SXSW Interview: Bruce Campbell Talks ‘Evil Dead’: “To me it’s not a remake or a prequel or a sequel or a reimagining”

Here’s the last of our Evil Dead SXSW interviews… but I did save the best for last.

I give you Bruce Campbell.

I talked with Bruce and Rob Tapert, who are both producers on the new Evil Dead, at SXSW and as you might think, it was a real thrill. He’s smart, quick and one of the funniest people I’ve ever talked to.

Bruce was in the original Evil Dead trilogy that was directed by Sam Raimi but this time, he’s on the other side of the camera. He played a huge part in getting this new version to the screen and even though he was filming Burn Notice in Miami at the time, he would still keep tabs on what was happening as the cast and crew were filming in New Zealand.

In the interview, they talk about how they cast the at the actors, including Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jane Levy, how the script is “everything” and why they shot in New Zealand.

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes 

Evil Dead comes out this Friday!

You were on set, obviously, for the original trilogy. Were you on-set for this?

Bruce Campbell: Nope. I had a day job. Burn Notice.

Did you see any of the dailies?

Bruce Campbell: Of course I saw dailies.  We saw everything that they would send out. Rob was on set, I mean, Rob was there so he saw it firsthand and went through the prep but Sam and I from a distance, we’d still watch it.

Was it kind of a kick to be able to see the progression of the practical effects from back then to now?

Bruce Campbell: Yeah, but it takes a long time to finally see the finished version. It’s not until they finish the effects that you finally go, “That either worked or it didn’t work.” So it’s only recently when we finally were like, “Yeah, cool. That worked.” We had a pretty good idea, but we still had to, you know, fine tune plenty of things.Even though you weren’t physically on set, how fun was it for you to be back in the Evil Dead world?

Bruce Campbell: Very good working with Rob and Sam again, you know, I run into these guys just through various things, but this time we actually had to get on phone calls together and talk about the script and run through it like that. And then Rob was very involved in the actual production of it and then we came and went whenever we could. You know?

Rob Tapert: Then we did post, brought it here, we did the previews and Bruce worked on the sound all the way through.

Bruce Campbell: So we ducked in whenever we could.

Why’d you guys shoot it in New Zealand? Just cheaper?

Bruce Campbell: Because Rob’s the king of New Zealand.

Rob Tapert: I was down there working on something else. It is less expensive but it was also very easy for me to be there to kinda keep an eye on it. So it…

Bruce Campbell: This is Rob’s world. I mean, these are good crews. New Zealand crew, I’d put any… I’d put a Kiwi crew up against anybody as far as discipline, ability, craftsmanship. These guys are really good. I remember I went to direct a Hercules episode in the early days. I went to move a table on the set, I about threw my back out. It was a real wooden table. I mean, they hadn’t even learned how to fake stuff yet. Like, “Oh, yeah, you want a wooden table? There’s your wooden table.” I’m like, “God damn.” So they… they’re good craftsman and, you know, the job is to support Fede, give him a good place to work even though it’s New Zealand and he’s from Uruguay, so whatever.

evil-dead-posterCan you talk a little bit about the preparation for this film?

Bruce Campbell: Well, the script was everything. So we know that now, we’ve been around long enough to know that the script is everything. It’s your blueprint for your movie. So the trick was just to have Fede pitch us a tone and a story and then together the four of us would sort of have long conversations and he’d come back with something and we would slowly work it into a script. Rob mostly had to determine whether we could afford to shoot it based on the budget. So it’s always… it’s always a dance of creative versus monetary.

Rob Tapert: But it was the easiest movie I’ve done in a long time because it went really smoothly. And Fede knew what he wanted and was able to communicate as a director to tell people and to tell the actors so that… which is the most important thing a good director can do, is tell you what he wants, how he wants you to do it, and how he wants you to do it again differently, and you can understand all those things he says.

You put your cast through the ringer.

Rob Tapert: Oh, they should’ve been there for the first one.

Finding them, was it difficult to find the right cast? Because they all work very well together.

Bruce Campbell: Chemistry is an amazing thing. It either works or it doesn’t. When we got further into the casting process we could start to put people that we think is the part with other people that we think is good for the part and then just see how they react. And sometimes right in the room you go, “Alright, good.” Because Shiloh and Lou did a lot of auditioning together and they had to be the two guys in the movie that, you know, related to each other and in the room it worked.

So that’s what can put it over the top. You might have someone that looks good with this person, but they have no fucking chemistry whatsoever. And two people can be very unlikely and have great chemistry. Chemistry is everything.

Sometimes there’s a weak link in the cast and there’s nothing like that here.

Bruce Campbell: Yeah and look, you know, guys like Shiloh had a tricky part because he’s not the obvious hero. He’s a guy who has flaws and he’s a coward and he’s a little weak spined and couldn’t muster up to see his mother when she was sick and it’s just not his bag. So he’s… greatness is forced upon him, he’s not the ripped guy, you know, Dwayne Johnson getting out of the Jeep at the beginning, “Hey, how are you guys?” You know? That’s not what it was and that’s… those are tricky things. I give Fede credit for writing a character that was that obtuse.

Rob Tapert: Slightly flawed, yes.

Bruce Campbell: Yeah.

Was it difficult to resist the temptation to cast maybe some known actors?

Rob Tapert: We had pretty much total control of casting. The distributor Film District going out through Sony, they wanted us to have one person, and, to their credit, Jane… they were very happy to have Jane in that role, and Jane had the most physically demanding part, and her attitude on set helped set the tone with everybody else. They saw, “Ooh, she’s really going through hell doing that. If she can do that, when my turn comes too…”

Bruce Campbell: “I can do that.”

Rob Tapert: “I can do that. I’ll get through it one way or the other.” And so that was really great. And so… but within everything else, yeah, we pretty much had freedom to… we had freedom… the distributor, as they always do, and that’s the only thing they ever ask us for, is said, “We’d like one person that we know we can book.” And they booked…

Bruce Campbell: Yeah, can they get on Leno?

Rob Tapert: Kimmel. Not Leno. Not even our audience could… can they get on Kimmel?

Was there any anxiety or kind of pressure revisiting the Evil Dead with the cult fanbase?

Bruce Campbell: The only pressure is to do the same thing we did on the first three. As partners, the three of us tried to just make the best movie we could based on that script at that time. So it was no different. It was no different. We were just making another Evil Dead movie. That’s why I call this a new Evil Dead movie. To me it’s not a remake or a prequel or a sequel or a reimagining. It’s just new. Another Evil Dead movie. People wanted it, they wanted it, they’ve been pressuring us and hassling us for years about this.

Rob Tapert: Now that it’s in the marketplace, or gonna be in the marketplace, actually, the horror genre, because it’s different than anything that’s out there in its own way, I think it’ll be a welcome relief to people who actually like horror and look forward to going to see… it’s something different. It’s familiar if you liked Evil Dead, but it’s different to what’s currently out there. Kind of an old fashioned, hard hitting, horror movie.

Bruce Campbell: Look, the parents of the kids who see this movie will still go, “Ok, cool.” Because it’s gonna look like effects from the 70s. You know what I mean? And they’re not… their parents are not gonna know that… it doesn’t feel like a modern movie, quote on quote. It just feels like a movie.

Last night, the crowd ate it up, loved every minute of it. How satisfying was it?

Bruce Campbell: It’s everything you need to hear. You need to hear the laughter, the clapping, the people talking back to the screen. “No, no, no. No, no, no, don’t, don’t. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.” I mean, there was legitimate dread. One of my favorite sequences that played last night is Erika’s walking into the bathroom to see what  this weird sound and, like, something horrible and the audience is like, “Oh no. No, no, no, no.” And he keeps going, “Are you ok?” “No, she’s not ok.” They know she’s not okay.

Rob Tappert: Everybody laughed.

Bruce Campbell: They did, they did, they always do. And that’s the thing that you can’t… you can’t worry about people’s reactions because it’s in the moment. They’re like, “Fuck no, she’s not ok.” And that’s great, that’s a reaction you know that the audience is paying attention because they know that she’s… it’s not ok.

A lot of nervous laughter.

Bruce Campbell: Totally. That’s good.

Here’s the Evil Dead panel at WonderCon where Bruce rules all. Check it out!

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