Bruce Campbell has been a cult actor for more than 30 years. He has been riding a career wave that has encompassed everything from B-movie-actor extraordinaire to author of 2002’s surprise bestseller If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor to, most recently, semi-mainstream TV success.
Campbell, who appears Friday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Rookwood Pavilion to support his new memoir Hail to the Chin, made his name playing Ash, the lead character in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead film trilogy, crafty horror adventures that were as humorous as they were terrifying. Campbell and Raimi grew up together in the suburbs of Detroit dreaming of making movies, and 36 years after the debut of the original Evil Dead, each is still doing what he loves.
The most unlikely of Campbell’s endeavors has been his success as an author: His 2002 memoir’s out-of-nowhere success was evidence of the square-jawed actor’s unique presence on the cultural landscape. Now comes its sequel of sorts, Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor.
“I look back and it was a pretty packed 15 years,” Campbell says by cellphone from a train on the way to the next stop on what will be a 35-city book tour. “There was plenty of material for a second book, and the good news is that I don’t have to make anything up with books like this. I just have to go on imdb.com and remind myself of what I did.
“On this one, I partnered up with Craig Sanborn, who’s a co-writer, because I needed a little help getting this book done in a timely fashion since I was working a lot,” he continues. “He and I sat down and recorded a bunch of conversations about the various projects that I remembered. He would interview me. Then he transcribed it and we started hacking it into chapters. Then I would finish the chapters so that it was in my voice.”
Among the projects Campbell discusses in the book is Ash vs. Evil Dead, a continuation of the character he created with Raimi, but this time as a television series on Starz.
“It’s a bizarre situation,” Campbell says of the series, which debuted in 2015 and will unveil its third season sometime this fall. “I’m very glad to be able to do it. I feel like George Lucas on the Stars Wars movies: I can go back and fix Ash now. The last time I played him was 25 years ago for Army of Darkness, and so I now have a quarter-century of experience I can bring to the part. It’s been fun in a TV format to flesh the character out and give him new dimensions. You find out new phobias and quirks, dumb things that he says.”
Raimi directed the pilot and has continued as an executive producer on the series. “Sam’s the same,” Campbell says of working with him again. “He’s still bossy. He still tries to belittle me in front of the crew. But, in all seriousness, his skill sets continue to improve, which was why it was fun to work with him again.”
Campbell has a theory, which he explores via various anecdotes in his latest book, as to why the types of slanted, largely genre-driven movies and television shows he has been affiliated with over the years have been so successful with certain audiences.
“Part of it is that people are looking for an escape,” he says. “I think when things in our country or society get funky, we tend to run for cover. And this is certainly a time when people want to hide. You can get all sociological here — we’re looking for heroes, so these Marvel movies are perfect for that. The world makes sense when you do a superhero movie. It is part of the fantasy of why people go to movies — they go to escape.”
As for the publishing business, Campbell says there is at least one area where he prefers it to movies. “They know how to add and subtract,” he says. “People in the movie business need to take math classes. But it’s nice to know in the movie business that even the accounting is creative.”
BRUCE CAMPBELL will appear 7 p.m. Friday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Rookwood Pavilion, 2692 Madison Road, Norwood. More info: josephbeth.com.