As promised to readers of the Saturday, Oct. 20 Oregonian:
Here's the longer, harsher version of my Q&A with Bruce Campbell
and Mike Richardson....
B-movie superstar Bruce Campbell and Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson first met on the set of 1992's "Army of Darkness."
"Ever since," says Richardson, "I've been trying to coerce Bruce to get into business with us, through hypnotism and other forms of trickery."
"Mostly deceit," says Campbell.
They haven't had too much trouble finding the Venn-diagram intersection of their fan bases. Mr. Richardson sits atop Dark Horse's empire of comic books and movies, and Mr. Campbell has earned a passionate cult following for his dork-hunk work on films like "Evil Dead 2" and "Bubba Ho-Tep."
In recent years, Campbell has co-written Dark Horse's comics adaptation of the actor's own movie "Man with the Screaming Brain," and also scripted a Dark Horse comic based on BMW's short-film series "The Hire." But their most ambitious collaboration is still on its way: Richardson is producing "My Name Is Bruce" -- a forthcoming horror-comedy in which a sleazy actor named "Bruce Campbell" is kidnapped by small-town yokels in the fictional town of Gold Lick, Oregon; they believe the thespian really is the zombie-slaying hero of the "Evil Dead" series, and want him to battle a real-life Chinese demon. Campbell co-wrote, directed and stars in the movie, and shot much of it on his property in Jacksonville, Oregon.
Tonight (Saturday, Oct. 20), the pair join forces onstage at the Aladdin Theater for a live taping of OPB's "Live Wire" radio show. They got on the phone with The Oregonian earlier this week to chat up "My Name Is Bruce" and the complications of fandom; an edited transcript follows the jump.
MIKE RUSSELL: I know "My Name is Bruce" screened in Ashland earlier this year. When will it be released?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: We don't know yet. That's the weird thing about indies: They're not released -- they escape. We're finishing the sound up this month, and then make sure all the effects are dropped in. In November, we'll be done -- but I don't know what the Movie Gods have in store for us.
Q. Has anything been substantially changed since the Ashland screenings?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Not really. We always tweak after each
screening, and we're done tweakin' now. We're just doing all the
technical crap, and then it's kind of a waiting game.
Image Entertainment, the financier, definitely wants to go theatrical -- they put up the extra money to finish the effects for theatrical. But we don't really have a marketing plan yet -- because the company that purchased this movie just got purchased by another company. And any time that happens, you've got six months of people going, "Whose desk is that? Your desk or my desk?"
This happens a lot in movies. Moviegoers don't really know that, but there are a lot of behind-the-scenes machinations.
Q. What's the status of your land-use documentary, "A Community Speaks"?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: I've started working on it, um, forever. The great irony is when I have time to work on it, I have no money; when I have money to work on it, I have no time.
Q. Between "My Name Is Bruce" and "The Man with the Screaming Brain," Bruce Campbell and Dark Horse seem to be forming a close alliance.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Mike and I sort of brushed shoulders because of "Evil Dead" and "Army of Darkness."
MIKE RICHARDSON: I met Sam [Raimi] and Rob [Tapert], who were Bruce's partners at the time. This was back years ago. They came up to visit Portland because Sam was a comic-book fan, I guess. I don't think Rob is, is he, Bruce?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: No. Rob couldn't care less.
MIKE RICHARDSON: But Sam was. But they didn't bring Bruce.
I got into business years ago with Mark Verheiden, and he was going to write "The Mask," back around 1991, '92. He called me one night, and I said, "Are you writing?" And he said, "Have you watched 'Evil Dead 2'?" And I said, "No, but I need you to write." And he said, "I'm not writing a single word until you watch that movie."
And so I put it on while I was doing something else. And then I came to the part where the woman was juggling her head. And I stopped, re-wound it, and watched the whole thing. I've been a Bruce Campbell fan ever since.
Then I went down to the "Army of Darkness" set on Sam's invitation, and sat with his dad and watched -- what? -- were there 12 Bruce Campbells running around? A bunch of doubles [from the scene where Ash is attacked by miniature doppelgangers of himself.]
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Yeah, there were plenty of 'em.
Q. You each work in slightly different, though certainly overlapping, sectors of fandom. What have you learned from each other?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Well, I've learned that you've got to do comics and merchandising and everything else with your movies. It's a better deal.
The nice thing about working with Dark Horse is they not only make movies, they can handle publishing, they can handle comics, they do merchandising. That's been kind of nice for me, working with a company that has it all wrapped up in a one-stop shop.
MIKE RICHARDSON: The big lesson, for me, was that you can actually have fun making a movie.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Yeah, every so often a mistake happens and people have fun.
Q. Bruce: You're really generous with your fans. What have you understood about managing your fan base that maybe other genre superstars haven't?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Well, the one thing that I've learned is that
nothing is a slam-dunk -- because I've had a movie or two bomb that I
absolutely thought was going to be a slam-dunk.
And I didn't realize that you can force-feed fans sometimes. You gotta feed 'em a balanced meal. You feed 'em too much meat, they fall asleep; too much dessert makes 'em hyper, and then they crash. You've got to dole it out.
We're hoping "My Name Is Bruce" is a fanboy's wet dream: It's all Bruce, 24/7 -- his snotty, obnoxious self.
MIKE RICHARDSON: Mark Verheiden -- whom I worked with on "The Mask" and "Timecop" and some other projects -- had been talking for some time about how to come up with the perfect Bruce Campbell movie.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: And the answer was to have him play himself. [laughs]
MIKE RICHARDSON: Mark saw an old comic book from the '40s --
a story where this actor playing a pirate is kidnapped by a town who
wants him to save them from pirates. And he spends the whole comic
trying to tell them he's just an actor.
Suddenly, it dawned on us: For Bruce Campbell fans, what could be a better picture?
We met one night in my office in L.A. at Dark Horse Entertainment and worked on story. I don't ever remember laughing so hard.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: In between the crying and the screaming.
MIKE RICHARDSON: That was all Bruce's. We were laughing.
Q. It's interesting that you keep referring to "Bruce Campbell" as a character. In "My Name Is Bruce," you play an alternate-universe version of yourself. How do Movie Bruce Campbell and the real you differ?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Well, the guy in the movie is a creep and a drunk and an idiot and a know-nothing.
MIKE RICHARDSON: He's "Gimme some sugar" Bruce Campbell.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: And I'm worse than that in real life.
MIKE RICHARDSON: You can't even believe it. When we see him now, we ask him, "Please -- play the movie Bruce."
BRUCE CAMPBELL: The fun thing is, if the character's named
after you, basically you can do anything you want. Unfortunately, there
are gonna be some people who leave the movie and go, "God! I had no
idea he was such a jerk!"
You can't fight the people who believe movies are real. There's nothing you can do about that. Those people you torment. Unfortunately, I'm gonna lose a lot of fans because of this movie.
MIKE RICHARDSON: No, no, no, no. When we showed this at CineVegas, we were on the front page of Las Vegas Weekly -- a full collage of all Bruce's characters from all his movies. And because "Ocean's 13" was premiering the same week --
BRUCE CAMPBELL: -- they had a little George Clooney and Matt Damon and Brad Pitt in the corner.
MIKE RICHARDSON: And the headline was, "Mighty Bruce Campbell invades CineVegas." We were told it was the number-one requested ticket. The picture sold out and everyone loved it -- except that one person, Bruce, that you talked to.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Yeah, but that's okay. You gotta have one.
Q. What happened with that person?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: They can't speak any more, so it doesn't matter.
Q. Not being able to distinguish fantasy from reality can happen on a much more exaggerated level with genre fans. How much revenge are you getting on those fans with "My Name Is Bruce"?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: We actually got to use a couple of incidents with fans from real life. There are going to be some fans who turn beet-red and go, "That was me!" I'm probably going to get my eyes popped out in a parking lot somewhere.
MIKE RICHARDSON: The difference is that you got to deal with them the way you really wanted to.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Totally. Because at a convention, you can't really kick a guy in a wheelchair in front of a bus. But in a movie? You can.
Q. Can you give an example?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Well, it's the wheelchair fan -- whom you'd normally give all the deference, all the time, all the patience, all the compassion. But in this case, Bruce has just had enough -- because it's the guy in the wheelchair [at the autograph signing] who actually gives you the hardest time of all.
MIKE RICHARDSON: He doesn't like the photo [you sign]….
BRUCE CAMPBELL: He wants a more modern photo.…
MIKE RICHARDSON: He doesn't like the way you wrote his name….
BRUCE CAMPBELL: He's just not satisfied. So I ask him if he's seen that TV show "Rawhide." And he goes, "Yeah." And I say, "Do you like it?" And he goes, "Yeah." And I go, "Then you know you gotta keep those doggies rollin'." And I kick his wheelchair out in the street and a bus hits him. Let's just say it's my fantasy come true.
MIKE RICHARDSON: You're not above handing some of the fans deodorant.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Yeah, in one scene, I hand 'em some deodorant and tell them to look it up on the Internet. I make fun of myself about 98 percent of the movie -- but 2 percent, the fans are gonna have to suffer right with me.
Q. I watched you during your Q&A in Portland before you showed "Man with the Screaming Brain," and you have this almost dominatrix-submissive relationship with your audience. They seem to love when you heap abuse on them.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: They love to be punished. It's all about finding the dumbest question of the night, and then always going back to the same guy. You have find the guinea pig for the night. And then that person is just through.
Q. I think my favorite during that Q&A was when someone asked you if Ash would beat Jason Voorhees in a fight, and you replied, "You're a dumbass!"
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Hey, I ain't runnin' for President. I don't really have to be politically correct.
Q. Bruce: If you could write any Dark Horse comic, what would it be?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Uh, the one that Mike and I already did, for BMW. You know that series of BMW short movies, "The Hire"? Mike and Dark Horse did a comic-book version of that, and I got to write it.
Q. Will there be others?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Uh, that's up to Mr. Richardson.
MIKE RICHARDSON: Of course there will be others. I'm actually talking to Bruce about doing his next book with us.
Q. His next prose book?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Yeah. The working title is, "Surrounded by Idiots: Why You Should Be Glad I'm Not Emperor of the World." It'll be a bunch of rants. I guess you'd call them "essays," but they're really just rants.
MIKE RICHARDSON: Somewhere in there, I can guarantee there will be a reference to [his previous book] "Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way," because it somehow finds its way into pretty much everything.
Q. Bruce: How does working at home compare to working in Bulgaria, where you made a couple of films recently?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: How can you compare? There's no comparison whatsoever. For one thing, there's the English language. Vehicles that run. You know, infrastructure.
MIKE RICHARDSON: Though I just got back from Budapest, and it's great. Terrific.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Well, that’s good.
Q. There are fewer wild dogs running in the streets.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Fewer wild dogs. I don't wanna rag on Bulgaria, but I would not call it the film capital of the world. It's a lovely place to visit if you don't want to make a movie. If you want to make a movie, go to America.
Q. How far from your home was the shoot for "My Name is Bruce"?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Four minutes. I think I called "Cut," and in four minutes I was face-down in my --
MIKE RICHARDSON: It wasn't four minutes! It was 20 seconds!
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Thirty-two seconds, yeah. It was on my
property, so I could literally -- it was the first time I'd slept in my
own bed making a movie in about 10 years. Because, you know, they farm
out these movies and shoot 'em everywhere but America, and I didn't
want that to happen.
I was just sick of this dumb-ass idea that Bulgaria is a better place to make American movies than America. Bulgaria stood in for East L.A.! With no people of color! That would have been a good trick.
So this was a much better deal. I give Mike a lot of credit; he let me try to hang myself. We were going to shoot in the small town of Jacksonville, Oregon -- but because there's a music festival that goes on there every summer at the same time, they don't allow shooting. So I thought, "All right. To hell with that! I'm gonna build Jacksonville. I'll build that little town."
So we built the fictitious town of Gold Lick, Oregon.
Q. So does Gold Lick most resemble Jacksonville?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: No. We have a town called Bald Lick, and then there's another town called Gold Hill, and so we kind of combined the two.
Q. What do you guys have planned for Live Wire this Saturday?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Yeah, Mike -- what're they gonna have us do?
MIKE RICHARDSON: I don’t know. The last time I was on the
show, one of the questions from the audience was about "My Name Is
Bruce." I said "Bruce Campbell" and everybody cheered -- so I think I
said it again, and everybody cheered again. I know a good thing when I
come across it.
Afterwards, they said, "Do you guys wanna come in and talk about the movie?" And I said, "Sure."
BRUCE CAMPBELL: I think they're gonna work us into a skit, too.
MIKE RICHARDSON: Well, they always do that -- but what they're gonna try and do is ask Bruce about "Evil Dead" movies and what I'm gonna try and do is get them to ask about "My Name Is Bruce." Because that's why we're there -- to promote that film.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: They always do that. A guy came to the "Burn Notice" set, sits down, and goes, "I have two words for you: 'Evil Dead.'" And I said, "Two words for you: 'old news.'" But that's okay. You can't fight City Hall.
Q. Bruce, how much were you involved in the actual idea-generating process for "My Name Is Bruce"?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Well, Mike and Mark spitballed the original idea from a comic book. And then we sat down, and I'm concerned about story and structure these days.
MIKE RICHARDSON: And of course, we don't care anything about that.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: And Mike does too!... And so Mike, Mark and I sat down for our story sessions, and agreed on the basics and the progression of things. Then Mark went off and wrote a couple of drafts. And then, finally, I kind of had to make it live in the reality of where we were shooting and how we were gonna do stuff and make it definitively my own. The usual kind of creative process. A little give. A little take.
Q. What was the moment where Mike and Mark called you and said, "We have an idea…."?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Geez, it was 17 years ago whenever we finally talked about it. I knew it was something that immediately caught my eye. If I get a project with "Zombie" in the title, I immediately recycle it.
MIKE RICHARDSON: I had just formed Dark Horse Indie, and we did three pictures in the course of 18 months with our independent label, financed by Image Entertainment -- DVD distributors, Marty Greenwald's company. And I told Bruce, "We have a chance to do this -- we can get our money, and they're excited about it."
BRUCE CAMPBELL: And they were gonna leave us alone, too.
MIKE RICHARDSON: That's what I was just getting to: "And they'll let us just go make our movie. They trust us on the creative side of things -- and so we're just gonna be able to go do this."
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Yeah. And that was a huge boon. Movies are hard enough; you don't want all the hassles and all the headaches of too many chefs. Basically, I only had to answer to the tall man, Mike Richardson, and that worked out pretty well.
MIKE RICHARDSON: We were synched up on everything -- we kept on moving forward. Like I said, for me the lesson was you can actually have a lot of fun making a film.
Q. Both of you have chosen to remain in Oregon when your careers could easily have taken you elsewhere. Mike, you're still in Milwaukie, and Bruce, you own a spread of land in southern Oregon. What keeps you here?
MIKE RICHARDSON: My goal is to someday make all our films up
here in Oregon. I'm here originally through the accident of birth, and
like the area. That one time that I actually thought about moving to
L.A., all I had to do was see how my kids were thriving here in the
Portland area, and that was quickly off the table.
As a result, since like 1990 or '91 -- whenever we started Dark Horse Entertainment, or just before that -- I've flown down to L.A. every week. That's not as bad as it seems, because for about five years, when I was going to conquer the world, we had Dark Horse UK, Dark Horse France, Dark Horse Japan…. Try making that round trip every three weeks. Now L.A. seems like nothing.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: For me, I guess I can sum it up in three words: "quality of life."
MIKE RICHARDSON: Yeah.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: You know, they don't make movies in L.A. any
more. I did a Column A and a Column B in about 1997 of "where did I
work this year?" Seventy percent was outside of L.A. -- it was either
in another country or another state. And I went, "I'm outta here. I'll
take the 30-percent hit if I have to."
So I took off. But with studios and technology and Internets and all that crazy stuff, it's allowed us to do it.
And it gives a different look to a movie. "My Name Is Bruce" is not going to look like any movie shot in Burbank, California.
MIKE RICHARDSON: It'll look like Bruce's backyard.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Exactly. It won't look anything like L.A.
MIKE RICHARDSON: Yeah. He's building his own backlot.
Q. He's kind of doing what Robert Rodriguez does, where he has a studio right there in his house in Austin, Texas.
MIKE RICHARDSON: By the way, we want to do that -- we're gonna use that set again. It may be castles and stuff by the time we're done, but….
Q. Who's worked with Ted Raimi more, Bruce: you or his brother Sam?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Oh, I have -- by far. He and I have been in
11 movies together. We're not always in the same scenes together, but….
Ted and I are actually some of the only actors who are in all of the
"Spider-Man" movies other than the leads.
Bruce Campbell and Mike Richardson tape their "Live Wire" appearance before a live studio audience this Saturday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Aladdin Theater (3017 SE Milwaukie, Portland, OR. For tickets or more information visit www.LiveWireRadio.org.
Rebels in the Backyard: Bruce Campbell and Mike Richardson, uncut (The Oregonian, Oct. 20, 2007)