Bruce Campbell is best known for his role as Ash Williams in the cult horror franchise The Evil Dead, a role he’s currently reprising in the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead. But Campbell is also a director and writer who just released his second memoir, Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor, which he’ll share at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Aug. 18 during an interactive “Last Fan Standing” event. We got him on the line to talk a little schlock shop ahead of that event and an Aug. 19 appearance at Walker Stalker Con at the Westin Boston Waterfront.
What will “Last Fan Standing” entail? Anyone who wants to participate can. It’s basically a game show for geeks. It’s questions like “How much does Thor’s hammer weigh?” None of it would be something you’d hear on Jeopardy. It’s all very fantasy, sci-fi, horror oriented.
What’s the best thing about being a B-movie actor? You don’t have the same level of scrutiny. Brad Pitt has guys going through his garbage. I don’t have that issue. You don’t have the exposure, which is fine by me. I make a very good living, but I don’t have to worry about security issues. I have a pretty nice, quiet, semi-anonymous life.
What’s about the strangest thing? People think you’re just like your movies. People think I love horror, I love sci-fi, I love fantasy. But that’s not necessarily the case. [Laughs.] It’s how I make my living, but I’m not really up on all the horror flicks.
So you don’t really watch horror movies for fun? The problem is, when I watch a movie, I’m watching an actor working. And then I feel like I’m working. I look at actor’s looking at their marks on the ground, I listen to them flubbing their lines. I know when they’re not really giving a performance. So it’s tough for me to look the other way and put the fourth wall off. When I have my off times I crave reality, I watch documentaries. I make my living off of fiction, but I don’t need to watch it when I’m not working.
So what kind of horror movies do you enjoy, if you are going to watch them? I like The Sixth Sense, because you get a great twist ending and everything you thought was true was not. I like cerebral horror, like Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, where he makes you think you’re going crazy. I don’t need the torture porn—put a guy’s dick in a vice for half an hour and poke it with a stick. That to me is just lazy filmmaking.
If a big director came calling now to do, say, a blockbuster drama or a romance, would you do it? These days I’m in what I call Act Three Mode. In Act One Mode, everything is good. Everything is a good job, everything is a good screenplay, all directors are good. You just take it. You just work. Act Two is you go, “Ah, I think I’ll do a little less of this, a little more of that.” You start to get more of an opinion. Act Three, which sort of begins with the end of Ash vs Evil Dead, whenever that plays out on Starz, it’s going to take a lot to get me off that mountaintop where I live in Oregon. I don’t need to do standard television anymore. There’s a lot of stuff that I consider very standard that I’ve done, and I’ve done it. I got there. My wife Ida and I have developed about a dozen projects ever since Burn Notice was set to go off the air, and we sort of came to the realization of, if not now, when? When will we do these little projects if not now? I’m pushing 60 now. I turned 59 this year, and I’ve got stuff I want to do. So I’m not going to disappear, I’m not going to retire, but I’m going to start doing stuff that is way more homegrown. I’m going to go back into that low-budget world—hopefully for the rest of my life.
Do you see more fans of the original Evil Dead or the Starz show at cons these days? The main difference is actually women. In the old days, my wife used to joke, “You have fun with your 18-year-old boys on your tour.” You know, they want to drink beer with you and smoke a doobie. I’m not getting hit on, because it was mostly guys. It’s interesting, in horror now and at conventions, 50 percent of the audience is women, and I’m very glad to see that. It’s sort of come out of the shadows.