The Man Who Would Be
It's October 17, 2003 at the Landmark Theater in Chicago, IL. I'm here for the Chicago premiere of the new Don Coscrelli film Bubba Ho-Tep. Bruce Campbell stars as Elvis and he's here in person for the Chicago premiere to do a Q&A after each screening. Bruce always makes the extra effort to keep in touch with his fans. Every show tonight, all 6 screenings, 274 people per screening, sold out. Hundreds of people line up to get into each theater. This is another awesome day for independent film. I sit down behind a desk and there he sits, the man himself, Bruce Campbell. I first saw Evil Dead when I was in 7th grade. What hell do I say? He puts his feet up on the desk and eats a hotdog. This is my interview.
Gary: So you're Bruce Campbell.
Bruce: I am.
Gary: Cool. Well we are here tonight for the Chicago premiere of Bubba Ho-Tep. All the shows are sold out and it looks like it's gonna be another great night for Bruce Campbell and Bubba. Can you tell us a little bit about the film and what interested you in taking on the role of Elvis?
Bruce: It's not just another Elvis movie. He's seventy years old. He's dying. He has no Memphis mafia. It's really, the subtitle is how Elvis gets his mojo back. So, Joe Lansdale who wrote it took the liberty of creating this wacky scenario where you have an old Elvis who's in a rest home. No one believes it's him except another guy played by Ossie Davis who thinks he's JFK. And those of you who know Ossie Davis know that he's a black man. He's convinced that they died him black and that they've got part of his brain hooked up on batteries back at the white house. The same guy is also convinced that there's a mummy sucking the souls out of the old people at night at the rest home where he stays. Turns out that it's true, he's right. So Elvis and Jack Kennedy team up, kick the mummy's ass and save the rest home. That's it, that's the essence of the story.
Gary: How did Bubba Ho-Tep come together? What did you enjoy most or least about the project?
Bruce: It came together because Don Coscarelli got the money. You know he put it up, I think.
Gary: Do you know what kind of budget this film ran on?
Bruce: No, actors never know. Hundreds of thousands of dollars I guess. I don't really know.
Gary: So, throughout your career you've worn a thousand hats, you're a director, producer, a writer, an actor, an author, you've done video game voice overs. What area of filmmaking do you find the most challenging or enjoy the most?
Bruce: Directing's not bad because your day goes really quick. You're involved in everything. An actor, you're like a place kicker. You know you warm up on the sidelines then they bring you in to win the game, you know. But the directors a little more like a coach. They see the bigger picture. The actors like just hit the ball through the goal post, hit the ball through the goal post. The coach sees the whole game.
Gary: I know you've done some directing especially a lot of television is that something you will continue to pursue in your career?
Bruce: I don't know. TV directing is only so rewarding. It's all VIP and there's only so much you can get out of that. And TV is kind've weird because the shows are already predetermined. You're entering their world. It's already set up. It's already budgeted. It's already cast. You're pretty much just a traffic cop.
Gary: Growing up or even now, or throughout you're career what actors or artists do you think you were the most influenced by?
Bruce: Bob Hope. Vintage Bob Hope.
Gary: Old school Bob Hope.
Bruce: Yeah not, cue card NBC special Bob Hope you know what I mean, the guy in his prime. Danny Kay, a lot of those guys were great. Really great. I like the old comedians and stuff.
Gary: Anybody now you see and think wow that's pretty good stuff, or all just garbage?
Bruce: I like guys like Seth Green. I like Jack Black. You know they seem to be working it.
Gary: Yeah, Jack Black is having a great career.
Bruce: Yeah you know Jacks working it.
Gary: I saw Bubba Ho-Tep earlier, by the way not to kiss your ass too much but I really enjoyed the film, it was a lot of fun and the audience was laughing throughout the whole film.
Bruce: Well that's all I really care about. I mean good reviews, bad reviews, it doesn't matter. What's the audience review?
Gary: Those are the people right there.
Gary: What kind of role are you looking for next?
Bruce: I never play that game.
Bruce: No, take it as it comes. You know. How could I have planned a Bubba Ho-Tep? It comes out of nowhere. You can plan and plan and plan and tell yourself what ever you want but something else is gonna come up and throw you off so I don't plan anymore.
Gary: Have you found the role yet that defines Bruce Campbell the actor?
Bruce: No cause I'm not done yet. I mean each role you play you're gonna bring some of yourself to. You can't help that, actors can't help that. You can't disappear completely into the role. They're always them playing someone. So I don't kid myself about that.
Gary: So, it's all about what you can bring?
Bruce: Yeah what you can bring to the party.
Gary: Alright now, I'm an indie filmmaker here in Chicago, I'm about to embark on my first feature film. I made some shorts and music videos. Low budget stuff. What advice can you give to the young filmmakers?
Bruce: Yeah, learn your craft. Before you make your first film. Hone your skills. I mean I had a guy send me an email he said, hey Bruce, I'm about to make my first feature film, where can you buy film? I said guess what Jack you're not ready.
Gary: Say you've made some films, and you're like many indie filmmakers doing the festivals and screenings trying to get seen, what next?
Bruce: You know festivals are bullshit. Let's not go crazy about that. You know, I'm making a film and oh it's going to Sundance. What?! There's no other way to make your movie and get it released than go to Sundance. Fuck Sundance. You have to just make your movie. So you learn you're craft for starters, whether you're an actor, writer, director first. You can't just show up and do it. You know we were fortunate enough to make about fifty super eight movies before we made Evil Dead. And even that's a crude horror film. Very crude low budget horror movie. So get your shit together before you do it. And it's so easy now. Come on, my son and I made a home movie a few months ago. In the time it took us to shoot it, cut it and finish it I would just be getting the film back from K-Mart when I was a kid in high school. And everything happens so much faster now and it costs like seventy-five bucks to do it. So there's no excuse for people to not learn your craft. That's what I always say to people. Everyone wants to be famous right away. How about they get there shit together first.
Gary: Try and make a good story first.
Bruce: Yeah. Try and figure out why you're in the film business.
Gary: That's a good point. So since back when you guys were first getting started, it seems the process is easier to obtain with digital now.
Bruce: Well, it's easier and it's harder. It's easier to make movies now because of the technology. But it's still harder to get it into a theater. Now back when I first started Evil Dead could get into a movie theater. Now, there's Bruce Willis movies everywhere. I mean you can't get in. Its takes a weird-o theater chain like Landmark or whatever to get it in.
Gary: And they do a lot of good for the independent market.
Bruce: Well shit yeah. They're the ones who keep it alive. Without them there would be nothing. You have to have a theater chain that understands your movie.
Gary: Who knows where the audience is at.
Bruce: Yeah. That's what's so great about these theaters. Every one of these posters in here and none of them have Reese Witherspoon in them.
Gary: Okay you've got millions of fans, everyone loves you. Women everywhere throw themselves at you. What's the one thing that people don't know about you?
Bruce: I grow lavender on my property.
Gary: You what?
Bruce: I grow lavender.
Bruce: I have two acres of lavender on my property. And this summer I distilled it at Steven Segal's ranch. I took my lavender, we cut it, harvested it and threw it in a pick-up truck, well more like a U-Haul and drove it to northern California where he has a ranch and distilled lavender on Steven Segal's ranch. Because he has eight hundred acres of botanicals like essential oils and all that. He's really into that.
Gary: So Steven Segal has Bruce Campbell's lavender on his ranch.
Bruce: Now he does.
Gary: That's great. I'm not gonna ask any Evil Dead questions except this.
Bruce: Well you're gonna get the same answer.
Gary: A lot of rumors on the Internet. Freddy VS Jason VS Ash. Any truth or do you want to add to the rumors.
Bruce: Well look I have a website Bruce-Campbell.com. If it's not on the website, it's not. That's why I have my website, to share with people what is truth and what is not.
Gary: I think you do an awesome job of keeping in touch with your fans.
Bruce: Well I try. You can't always keep up with it. There's so much going on. But I try to let them know, where I'm gonna be if they wanna show up. Get something or buy something, we try to just tell them when something's about.
Gary: And people are responding. I mean again, every show tonight sold out.
Bruce: Yeah, it's cool. Chicago rocks. I don't know.
Gary: And the rest of the screenings.
Bruce: The same.
Gary: So your selling out everywhere and I read you guys beat up Wonderland at the box office in San Diego.
Bruce: Yeah well fuck 'em.
Gary: Brace Campbell kicks Val Kilmer's ass.
Bruce: I'll kick his ass any day. Well look it just proves that not every movie has to fit the cookie cutter Hollywood movie. Sometimes you can just make a movie to make a movie. You don't necessarily have to make a movie that makes a hundred million dollars. We don't have to make a hundred million dollars and we won't make a hundred million dollars. The good news is we don't have to. So people who like independent movies hopefully will like something like Bubba Ho-Tep. Because it's just different. They might not like it. It's not for everybody but you're not gonna see another movie like it. Not like it. So if that adds up to anything, so be it. And I'll give people credit they've found it so far. The funny thing is it's only the mainstream media that doesn't like it. All alternative media seems to like it.
Gary: So, what about some of the make-up you endured for Bubba Ho-Tep.
Bruce: Yeah about two and a half hours.
Gary: That's not too bad.
Bruce: Hey try two and a half hours some day. And an hour to take it off. Oh it sucks being the actor. If you're the make up guy you put the make up on and go smoke a cigarette. Yeah my skin doesn't appreciate what I've done to it.
Gary: One last really tough question for you. Is that your real chin?
Bruce: It's my real chin. That's right, no implants.
Gary Schultz is an indie filmmaker from Chicago. He works under an independent production company called Highertribe Productions and spends his days coordinating the Screenwriting Center for Columbia College.
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