He may not command the salary of Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio, but for a large percentage of moviegoers, he is just as essential to the history of cinema. He is Bruce Campbell, the self-proclaimed B-movie and TV actor with more than one hundred IMDB credits, and he is this generation’s Robert Mitchum: tall, physically imposing and professional; only Campbell does slapstick a hell of a lot better than Mitchum ever could.
Known primarily for his turn as Ash — the hapless Michigander who recited a passage from the Necronomicon and awoke the evil dead — Campbell has found a wide variety of success in film (Bubba Ho-Tep and The Man With the Screaming Brain) and television (Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess and Burn Notice); as an author (his current book, Hail to the Chin, debuted at number eight on The New York Times best-sellers list) and now as the game show host of Last Fan Standing.
“[There’s] what I call ‘The Big Five of Entertainment’,” Campbell says. “Back in the day, 50 years ago or more, you could do vaudeville, Broadway, radio, television and movies. And guys like Bob Hope did all five. Guys like that inspire me.”
That desire to tackle the “Big Five” like Hope is evident in Hail to the Chin, Campbell’s follow-up to his 2001 memoir, If Chins Could Kill.
The new book picks up Campbell at the turn of the century: he and his wife have left Los Angeles for the hills of Oregon and Campbell tries to put the character of Ash behind him and move into a more diverse and creative role in his career. Along the way there is a near-fatal car crash, projects that never see funding, a seven-year stint on a popular cable TV show, Burn Notice, a visit to wounded veterans in Iraq, three Spider-Man movies and the inevitable return to his most famous role for Ash vs. Evil Dead. As Campbell succinctly puts it, Hail to the Chin “shows a little different side of the business.”
However, the most significant change during the years covered in Hail was not Campbell’s doing, but society’s. With the sudden marketability and proliferation of superhero movies, sci-fi and fantasy, B-movies suddenly got A-billing.
“I’m vindicated,” Campbell says with a laugh. “If you dress up like a bat, it’s a B-movie. … If you get bitten by a radioactive spider, that’s not only a B-movie, that’s a 1950s B-movie.”
That tongue-in-cheek approach not only makes Campbell’s various characters memorable, it makes his books exciting to read and his game show fun to watch.
“Our show won’t have any history or geography questions,” Campbell says. “It will be: How much does Thor’s hammer weigh?”
Presented by the Tattered Cover Book Store, Campbell visits the Alamo Drafthouse – Sloans Lake on Sept. 21 with signed copies of Hail to the Chin, a live episode of Last Fan Standing and a special screening of Evil Dead II. The VIP tickets are already sold out, so act fast.
On the Bill: Tattered Cover Book Store Presents: An Evening with Bruce Campbell. Thursday, Sept. 21, Alamo Drafthouse – Sloans Lake. 4255 W. Colfax Ave., Denver, 720-577-4720.