for a February 2022 release? Any updates on that front?
Still on track. It's gonna be really satisfying to gamers and fans alike.
Other than the Wales Comic-Con, do you have anything booked for 2022 that you can talk about? Any other movies or TV shows in the works?
I should be overseeing the post-production of Evil Dead Rise at some point, and work always "falls off the truck," but the cons for 2022 are not set in stone yet. I'm keeping other options open for the year.
Bruce Campbell fans will be happy to know that Black Friday is tentatively set for release sometime in November. If you would like to meet the actor in person, he will be appearing at The Scarefest 13 in Lexington, Kentucky on October 22 through October 23. To keep up to date with future events, visit his official site: bruce-campbell.com.