Bruce Campbell is shaving while talking by phone from a hotel room in Dayton, Ohio. This multi-tasking is necessitated by preparations for his "Summer of Love" tour to promote his latest low-budget film, The Man with the Screaming Brain, and his new book, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way. The 47-year-old cult figure will bring his two-pronged venture, a book-signing followed by a screening, to the Mayan Theatre Monday, July 11.
Campbell is one of the most recognizable B-movie actors working today, in part because of his appearance in the Evil Dead horror film series, which he also co-produced with longtime friends Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. He credits scare guru Stephen King with lending the first film enough credibility to get it a distribution deal in 1982.
"He was very helpful at a time when horror films were easily savaged," says Campbell. "He said, 'Back off -- this one's good,' which put a force field around it. I hope to thank him personally someday."
Brain is Campbell's most ambitious undertaking to date. He wrote, directed, produced and starred in the campy sci-fi flick in which he plays William Cole, a wealthy American businessman who travels to Eastern Europe. While there, his character gets wrangled as a lab rat for a mad scientist, who melds Cole's brain with the brain of an ex-KGB agent. The only thing the two men have in common is that they both were killed by the same woman, and the pair form an uneasy alliance to hunt down their mutual arch-enemy.
Campbell's telephonic toilette has progressed to a gargle and a rinse, but not before he gags on the topic of Hollywood's big-budget, small-plot offerings.
"I'm glad to see Hollywood sucking eggs," he spits. "It's morally bankrupt, spending so much money to have a tried-and-true idea. It's run by businessmen, not creative people. It's pathetic. I used to apologize for B movies. Now I have a reverse arrogance. A 'B' is an 'A,' and an 'A' is a 'B.' If you're bitten by a radioactive spider, or you're a guy who dresses up like a bat, get outta here! That's not an A movie."
As for the enduring popularity of B movies, Campbell explains that "Bs are more original, as crude as they are. Like Avis, they try harder. A B movie can do what an A movie can't: a B can spend more money and go slower, but an A can't spend less money and go faster. Hollywood couldn't make a cheap movie if it bit 'em in the ass."
Obviously, he's not afraid to tee off Tinseltown. Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, a lampoon of the Hollywood movie machine, tells the tale of an actor named Bruce Campbell, who finally gets his big break in the form of a plum role in an A-list Mike Nichols film. Problems ensue when Campbell, doing research for his relationship-expert character, begins to offer the other actors questionable romance advice. Make Love is Campbell's first novel, but not his first literary attempt. His memoir, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, was published in 2001. Campbell calls the tomes "companion pieces."
"The first book was an autobiography," he says. "The second book was a crazy journey. I wrote it because I was pissed off that only A movies got attention." And he won't stop there. Campbell fans can read up on his upcoming projects on his website, www.bruce-campbell.com. "Make sure to put in the dash or you'll get a Dodge dealership in Michigan," he adds.
A growing hum of voices is punctuated by occasional yelps of laughter as Campbell walks his phone past a group of conventioneers in the lobby of his hotel, which happens to be hosting a Bible conference. "I wonder if any of them are going to see my movie?"