Bruce Campbell vs. the Marvel Cinematic Universe
“Well, he's in the universe now,” Campbell tells Inverse of his MCU character. “Which means he's in every universe because these are all multi-layered universes.”
Bruce Campbell is a force of nature: an unstoppable, groovy hurricane.
The actor best known for Evil Dead and most recently seen as Pizza Poppa in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness strutted across San Diego Comic-Con in a shiny silver jacket and black turtleneck. I find him ensconced within Marvel’s massive booth on the bustling show floor, hidden behind a secret door that blends into the walls.
There, we discuss everything from his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut (he says he’s signed a “three-movie contract,” but can’t “verify” anything) to the future of Evil Dead (an animated “sci-fi future” series, if he gets his way) to his plan to re-edit the original zombie trilogy (“Someone needs to do a fan edit,” Campbell tells Inverse, “I can supervise it”) to which Avenger he’d like to hassle next.
Check out the full interview below.
Inverse: So I heard that there's more Pizza Poppa on the Blu-Ray. Can you tell me anything about that?
Bruce Campbell: No. But there's more. There's just more to it. There's a little more to the theme. They just sort of tightened it up for the actual movie. But the important thing to understand is that he might not just be a pizza vendor. That would be a big mistake on your part to assume that in any way whatsoever.
Well, he's in the universe now, isn't he? Which means he's in every universe because these are all multi-layered universes.
You're saying there are other variants of your character?
There would naturally be variants. Also, my character up-ended Doctor Strange by delaying him for about 45 seconds.
“It changed the narrative. And I can’t legally say anymore.”
So it changed the whole course of the story?
It had to have. It changed the narrative. And I can't legally say anymore.
So you and Doctor Strange have this 45-second interaction and it's fantastic. I can't help but wonder what might it be like to see Pizza Poppa interact with other superheroes in the Marvel Universe. Are there any in particular that you would like to have a scene with?
Good question. Well, I've done a scene with Doctor Strange. I've done it with Spidey. Geez, who are the hot chicks?
Can you tell me a little more about how you ended up in the movie? Did Sam Raimi call you out of the blue?
It's always random with Sam. I'll hear he's directing something or he'll mention something and I'll sick my agent on him and try to squeeze something out of him.
So is that what happened here?
Yeah, let me get in there and hassle Benny.
What was your initial conversation with Sam Raimi about Pizza Poppa?
Well, it's a three-movie contract. So that might answer your question.
You're producing a new Evil Dead movie. Can you tell me anything about it?
Yes, Evil Dead Rise. It was gonna go streaming because back in the Covid days they weren't doing as much theatrical. So it was gonna stream through HBO Max. But we just had the latest test screening of the finished film, and it scored so high they're considering going against that and doing a theatrical this Fall. Otherwise, it'll be early 2023 on streaming.
“These directors, they must take our input.”
Basically, there's no connection to any of the movies. I think it's going to be sort of like that from now on. It's all about the books now and there are three of them. We found that out in Army of Darkness. These three books could be anywhere. So where did the book wind up now? And whose hands did it fall into? And what happens? [Director] Lee Cronin, who Sam handpicked, did an excellent job. He's gonna be a busy boy because he knows what he's doing.
What was your role? Did you have any input on Evil Dead Rise?
We had a shit-ton of input because that's how we wanted it. We want input. These directors, they must take our input. These guys are trying to assert themselves as well. They don't want to make cookie-cutter movies and they don't want to imitate us. And they shouldn't. They shouldn't imitate Sam. So it works out good.
But I'm always very involved in the sound. I sit in on the mix of the movie to make sure it's got the stuff. And I can also sneak in some of the old Evil Dead sound effects from 40 years ago. They're all digitized.
I assume you're not in this one yourself. Do you have any interest in making a cameo at some point?
Never. Ash is done. I'll do his voice all day long. The Evil Dead video game is out now, and they did a really good job of that. And then, we’re considering continuing the TV show in an animated series. I would voice that all day long. You can do such cool stuff with animation. And the budgets; you don't have to build sets and I'm happy to sit in a nice air-conditioned booth and say my lines.
Would that be a continuation of the plot or a reboot?
We’re considering just continuing because people said that they thought it ended on what they consider to be a cliffhanger. But we tried to wrap it up as good as we could because we kind of knew it was gonna get canceled. So we thought: Okay, at the end of this season, which was Season 3 for us, we’re like, we gotta wrap this shit up in some way. Because it'll be worse if we don't try to address anything and don't cap that well. People will feel even more unfulfilled.
“We’re considering continuing the TV show in an animated series.”
Where does the story go now?
Here's the deal. It's Ash's legacy time now. He's not just a guy who lives in a crappy trailer. His destiny is to defeat evil in the past, present, and future. He's done it in the past. He did it in the present. Now he's off to do it in the future, and you can solidify his legacy.
And then, I would kill him. Yeah. Right as soon as he fulfills it. Some guy just sticks him with a shiv. Like the bad guy does a real cheap move. You know, who knows? But yeah, it'll limp along.
When you say future, do you mean a sci-fi future or just tomorrow?
Sci-fi future. Yeah, cuz he's off with a robot chick. In a souped-up car. See, it's a different world.
I wanted to ask something about Multiverse. You know, the Doctor Strange movie again. There's been some talk about how the universe you're in where Doctor Strange shows up is a bit of a dystopia. Everyone's wearing suits and living in this very buttoned-down world.
Yeah. And very muted colors. The charcoal grays. Dark. Everything was gray. Gray-black.
So did that come across when you were shooting it? This idea that this world that we’re sort of getting a glimpse at is not so great. It's very authoritarian maybe?
I don't think Sam was having people act any differently, but they just looked a little muted. Everything was a muted world.
I mean, you sort of stood out in that world.
I guess. But I still had the same color palette. I'm still in different shades of gray. So yeah, it's well designed. It's specifically designed.
Then in the post-credits obviously you have a great moment and get to speak to the camera a little bit.
I can now say, for the end of my days, that I put an end to Doctor Strange.
What was the process there in that scene? What was the direction? Because it's so funny and such a great moment of comedy.
Well look, Sam's a great guy to work with because he's always pushing in, challenging you, and has tons of ideas and he's a very fluid director. You know, each take he doesn't really want the same crap over and over again, and he'll fool around with stuff until he gets it, or until I can make him laugh behind the monitor. I know that he's my audience of one. And it's all I give a shit about is making him laugh. Because even if it's you cutting off your own hand and screaming bloody murder, he'll still laugh behind the monitor, because he thinks it's entertaining. So my job is just to entertain him so we go back and forth.
The modern crews, now that Sam is a big Hollywood director, they get really weirded out when I talk back to him. Because they've never seen us interact. A lot of these crews, they don't know that.
So even back on Evil Dead, which is not a comedy, was he laughing behind the scenes?
That's a melodrama. Sam, he was sort of busier. You know, I mean, he was figuring out how to be a director, we were figuring out how to be actors. So yeah, I mean, he certainly had a plan. When we were filming he came up with a bunch of stuff that we had never even thought about. He wanted to do the whole sequence of Ash alone in the cabin, he wanted to do everything at a 45-degree Dutch angle, every shot, and it would be sometimes opposing shots. And it's funny when you look at it now, it's a very contemporary sequence. At the time, we thought we were really concerned. Would that be watchable? Or would it be too distorting? It's the best part of the movie.
To go from Evil Dead to Evil Dead II is a really interesting shift, right? It's sort of a comedy remake. What's your perspective on how those two movies are connected?
I'll give you the bigger picture. We couldn't get the rights to the previous Evil Dead. We would have just recapped it that way. Instead, we shot footage with some different actors playing Linda. So people thought Ash was stupid enough to go back to the cabin again, with new friends.
“We tried to do something that made sense, but it made it worse. It was sort of our mistake.”
But if you cut all of the recaps out, the first Evil Dead ends, this evil entity goes through the cabin and is racing up to me. I scream. Cuts to black. Evil Dead II. You'd cut away all the retelling of the story and pick up right where I get caught in that whirlwind with the thing. The movie plays, he falls out of the sky, and when he lands, he would land into Army of Darkness.
Without all of these retellings, everything would make perfect sense. But the fact that these rights are screwy with different ownership for different movies, it didn't make sense. So we tried to do something that made sense, but it made it worse. It was sort of our mistake.
They're fun, but I'd do a fan edit. Someone needs to do a fan edit. I can supervise it.
Kevin Feige apparently said that he really liked working with Sam Raimi because he didn't have to be involved and just let Sam do his thing. Do you feel like that's an accurate description of what it was like on the set?
Well, Sam is a very capable director. So there's no point hounding a guy. If you're going to hire the guy for who you think he is, let him do what you think he does. And you can always step in if there's a problem. Hands-off is always better. Actors don't like to be told much. Directors don't like to be. No one likes to be told anything, really, We just want to do our thing.
Do you think Sam Raimi will do another Marvel movie?
It depends on how much fun he had making this one. These are hard movies. I mean, he was in 14-hour Zoom sessions and each Zoom has 75 people on it. I mean, nuts, the detail, the digital work that they had to do. Did you see those end credits of how many animators they had? It was astounding. How do you keep track of all that?
You know, Sam explained it. He goes, “It's like a giant ocean liner when you direct these movies. And every department, even though they're Academy Award-winning, some of them really great people, they all want to make the boat go either that way or that way. And then you go, “Nope, no we’re going that way.” It's a million course corrections, little tiny ones, to keep it all going because there are so many departments. It would be easy to lose. So he still has a good attention span. That helps. I couldn't do it.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is streaming now on Disney+ and available on Blu-ray.