On the Net With... Bruce Campbell   by Rob Bernstein, photos by Daniel Arsenault


 

 
          You'd probably recognize his face before you'd recognize his name. Small character Bruce roles in movies like Escape From L.A. (Surgeon General), Congo (Charles Travis) and The Hudsucker Proxy (Smitty), and the principal role in the likable but canceled television show Brisco County Jr., have exposed Bruce Campbell to mainstream film and TV viewers. But in the cinema cult underworld of the Net, Campbell is best known for his hysterically deadpan performance as Ash, the comically tortured chainsaw-wielding nemesis of all things undead in the Evil Dead trilogy. In fact, a brief search by our staff dug up over 35 Campbell-specific fan sites, and many, many more related links.

Campbell, who recently returned to the States from Bruce a remote shoot somewhere in Mexico for the upcoming Paramount film McHale's Navy, says his film career began back in high school, "400 years ago," when he and director Sam Raimi (Darkman, The Quick and the Dead) met in drama class in Birmingham, Mich. "We were both doing pantomimes and they both sucked. So we consoled each other. And we kind of went from there...he would do magic shows at bar mitzvahs and stuff, and I would be his assistant. I think for Sam, movies became the ultimate magic show because movies are the ultimate sleight of hand. And then we just began making a bunch of Super 8 movies on weekends."

Evil Dead, produced on a wafer-thin $350,000 budget, was the first major motion picture Campbell and Raimi produced together. In 1983, at the Cannes Film Festival (the same year The Shining was released in theaters), Evil Dead managed to catch the eye of horror maven Stephen King who Bruce called it the year's "most ferociously original horror movie." From his film debut and thereafter, Campbell has become a major cult hero--Hollywood is starting to bank on his underground status, and Disney recently struck an agreement to have Campbell star in an undisclosed action/adventure television series.

As a major Web junkie, Campbell seemed an ideal choice for "On the Net With." So, sit back, relax and enjoy as the king of cult gives the goods on a fan named Death Dog, a digital Jack Nicholson and Hollywood's fascination with stupid computer sound effects.

 

 
  So what's the deal with the Web's fascination with Bruce Campbell?  
  I think a lot of users relate to the Evil Dead movies. The real appeal is to the college kids because those movies are extremely irreverent and they can identify with that sort of lead character, always pissed off, struggling against the odds, and he fails a lot. And that's the only thing I can figure out.  
  We read in an interview with you published in the Chicago Tribune television guide that you're a big fan of all things online?  
  I'm online an hour a day. I do e-mail. I e-mail directly to fans and interested people.  
  Do you really get back to fans?  
  Absolutely.  
  Have you given away your e-mail address?  
  Yeah, I posted it, I let it out. Because it's a grass roots thing. How else do you know whether people think your stuff sucks, but by direct contact. I get asked the same types of questions so I actually have about half a dozen, not press releases, but responses. It would be as though I had a spokesman. ŽHere's the official word on this, and here's the official word on this. This is just a rumor.' Half of what I do is damage control, because of all these ridiculous rumors about what movies I'm going to be in. So I can download those files, I can just send a quick note to say, ŽHey Joe, thanks for the note, here's something for you to look at.' And others just ask, ŽWhat are you up to?' So instead of just typing in the same thing each time, I can attach a file that gives them the whole rundown.  
  So you must receive a ton of e-mail per day?  
  It can get pretty thick, but I average about 40 a day.  
  I'm surprised you don't get swamped with more. IU counted at least 35 fan sites.  
  Yeah, there's a lot of weird stuff out there. There's a lot of skepticism too. A lot of people will drop an e-mail and say, ŽI know some other person will be answering this.' I've spent a lot of time trying to convince people that it's actually me by saying, ŽWell, quiz me on something only I would know.' It's really absurd. Here's the thing that kills me though...when I was a kid, you couldn't send e-mail to William Shatner. And now you can. And there are now a fair amount of actors logging on. In a weird sort of way, the Net is bringing back the lost art of letter writing. Even though the grammar I get is unbelievable. I have to reinterpret everything. And you don't know how old these people are, that's another weird thing. I get a lot of e-mail that'll just be from like DEATH DOG. So I'll write back ŽDear DEATH DOG, thanks for your note, whoever the hell you are.'  
  Have you visited any of the Bruce Campbell fan sites?  
  Oh yeah, I've stopped at a number of them. And there are several that I have to say are pretty darn inventive. They're not the standard click here for a sound byte deal. And I try and help them out and keep them current. I don't search these places out, but anyone who sends me an e-mail, like Joe Blow who maintains a Bruce is God Web Site, if he wants to know what's going on, I'll just ship him a file. But I don't send pictures around though÷I wish I knew how to do that.  
  What else do you find yourself wasting time with online? Read any good scripts?  
  I buy airline tickets. I keep really weird schedules and I don't often have access to a travel agent, so this way I can just sit at midnight and dick around with my travel plans. And they've just expanded it now to car rental and hotel so now I'll never get off the damn thing.  
  As someone in Hollywood who actually has an understanding of the online realm, what do you think of film's sensationalized depiction of the technology in movies like The Net with Sandra Bullock?  
  My favorite part of The Net was all the ridiculous sound effects they gave to every computer move. Like a window would come up and it would go, swooshsh. Or like Sandra would be scrolling through something and you'd hear, blrrrrrrrrrrr, blrrrrrrrrrr. It's only so the audience wouldn't fall asleep I think.
  There always seems to be some silly Internet cowboy too, that geeky hacker character who always has some line like, ŽYeeha, we're in.'  
  The other thing too is that everyone has these kick-ass systems. No one has a clunky system that takes an hour to download something. It's always instant. It's like they have fiber optic running into the back of their computer. It's usual though, it's a typical Hollywood thing. They don't have a clue.  
  What impact do you see technology having on the Žbiz' and is it really that important for Hollywood to go online?  
  I have to say, I'm doing my best to stay current. One, because I'm trying to stay up with at least a primitive version of technology. I can go online, download scripts, send stuff to friends. For example, I was in North Carolina working on a TV show and a guy calls me from Detroit who says, ŽJeez, I really wish I had that so-and-so contract because I'm meeting with this guy today.' I take my computer wherever I go, so I was able to instantly send my version of the contract. It was faster than Federal Express and it only costs you log-on time. And I don't know how else we could have done it. So even that is still primitive compared to a lot of stuff out there, but I'm doing the best I can to not get buried in the crush. I just did a voice character for a CD-ROM game. It's something I really want to keep pursuing because I think eventually they'll have little movies on CDs. It's getting to the point where whatever you can imagine, they can do. I used to joke, one day they're going to come to Jack Nicholson, and Acme Digital Company is going to say, "You know Jack, you've had a long great career. Why don't you go to Tahiti and relax for a while. But before you do that, come to our studio, and we're going to photograph you from every conceivable angle and we're going to take you into our sound studio and get you recording all of the letters of the alphabet, and every possible motion. And we're going to have you bring in every photograph you've got of yourself. And that's going to be virtual Jack."  
  Who needs actors anymore?  
  Yeah, and everyone used to think that was so funny, and called me crazy. And then I did this thing called Love Bug. It was a remake of the original Love Bug for Disney. A guy showed up on the set and started taking reference photographs of me. I said ŽWhat are these for?' He said, ŽWell that's for when we make a CGI of the car popping a wheelie, we can put you in the car and it will actually be you. When stuff like that happens on just a made-for-TV movie, because this is not some Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, you start thinking, ŽWell, they'll probably use [digital] actors for stunts, and it'll start like that, and then it'll expand to the point where Jack says, ŽHey, it's just a long shot, put the CGI guy in. I gotta go play golf.' These are just theories of course, but in 10 years, I don't think anybody is going to be laughing. And I heard that Demi Moore got her body scanned during Striptease because she thought Žthat's the best I'm ever going to look, I might as well have it on record in case I'm ever going to need it.' So she's digitized.  
  Does that bother you?  
  I think it is fascinating on the one hand, so long as they don't try and create actors out of nothing. That's the only thing that bugs me. Hopefully they'll still need some poor sap to read the lines. And if they want to sample me, sample me, but at least it'll be my image.  
  And what do you do when you're not online or thinking of virtual Nicholsons?  
  I get as far away from technology as I can. I backpack. I'm a big fan of just strapping on the pack with my wife and hauling off into Bonelick, Utah where you don't see anybody for days.


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