Bruce Campbell’s latest book, Hail to the Chin, is a followup to his first collection of stories, If Chins Could Kill. Like that book, the new one is a fun, breezy read. “It’s got lots of pictures, won’t take you long,” Campbell says.
His stories, full of self-deprecating humor, chronicle time both on and off set over the last fifteen years. “I call it Act Two,” says Campbell. "It’s a little more mature, and fifteen years from now, I’ll do the final confessions. The industry’s changed a lot in the last fifteen years.”
Campbell has been at the forefront of those changes for well over two decades, having written, produced, directed and starred in television shows including Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Burn Notice and now Ash vs. Evil Dead. Both Hercules and Xena bypassed the traditional network system and were sold straight to syndication. Burn Notice again bypassed the networks and became a tent pole for the basic cable network USA. Campbell will adopt yet another distribution model with his latest project, this time streaming Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Streaming is great for consumers, he says, "but the studios are having a hard time trying to track who’s watching a show and who’s downloading it illegally. Ash vs. Evil Dead is one of the most illegally downloaded shows. If they wind up canceling us, I’m like, 'Someone should get that number.'”
Cancellation for Ash seems unlikely, though, as production has just wrapped on season three. As Campbell recalls in his book, “During the 25 years after Army of Darkness, I zigzagged my way across the country, going to horror, sci-fi and fantasy conventions of all stripes. At each one, the same thing occurred: questions about another Evil Dead.” In 2013 Campbell and his collaborators successfully made a remake of the first Evil Dead. The film was generally praised but, Campbell writes, “I got the sense overall that fans felt like the movie was close, but no cigar.” Plans for a full-fledged sequel morphed into a series that could take advantage of the new streaming model. Starz gave the production team full creative control, not restricting violence or gore.
How have fans responded to the series? “They’ve embraced it wholeheartedly,” says Campbell. "We’re giving them everything we’ve got, and we’ll keep giving it to them until Starz doesn’t want us to anymore.” The release of season three may be delayed until February, and Campbell’s a bit tight-lipped about it. “You’ll have to pick your jaw up off the floor,” he says. “It’s going to be incredibly topsy-turvy where it focuses a little more on Ash’s journey.”
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While streaming has clearly made it easier for consumers to binge on their favorite shows and made it easier for niche content to find an audience, it hasn't made producing movies any simpler. “Nothing is easy – not in the film business,” Campbell continues. "You still have to make good content, you still have to come up with ideas, and you still have to execute. None of that is easier.”
Campbell’s book is filled with personal revelations — some frivolous, like his love of The Lawrence Welk Show, and some more earnest, like his DUI.
“I’m a real person. I fuck up just like everybody else,” he says. “If I was afraid, I wouldn’t have put it in the book. It’s very important to me to not be looked at as anything other than a regular shmoe next door. We’re actors; we make stupid decisions every day of the week.”
The Tattered Cover presents an Evening With Bruce Campbell at 6 p.m. Thursday, September 21, at the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake. The event is currently sold out; for more information, go to the Alamo website.