Interview: Bruce Campbell talks Comic Con, meeting William Shatner, Evil Dead TV show

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

There are a lot of geek icons at this weekend's Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, but none has me more geeked than Bruce Campbell. I mean, I saw "Evil Dead 2" on a friend's VCR in high school, and it literally changed my life. It's part of why I'm a movie critic.

I got a chance to chat with Campbell about his status as cult movie and TV icon, the world of fandom and, oh yeah, that "Evil Dead" TV series.

What is it like being Bruce Campbell at a convention like this?

It's a blast. People who haven't seen me before, they can finally get a look at you, you know? I'm sure they'll be horribly disappointed, but whatever.

It's still fun to interact with them. We have very lively Q&As - I'm thinking about making a movie about them. We do photo ops. They can come get a picture to put above their fireplace. They can get an autograph of their favorite piece of memorabilia, or you can get anything there, so people don't have to worry about actually getting something to sign.

As a kid, they didn't really have these conventions for me, so I couldn't meet Bill Shatner - I finally met him recently only because of these conventions - and guys like Stan Lee. I think it's really great now. Pop culture is way more tangible than it used to be. Like, people didn't know these box office results every week. Now everyone's like, "Wow, that movie tanked." It's so bizarre how clued in people are.

What's nice is these conventions now give you the Golden Moldies like myself and you also have folk from like "The Walking Dead." Wizard is very good about integrating folks from classic shows or movies from the past, and also the stuff that you like now.

And no one makes fun of you if you're a nerd at that show. You'll have thousands of friends instantly. If you feel isolated and people call you a nerd, you can go to that show and no one will call you a nerd at that show. They will call you "friend." They will call you "compatriot." "Fellow devotee." Never nerd.

What's your typical interaction with fans like?

You know, fans aren't that chatty. It's kind of weird. They wait in line for two hours, and they get up to the table where I am and they give you this photograph and shrug a little bit. You know, I pull information out of them. Mostly who they are, what they do. Just finding out what people do can be very entertaining. Anything from undertakers to porn merchants to tattoo artists … it runs the whole gamut … rocket scientists, military people. You meet people you wouldn't normally expect to be there.

What are some of the strangest interactions you've ever had?

Oh, getting poetry that this woman thought I would like that was really the most offensive, Satanic … It was really incredibly dark. I couldn't read it. And thinking that I would like it, I guess because I made horror movies? Some people have weird perceptions.

And I've signed some boobs. I've signed a lot of appendages so people can go tattoo that right below their other tattoo of Ash or whatever. So I sort of complete the tattoo.

Who would you geek out the most to meet at a convention?

I geeked out to Shatner. Definitely. I watched the original "Star Trek" religiously with my brother, every episode, multiple times. So when I met him, the trick there is to not go for the obvious, not go for "Star Trek." So when I finally had a chance to talk to him, I went T.J. Hooker. And it worked, because I actually watched that show, and I learned that he did his own power slides up to each crime scene. It was his favorite thing to do. And, you know, his eyes perked up, and he told me the story of how he did this, and the producer didn't want him to do it, and he used the emergency brake with the regular brake and worked with the stunt guys … so it was hilarious.

We never talked "Star Trek." But we don't have to.

At what point in your career did you decide to really embrace this persona as the B-movie action star?

Probably when I put the first book out. Because I don't really have an issue with it. You know, there's a lot of bad B movies. Let's not grouse about it. But there's a lot of bad A movies.

B movies I defend because they have a lot less money to work with, they're mostly less-experienced people making the movies, so they're already hampered. But their stories can be way more unconventional, way more interesting, way more daring. You can have shock endings, twist endings … things that you can't do if your movie costs $100 million. If your movie costs $1 million, $2 million? You can do some cool stuff, because no one's really going to hassle you, and there are going to be less chefs in the kitchen. I like it. It's a quieter environment, you've got more control. To me it's gotta be a creative experience. I don't want to feel like I'm working for Taco Bell, as far as promotions and tie-ins and all that sort of stuff. That's why I like B movies.

And look, all the B movies spawn all the actors that are working today, and A movies are B movies anyway. Radioactive spiders and guys who dress up as bats and fly around cities. Those are B-movie ideas. I got news for you. You get bit by a radioactive spider, that's a 1950s B movie.

"Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2" were very similar except for the major shift in tone toward the slapstick. What was it like embracing that?

The first movie we played straight, because it was supposed to be straight. People thought it was funny, but if you look at the approach of the movie, it's not supposed to be funny at all. It's just melodramatic dialogue delivered by very inexperienced actors, so you're gonna get some laughs.

And also things were over-the-top. People getting stabbed in the Achilles with a pencil repeatedly, you know, people are going to react to the extent of it. But that was played straight. It's why we did the remake in 2013 straight.

And Part 2, we just didn't want to make the same thing all over again, so we went for a different tone and Sam (Raimi) wrote it with Scott Spiegel, who's a huge Three Stooges fan.

Were you surprised at all to the reaction to the remake?

I thought Fede Alvarez for his very first feature did a very good job. I defy anyone to go make a movie for the first time, just make one movie. It's really hard. And to make one that's put together and has effects and can scare you or creep you out. And it made $97 million worldwide, so people accepted it.

But I think they felt to some degree that they got sloppy seconds, so we're actively pursuing Evil Dead, the TV show, with, you know, real Ash, he's back at it, chatty, middle-aged Ash, and it's gonna be a bumpy ride, but … he may just get worlds.

Any details on where things are with the TV show?

Well, we're negotiating to close a deal, so there's really nothing I can tell you, because everything can fall apart. This is the danger of speaking of things out of school. But we're actively pursuing that, and when we finish that up, we'll shoot it where we have to shoot it.

And you star?

Oh, yeah. It'll be the real deal.

What's your life advice?

Life advice? Don't give advice. That's my advice. Because nobody follows it, so why give it? They go, "uh-huh, uh-huh, oh, thanks." So don't give advice, because you're not that person. You don't know what's going on in their pea brain. You don't know what's good for somebody else other than yourself.