(Originally printed in OC WEEKLY, 02 October 2003)
You’ve surely seen Bruce Campbell in action, even if you don’t know his name. Over the past few decades, when Campbell wasn’t starring in oddball, low-budget genre pictures (the Evil Dead trilogy), he has shown up in supporting roles in more mainstream fare (Serving Sara), guest starred on everything from Ellen to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and starred in such short-lived series as Jack of All Trades. Campbell’s latest role—a geriatric Elvis Presley in Bubba Ho-Tep—is only the latest in the actor’s growing gallery of lovable maniacs.
OC Weekly: Was there much method acting involved in this? Did you study old Elvis movies?
Bruce Campbell: Well, you do the requisite research for this sort of thing, but I didn’t go back and study old Elvis movies or anything like that. The thing that taught me the most was this amazing documentary—I can’t remember the title of it—where they got a bunch of Elvis’ former bodyguards together in one room and had them all talk for hours. This was the Memphis Mafia, a bunch of real good ol’ boys. They really cut loose; they were cursing and crying, along with the good stuff they had to say about him, and it really gave me a much more complete portrait of the man than I think I would have gotten from something like Clambake. I also spent some time with an Elvis impersonator, apparently one of the premier ones in the country. That only lasted a while before he gave up on me; he said I was just hopeless.
What did he say you were doing wrong?
Well, these guys take it all very seriously, you know. I just wasn’t approaching it the right way, as he saw it.
Were you an Elvis fan before this picture?
No, I wouldn’t say that. See, I graduated from high school in ’76, and at that point, Elvis just seemed like this sad, bloated joke, not the sort of thing I would have been into at all. I’ve grown to appreciate him since then.
What’s the main difference between acting in the big mainstream stuff vs. the more quirky, low-budget things you do? Which do you enjoy more?
Well, I like to mix it up. If I didn’t, I’d get bored. The mainstream work pays for the other stuff, something like a Spider-Man can help fund my more quirky pursuits. Whatever I’m doing, I always try my best. Sometimes you can give a good performance in a bad film; sometimes you give a bad performance in a good film. No matter what the picture is, I’m always trying my hardest.
Why did you decide to become an actor in the first place?
Because it seemed like a job where you didn’t have to wear a tie.
Your fans seem like a particularly passionate bunch, sometimes frighteningly so. Why do you think that is?
Maybe because I’ve done a lot of things that were kind of skewered, out of left field. Not everybody likes that mainstream, Reese Witherspoon kind of movie, so when something more unusual and quirky comes along, some people will really respond to that.
That’s about it for my questions, except to ask: What’s the question you’re most tired of being asked in interviews?
That last question. No, I think that, like, 80 percent of the time in interviews, I can tell early on exactly where the questions are going. It gets very predictable, and I do get tired of the lack of imagination from questioners. The best interview I ever had was with this little Indian guy from some public-access TV station. He came in with his equipment, and he was fumbling around setting it up, and right away, I got nervous, thinking I was dealing with a rank amateur. But then he asked me the best questions—it was amazing. I had no idea where it was going next, and I really had to think about my answers. I thanked him afterward; it was just an amazing experience.
Do you remember any of the questions he asked?
Aw, jeez, it’s been a long time. Uh . . . I think he asked how I memorize lines. Just weird stuff like that, stuff nobody ever thinks to ask about.
Well, how do you memorize your lines?
Nope. That was his question. You didn’t think of it, so you can’t ask it.
Nope. Too late. You had your chance, pal.