Bruce Campbell: On Making Love, Books, and Movies

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Bruce Campbell

It's easy to be a Bruce Campbell fan. One gets the sense that he is what he appears to be: capable, hardworking, smart, with a keen sense of his strengths and limitations. The hard part is trying to figure out just how good he is at his craft, how good he could be, given the right role, the right script, the right director, with something bigger than a B-movie budget and a shooting schedule extending beyond two weeks.

Given that you had relatively minor roles in your friend Sam Raimi's mega-blockbuster Spiderman movies (the carny-like fight announcer in the first film, the boorishly obstinate theater usher in the second), did the inspiration for Make Love!* The Bruce Campbell Way spring from these 'small-role-big-movie' Spider-man experiences?

Yes and no. I've been in and out of studio films like "Congo" for years, so it's my overall experiences that became amalgamated into an original Hollywood tale.

Instead of opting for a straight-through read through when producing the audio version of Make Love!* The Bruce Campbell Way, you decided to take a radio play approach, employing several of your friends, such as Ted Raimi, whose distinctive voice one can instantly recognize, to put on an audio performance, complete with sound effects, largely thumps, crashes, thuds, bangs, and booms and breaking glass as your character is tackled by Secret Service Agents, roundhouse-kicked by Richard Gere, knocked down a large flight of stairs, attacked by eco-terrorists, shot in a duel by the President of a Southern Gentleman's club, and so on. Why take this approach? Did you have this kind of audio actioner in mind when you wrote Make Love?

I did it first and foremost because Ryko allowed me to do it. They were cool with trying to do something that is way beyond the norm. I also have a soft spot for radio plays, because I did them with my pal Sam Raimi back in high school. I have found that folks who like what I do tend to expect "collectable-grade" material - not just the same ol' stuff. I think with the explosion of the ipod, anything is possible with regard to audio, so why not kill an hour of a dull commute with a cool book?

Occasionally, while listening to Make Love, one senses the real Bruce Campbell coming through -- for example, when the narrator starts talking about what he knows -- or rather, how little he knows -- about sex, marriage, and relationships in general, as well as the misperceptions folks have about movie people in that regard. In a book written (and told) by Bruce Campbell about a character named Bruce Campbell, how much coming out of the character's mouth is real as opposed to make-believe?

It's hard to tell, even for me, and I wrote the damn thing! The book is what my life would be like if you added a healthy dose of paranoia, tragedy, and desperation.

The comedy is broad in Make Love: lots of slapstick vignettes, lots of over-the-top characters, but when one listens to the audio CD or reads the book, one finds oneself in the middle of a thoughtful satire of the film industry, a friendly, fond, even loving, jab at A-list conceit and Hollywood pretension. How do you rate yourself as a satirist?

I don't rate myself at all -- that's for you geniuses to do. I do enjoy poking fun at anything or anyone that annoys me, and I guess humor helps to soften the blow. Man, we're getting deep!

In Make Love!* The Bruce Campbell Way, the Bruce Campbell character, once on set, acts as a ‘B-movie virus', infecting the cast, crew, and director with low-budget genre film sensibilities: the Richard Gere character, for example, becomes enamored of chop-socky fight scenes, the Renee Zellweger character opts for a more revealing means of dramatic expression that involves a B-movie Babe makeover, the Mike Nichols character adopts the patented Sam Raimi ‘shaky cam' as his own. Comedic license aside, is the outlook toward filmmaking between mainstream big-budget Hollywood and low-budget independent communities really so divergent, the two worlds so separate?

Yes, I think so. B-movies are willing to do anything with stories, techniques, acting. A-movies are far more reserved. They tend to copy and "improve upon" the most successful B-movie ideas. It's too risky to do something wholly original in Hollywood, because they want to get their moolah back.

Hollywood producers come off poorly in Make Love: stifled, noncreative moneymen who confuse the Art of the Deal with, well, art. Do you think creative decisions in the film industry are driven too much by financial concerns?

I think they always have been, but there is a reality factor here: if you get your money from Hollywood studios, you must abide by their terms for the most part. It's not hard to understand that thinking - money is money. The trick is to be creative with the financing and distribution and then the film industry will start to kick some creative ass - and make money at the same time.

Recently, while researching this interview, I had the good fortune to watch your performance as Carl in "Running Time", a 1997 black-and-white homage to Hitchcock's "The Rope". You did an amazing job. The whole ensemble -- and it is an ensemble movie -- did an amazing job. In my view, part of the power of the piece was due to your play against type; gritty and intense are not usually adjectives used to describe a Bruce Campbell movie, or to describe a typical Bruce Campbell character, yet you pulled it off admirably. Do you still seek out opportunities to show your dramatic range? Will there be another "Running Time"-like experience anytime soon?

I never avoid the drama thing, but comedy tends to follow me around. Technically, as an actor, I'm happy to try anything, but I do prefer lighter material these days.

Along those lines, you played Elvis in "Bubba Ho-tep". Taking that role was a risky proposition, wasn't it? Elvis Presley has an army of imitators, a subculture all its own, and the challenge for any actor playing the King would be playing the man, not the icon. I'm curious: how did you prepare for the role?

Mainly, I watched documentaries and learned my lines. I wasn't interested in Elvis' persona, so I didn't watch his movies. I was more interested in what he was like as a guy. Ultimately, I just played him as a grumpy old man stuck in a bad situation.

You're racking up an impressive list of writer, director, and producer credits on the IMDb. Do you see yourself growing more at home behind the camera rather than in front of it?

I've always ducked in front and behind the camera since "Evil Dead", so it's not a foreign world. I will hopefully do more stuff in the shadows as I phase into middle-aged geezer.

Your writing style is engaging and imaginative. Have you considered writing a ‘straight' fiction novel? Does writing come easily to you?

I enjoy writing, but it's been an evolving process to become an actual profession. I'm sure if I keep writing books that I'm gonna want to touch on just about every genre -- why not?

One last thing: audiences of Make Love!* The Bruce Campbell Way have read the book and heard the movie. Any chance they will someday see the movie? Have you explored the possibilities for development?

The reality of my world is that creative decisions are often dictated by economic reality. At the present, nobody's breaking down the door for one, but who knows?