Fearless demon-killer Bruce Campbell opts for the safety of the sidewalk in Vancouver



By Steve Newton

Bruce Campbell won the hearts of horror fans everywhere with his role as the comically intense demon killer Ash in Sam Raimi’s low-budget 1983 horror hit, The Evil Dead. He went on to portray the manic, blood-soaked hero in the increasingly slapstick follow-ups, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn and Army of Darkness, earning an enormous cult following.

Last year he continued his monster-battlin’ ways in Phantasm director Don Coscarelli’s universally acclaimed Bubba Ho-tep, portraying an elderly Elvis Presley taking on a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy at an East Texas retirement home. That gave Campbell the opportunity to spout lines like, “Never fuck with the King!” after skewering a huge scarab beetle with a fork.

Campbell’s ultraphysical roles have seen him constantly risking life and limb against bloodthirsty beings, but he isn’t quite so fearless in the flesh. He hesitates when yours truly scampers across Robson with a cab bearing down, opting for the safety of the sidewalk. Then another daunting sight comes into view as we stroll along: a gaggle of grimy, goth-looking Ash addicts have staked out the entrance to the nearby Chapters, where Campbell is scheduled to attend a book signing.

But none of them attempt to intercept the B-movie icon as he strides through the front door and makes his way to the store’s third level, where another 250 or so mostly male, mostly tattooed, and mostly black-clad fans mill about, the majority clutching just-bought copies of Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way (St. Martin’s Press, $31.95).

“Bring on the Bruce!” one of the more vocal followers bellows, and soon after Campbell takes the podium for a quick Q&A before getting down to the business of signing autographs. As he explained earlier during a half-hour chat in the near-deserted Vancouver Art Gallery Café, he equates signing books to speedballing–mixing heroin and cocaine.

“They sort of build you up and tear you down at the same time,” he said between sips of tea, “but I’d been going to conventions for years, so I’d done the marathon signings. Some authors just friggin’ hate it; they’d rather be up in their little cabin, you know, hiding away from the world.”

Make Love-the follow-up to his 2001 autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor-follows Campbell’s fictional attempts to overcome his low-budget past and prepare for a pivotal role in an A-list Hollywood movie. He claims that 80 percent of the characters in the new book are based on people he’s met in the movie biz.

“I changed the names to protect the guilty in many cases,” he said. “I’ve run into bogus producers and met actors who fucked with ya during auditions and stuff like that. So I just twisted it. It wasn’t a hard twist.”

Campbell’s current book tour includes stops in 44 cities, and he’s hoping that all the promotion will help Make Love surpass the success of Chins, which hit No. 19 on the New York Times bestseller list. In the meantime, he’s also taking the opportunity to plug his next film, the self-directed Man With the Screaming Brain, which airs on the SciFi Channel this fall. He describes the Bulgaria-set, fish-out-of-water mystery-thriller as “The Out of Towners, only with a brain transplant.”

Considering his credits in groundbreaking horror, Campbell seems like the ideal source for recommendations in the genre. But unlike his diehard fans, he’s no connoisseur of carnage. “I like some of the classics,” he pointed out. “Like, give me The Tenant by Roman Polanski any day, ’cause it messes with your head. I think the original Haunting is good, ’cause you don’t see any monsters. I’m a big fan of less-is-more.”

Yeah, sure thing, Ash. Somehow that claim just doesn’t ring true coming from a guy who once fastened a chainsaw to his wrist for easy demon-gouging after chopping off his own possessed hand.

“Well, I’ve been involved in more-is-more,” he countered with a shrug. “Doesn’t mean I like it!”

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