Yesterday, HorrorSexy was invited to take part in a conference call interview with Ashley J Williams himself, Bruce Campbell, as part of the promotion for his new show, Ash vs. Evil Dead, premiering on Starz on Halloween night. I have seen the first episode, and you should trust me when I say, you are not going to want to miss this. Below are some excerpts from the the hour-long call.
When asked how it felt to “put the chainsaw back on”:
(Bruce Campbell): It reminded me of how much I hate fake blood. That hatred it runs deep. It runs really deep. It’s one of my least favorite things is adhesive, surgical adhesive and they had to use that for appliances, make up appliances and, yes, fake blood. Because it’s chronic. It gets everywhere.
When asked if there would be any connection to 2013’s Evil Dead remake:
(Bruce Campbell): No connection whatsoever. That was a director who had a whim, who goes I have this great idea. It has nothing to do with anything but I want to do it. I was like, yes, whatever. So, no, no connection whatsoever.
When asked about a comment he made about the Evil Dead video games, in reference to fans considering those the official sequels to the movie:
(Bruce Campbell): I’m glad I’m not running for office because guys like you would dig up crap I said randomly 16 years ago. So that’s why I’m not a politician. Because to you I could say that was bologna I made up at the time. Okay. I lied. You got? I lied. So now we move onto the truth. And the truth is I’m glad we had something to finally show fans where I’m not put on the spot all the time to try to make crap up. You know I’m attracted to bombs. We got to clarify that. The bombs. The last three bombed, they were the most expensive. They were too expensive. They didn’t make any money. So people began to think we were lazy or we didn’t want to go back to it. I got news for you, pal, there’s no money in the bank for it. You’re not making anything if there’s no money. So it’s just the raw truth of it. Thankfully, the fans have stepped up through all the DVD reissues. There were 86 versions of Army of Darkness after that. It became an American movie classic, you know, on AMC. And so fans drove it. And they drove it at these personal appearances by tour since ’88. They haven’t let it go. So they finally got it. So regardless of what I said, when I said or how I said it, we’re here. And it’s a good day.
When asked what he is most looking forward to doing with the character of Ash:
(Bruce Campbell): Well, you know, people have only seen four and a half hours worth of Ash. In this first season alone, we’re going to do five new hours of Ash. So I’m actually looking forward to finally seeing who Ash is going to interact with other people now. He has to be a leader. So it’s a slightly different story in that the character has to evolve. The story has to get bigger. And I’m looking forward to that so that I can take enough time to finally be with Ash. The other movies, you know, I had a week that went by without any dialogue. Like shooting, Evil Dead 2 got trapped in the cabin. So its Ash getting out in the wild, you know, getting into suburbia. So that’s the fun thing to do is interact with other people.
When asked about why there has been no mention of a connection between Ash vs. Evil Dead and Army of Darkness:
(Bruce Campbell): Correct in that that’s(Army of Darkness) not material that we can do legally so we’re not going to do it. It’s a whole complicated bunch of legal mambo jumbo that’s not even worth going into. The three movies were made by three different companies. So that should tell you call your uncle the lawyer and talk to him about it. He’ll laugh. He’ll go really three movies, three companies and you want to make a TV show. This should be fun. So it’s very complicated to put together. And I’m just really grateful that it all worked out. Here we are. But it means there are things we can include, things we can’t. But, you know, everything that Ash needed was in the first two movies anyway. Anything he ever used so it’s all good.
When asked about Starz, and ultimately, why they picked the show up:
(Bruce Campbell): They had what we needed. They gave the budget we were looking for and they gave us the leeway we were looking for and they give us unrestricted content that those movies demand. So they were really — out of the suitors that we had — they were actually the only company that I’m aware out there that could give us that criteria and that did it. That sealed the deal right there. And, you know, look these guys are growing as a company.
I like being part of companies that are growing and expanding rather than shrinking and contracting. And they’re willing to stay on the cutting edge. And they want to do shows that people not only like but they like a lot. And I think we provided something like that for them and I think we’re attracted to them because this show can actually play around the world. Not all TVs can. We started overseas and in the UK and then spread over the world. It makes – I think we’re good partners. I think we’re good for each other.
When asked if the show would feature Easter eggs, beyond Sam Raimi’s car, which has appeared in almost everything he has directed:
(Bruce Campbell): Well, it’s not even like we’re hiding anything. You know we are bringing back all that stuff. The problem is, you know, it’s a lot of Michigan stuff mostly. It’s Michigan Easter Eggs. There’s Michigan State University, Camp Chappaqua, the place where (Sam) went to camp, Faygo Red pop, Coney Island, you know, like chili dogs that everybody eats in Michigan. And it takes place in Michigan. So, yes, there’s tons of Easter Eggs. There’s no question about it. You’ll see them in the show. We don’t hide them. The ’72 Delta 88 is the same car that’s been in all the movies. It’s the exact car. It’s not a different car which is pretty incredible. We had it put on a boat and shipped to New Zealand.
It is said that Sam Raimi was a big Lovecraft fan. When asked if he shared the same love:
(Bruce Campbell): No, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about Lovecraft. I read lots of Spiderman comics. I read a comic called Sad Sack. It was a silly, farmy comedy comic. So that was me. I didn’t really get into that. You know we didn’t get into horror until we decided to make our first feature film because horror was the only type of genre that you could make cheap movies and no one cared. Like you couldn’t make a cheap drama. That would be too low budget.
No one would – drama’s had to have good photography and well-known actors and stuff. And horror films, you could still make drive in movies back in those days. So that’s what we did. And horror I appreciate now is one of the few genres that can wound the audience up and make them pay attention. I kind of like that. It’s one of the few genres that can be very manipulative there.
When asked if he thinks horror fans identify with Ash because of the fact that he’s sort of a societal outcast:
(Bruce Campbell): Yes, I think it’s the correct assessment. Plus the fact that he has no special skill. He is not trained. He was not part of any government agency. Nothing. So I think when you watch him you go that could be me. The guy that works at 7-11. I mean I could do that. Why not? I’m sick over trained heroes. I’m really bored with that. Guys that are just ripped to shreds and, you know, full of skills. That’s boring me. Give me the drive mechanic that picks up a weapon, you know. Now I’m interested. That’s my hero.
When asked if, during production of Ash vs. Evil Dead, if there were any apparent advances in special effects technology that weren’t available when the movies were made:
(Bruce Campbell): Well, we tried to keep the blood real. Digital blood is not effective. We had that in a couple of cases in this pilot. You know, we’re not a big proponent of digitals. So the funny thing is we have better ways of delivering the blood but it doesn’t make any of it easier or better. It just makes them better at hitting me. Their aim is better now. The chance of getting it right on the first take is better now.
We do a lot more testing. We’ve used anything from a seed spreader to a paint brush dipped in blood, you know, splattered it on us that way to a Hudson sprayer to a beer keg that converted to a pressurized basically a blood sprayer and then we had a cannon. So the good news the systems are all better but it doesn’t make my life any easier. It makes it worse.
When asked if it was difficult to act as the character of Ash, under the direction of people other than Sam Raimi:
(Bruce Campbell): Yes, it’s heartbreaking. Because, you know, you’re used to the old man yelling at you. If somebody starts yelling at me, I’m like I’ll punch you in the face, man. So there’s definitely an adjustment. And we look we found a great set. The guys were really happy with the directors that we had. I have no complaints. So it’s hard on everybody. It was me missing the old man and probably directors going, you know, what’s with this guy. Because we had to figure everything out. But, you know, I feel I’m the voice of Ash so I can be at least a constant influence on the character.
When asked if there are any modern horror tropes he wishes to avoid in Ash vs. Evil Dead:
(Bruce Campbell): Torture porn. Just because it’s a bore. I don’t care one way or another about it. I don’t want to rail too much about torture porn. It’s just low grade film making. I would just like to focus on a variety of horror. I want to mess with people’s minds. You want to startle them. You want to shock them. You want to disturb them. And you want to keep them on edge. Horror films are great. You can grab an audience by the scruff of their necks and force them to look at that screen. I think that’s really cool.
When asked if it was different, filming Evil Dead as a TV show:
(Bruce Campbell): Speed is the number one only because you’re on a TV base. And TV is a very efficient median. You get in, you get out. You do it. And I love TV. I love the pace of it because nothing gets stale. Making the other Evil Dead movies, they were great and very informative and very educational for all of us but they are tedious as hell. I think movies are tedious. So bring your big, thick book to work in a big Hollywood movie. But the TV pace will never let you get that bored. You know by lunchtime you’ve given little Billy his medicine back, kissed the girl and killed the bad guy.
When asked if he has a preference as to which form of media he works in:
(Bruce Campbell): Interesting question. It’s funny. Yes, I go where the work is good. I had some people who represented me years ago who could not understand why I would go to Auckland, New Zealand into the southern hemisphere to work on the show Hercules and then on Xena and Jack of All Trades. They just couldn’t understand it. It was a syndicated show. There’s no network. They got no respect at all. No Emmys. No nothing. And I’m like you don’t get it. You’re not down there on the set with us. We can get away with murder. Murder. And we do. We take the script and we look at it and we see what we can do. We can work with the director, work with the other actors. If somebody has an idea, they do it. It’s the most creative set I’ve ever been on. And the last time I checked as actors, that’s what you’re looking for is creativity. You’re not looking for the Rolls Royce and, you know, the big fancy trailer. Those are supposed to be the byproducts of having fun and then getting good at what you do.
So, I’ll chase that to the end of the Earth which is one of the main reasons when I was going to be Auckland, New Zealand for this show – I mean I have crew members that I know down there that I’ve known for 20 years. These people are extremely gifted at what they do and it makes our job easy because they make it look good and we make it look easy.
And it’s only because now that I work with people that I know that make it so much better. You see them come out of their trailer, you’re cracking jokes, you punch them in the arm, you know, you’re messing with them when they’re on camera trying to get them to break up. You know there’ s a lot of work play involved. And that’s a big appeal to it too. But other than that, the comedy. The comedy can lift your spirits.
When asked what it was like to work with Lucy Lawless again:
(Bruce Campbell): She’s a badass. She’s a great addition to the show. She can step in and do anything we need her to do which is spectacular. She’s a great actress with an incredible amount of versatility. She can do comedy which is great and she can kick ass. So we’re lucky, lucky, lucky. So I think you can look forward to her having an increasingly expanding role in this show and that’s critical to me because I’ve always loved (Lucy). She was great when I worked with her on Xena and knowing that she was getting available. She wasn’t available right away during this first season. So when she was, I was like her husband’s (Rob Tapert) my partner. I said (Rob) you better sit down with your wife at dinner and you better lock this in. So, yes, it’s important to get her back. We’re really happy. Lucky.
When asked if the series would see Ash grow as a character:
(Bruce Campbell): Yes. And thanks for asking that. Because you have to. Ash is going to be, you know, he’s always sort of a pronounced character and he’s always going to have his quirks. But, yes, he has to be a leader. The other people in this show around him have to see something in him to make them to follow him on this quest. They obviously because of what’s going to happen to them, they will have a personal stake in this well. So but, yes, Ash has to be a guy who you can actually sit down and reason with from time to time and try to convince him of something. Yes, there’s a lot of decision making to be done and he will have to involve other people against his will.
When asked by Jon Wamsley, HorrorSexy Contributor, if it was different to film a scene similar to the “hand” scene in Evil Dead 2, only with digital effects:
(Bruce Campbell): Well, everything. You have a physical thing and something ethereal in another case. It’s all acting so it doesn’t really matter whether you’re fighting with your actual hand or fake hand. It’s all fake. So the level of fakery doesn’t go up or down. It’s all fake. Like where does the music come. Whenever I get something about logic question I go, where does the music come from in the movies? There’s never any answer.
When asked what it was like to “assume multiple roles” actor, producer, etc. for the production of Ash vs. Evil Dead:
(Bruce Campbell): Well, the challenge is it just takes up more of your life. But the benefits are you can control more of what your output is and try to make it something you’re happy about. And sometimes it’s just you don’t really have an input. I was in this position on Burn Notice and I knew they never really had to listen to me. So when I made suggestions they were always happy, they were very friendly.
And I would send them to the executive producer knowing that I didn’t expect anything. In this case, it’s a little more, it goes beyond suggestion. You know it’s more like, let’s do this and do that. But I have two great partners (Rob Tapert) and (Sam Raimi) and we never really hit an impasse because we have three people. If anyone ever wants a partnership, go in with three people. You’ll never hit an impasse.
When asked why Ash is still holding onto the Necronomicon, and, if season one would be self-contained in case no further seasons are ordered(season 2 has already been announced):
(Bruce Campbell): Well, every show that’s designed as a TV show has to be designed for multiple seasons. It will feel contained. I think you will feel very satisfied by the end of the season but there’s no question about it. It’s designed for more. And as far as the nepinoncon I wouldn’t get too much into why Ash did or didn’t have the book. I think it’s an Ash thing not to do anything, to chuck it away. He tried to burn it and it didn’t work anyway.
When asked why the show was being released now, and not a decade ago:
(Bruce Campbell): Well, because I think TV finally caught up to us. TV until you had these premium services where there were not worried about content our show wouldn’t have worked. It wouldn’t work as a TV show. This show would not work on cable. And this show would totally not work on broadcast. The only way it worked under these circumstances which are now. Plus we realized economically making a $200 million feature was not the answer here. If you want to entertain people continuously with Ash, it’s got to be in a form of a TV show.
When asked if the mythology of the Necronomicon would be expanded, new types of demons, for example:
(Bruce Campbell): Well, absolutely. You know it’s not like we’re going to have a creature of the week but Ash is going to meet many new demons and entities and forces he had not encountered before. That’s the cool thing of doing a weekly TV show. You can hit him with a bunch of demons.
When asked if there were any of his other former characters which he would like to revive:
(Bruce Campbell): I would expand Briscoe for sure. Because you know every actor wants to be a cowboy. That was a great year. It was one pretty much solid year of being a cowboy and promoting and doing this stuff. If I never did it again, I’d be okay with it because it was a very fulfilling year, very hard working year. But I wouldn’t mind going back to that. He was a good character. He was really fun. It’s probably the closest to an actual good guy like a real heroic type who hopefully, you know, was smart enough to be interesting.
HorrorSexy would like to thank Starz, the event coordinator for conducting the conference call, and putting together the transcript which was used to piece together this interview, all of the journalists from sites, ranging from the huge, to the very small who participated in this conference call, and asked a ton of great questions, Jon Wamsley, HorrorSexy contributor and proprietor of The Horror Parlor, and of course, Bruce Campbell for being the badass we have always known him to be.
(Bruce Campbell): And thank you very much for all of you fine journalist for your time and attention. We appreciate it. We need your support. Some of our fans. Some of you don’t know anything about that series. Hopefully, you can find out and enjoy it. This is for the fans. It’s for the fans.
Editor’s note: I scanned through the transcript and tried to fix as many obvious errors and/or typos as possible, but it is possible that a few remain. It was a huge wall of text, after all, and some things were possibly misinterpreted while transcribing the call.