In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
Name: Bruce Campbell
Profession: Actor, Voice Actor, Producer, Director
Notable Work: Evil Dead series, Burn Notice, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
“Once you look past the hype, actors are nothing more than fugitives from reality who specialize in contradiction: we are both children and hardened adults—wide-eyed pupils and jaded working stiffs.” ― Bruce Campbell, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
Bruce Campbell: a king among B Movie actors to many, a favorite actor to some overly-obsessed fans to others, and possibly just “that guy from that thing” to others. He can be called many things and be liked for many different reasons among just being involved in a lot of iconic projects. No matter what way you look at Bruce Campbell is a pop culture icon to the extreme and just an overall great guy to boot. Before we learn about craft of Campbell, lets take a look at the man.
Bruce Campbell was born Bruce Lorne Campbell in Royal Oak, Michigan to Joanne Louise and Charles Newton Campbell. Campbell is no stranger to acting as his father while growing up acted as well as taking up a career as a traveling billboard inspector. On top of learning the craft from his father, Bruce has and older brother, Don, and an older half-brother, Michael Rendine. Growing up, Campbell begun to act and became obsessed with making his own Super 8-type films with his friends. This was where the legend was born; in high school Bruce Campbell met Sam Raimi and an instant best friend type of relationship emerged, combining both of their loves of film. Although Raimi and Campbell did not do much other than student films up into their college years, it was because of one short 30-minute film that would initially launch both of these men into stardom. This film was titled Within the Woods and ultimately was just a short to help try and sell their much larger project, Evil Dead.
The Evil Dead has become a staple of the horror genre and especially the first two of the trilogy redefined horror and some even credit Evil Dead 2 as spawning the “Horror Comedy” genre type of film that would bring us later classics such as Shaun of the Dead and Tucker and Dale vs Evil. The first Evil Dead film, though, was a love letter from Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi’s to the film industry and man did it pay off because it launched the career of two of the most iconic names in film. This role would end up spawning a semi-remake with Evil Dead 2 in 1987, and an outlandish time-traveling sequel Army of Darkness in 1992. All this has led to the creation of: multiple video-games, a couple different comic books (including Ash saving Obama, Marvel Zombies, and a battle with Freddy and Jason). Evil Dead was recently remade with Raimi and Campbell as producers and no Ash character as a focal point in the film. During the time of Evil Dead’s initial release, Bruce Campbell got married to his first wife, Chritine Deveau, and in their six years of marriage they had two kids, Rebecca and Andy. Sadly they got divorced in 1989 but lets catch up career wise before we get there.
The next big thing for Campbell was playing Jack Forrest in the first two Maniac Cop films in the late 80s’ to early 90s’; although he is well-known for these films, Campbell is very outspoken about disliking Maniac Cop 2 – not because of any reason other than that it was a bad time in his life because this was when he was going through his divorce. Campbell has even been known to throw a loving insult away at people at conventions when they bring it up. Ultimately, it is just his nature and his dry wit coming to play; people now mention it in hopes of being insulted by him. It wasn’t long after Maniac Cop 2, that Bruce landed himself the role of Brisco County in the short lived but widely loved The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. This show was way ahead of its time being a comedic sci-fi western which paved the way for Carlton Cuse, one of the co-creators, to later incorporate a lot of lost sci-fi plot and ideas for his later project, Lost.
Campbell got married again a little before Brisco County Jr. in 1991 to his current wife and costume designer, Ida Gearon, when they were both working on the film Mindwarp. This period after Brisco didn’t have many large roles but they were in larger projects including his short cameo as Charles Travis in Congo, the small three-episode role of Bill Church Jr. on Lois and Clark, and then Surgeon General of Beverly Hills in Escape to L.A.. For many years, the biggest and most well known things for Campbell were all television roles but again, the majority were iconic to television. These include playing Ed Billik on Ellen, a guest spot as Wayne Weinsider in The X-Files and his role as Autolycus in both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.
On top of portraying Autolycus on both Hercules and Xena, Campbell also portrayed his longtime friend and producer of both series Rob Tapert in a Hercules episode where they are in modern times. Campbell also directed seven Hercules episodes and two Xena episodes, which made these series a must see for any Campbell fan. Only about a year after both Hercules and Xena ended, Campbell got another lead role in a series; although, it was just as short lived as Brisco County. This role was of Jack Stiles in the show Jack of All Trades, which was a 19th century action/spy comedy. It was about Jack Stiles, a spy working in the south pacific against Napoleon’s efforts to colonize America. It lasted two seasons, but much like Brisco, it was ahead of its time.
This all led up to Campbell getting into some more great roles and cameos due to his friend Sam Raimi. Campbell next starred as Roland the Intrepid Explorer, which was a film character within a film in The Majestic, then Campbell started his Spider-Man film cameos in 2002 by playing Ring Announcer (the guy who introduces Spider-Man at the wrestling match), but next came a role of a life time in that Campbell was set to play none other than Elvis Presley. Now when looking at Campbell’s resume you would not think this role would be on there but what if I told he was an old geriatric Elvis, who was still living and in a retirement home with JFK (the late and great Ossie Davis) whom the government had dyed his skin black and they both battle a mummy. Yes people I am of course talking about Bubba Ho-Tep, which is now a quintessential Bruce Campbell film and even warranted action figures of both Elvis and the mummy Bubba Ho-Tep.
In the coming years, Campbell continued his Spider-Man cameos as Snooty Usher in Spider-Man 2, as well as playing himself in the Mark Hamill helmed mockumentary Comic Book: The Movie. Campbell then moved onto his own project that he had written, produced, directed, and starred in Man with the Screaming Brain. Bruce Campbell has often said this film was one of the oddest and most difficult productions he was involved in mostly because they filmed in Bulgaria. After that massive undertaking that supposedly took Campbell almost 20 years to make, he had a small role in the Disney film Sky High as Coach Boomer, a P.E. coach for super heroes. He also did a lot of voice over work including narrating the Spider-Man video games, The Ant Bully as Fugax, Chicken Bittle in Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, Mayor Shelbourne in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Rod ‘Torque’ Redline in Cars 2.
When looking at where Bruce Campbell is today, you have to look at the fact that he just finished a seven-season run as Sam Axe in Burn Notice. This has to be the role most people know him from today and has made him a household name for this generation. Not only did he play Sam Axe in the show, but also a spin-off TV movie called Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe. Recently he was also seen as the Winkie Gate Keeper in Oz the Great and Powerful, Dr. Ashford N. Simpson in an episode of last season of Psych. Now ending where it all began, Campbell had a uncredited role as Ash in the new Evil Dead in 2013 in an after-credits scene, and is set to play a character named Ash in Neutron Zombies in 2015.
Campbell also has written two books titled If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, which is an entertaining and incredibly informative autobiography, and Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way which is a parody autobiography that makes him a character of himself and pokes fun at the whole entertainment industry. This reinforces the idea that Bruce loves to make fun of himself, even making a film titled My Name is Bruce in 2007 where he plays himself and ends up battling an actual monster – which does not end well. In fact, Campbell enjoyed this idea so much he had the entire set built on his ranch and shot the majority of the film on his own property. Campbell proves by doing this that although he may be a B movie actor, he is a grade A filmmaker – sacrificing his time, his property and his own money to bring the film to life and there is also a planned sequel titled Bruce vs Frankenstein.
None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (Silver Sphere Corporation, MCA Television, Studios USA Television, Boam/Cuse Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment, Renaissance Pictures, Sue Schneider_MGP Agency). Join us tomorrow as we conclude our countdown to Denver Comic Con with vengeance, the night, and Batman… Kevin Conroy.