15 Groovy Facts About Bruce Campbell

Travel Channel
Travel Channel

Once cited as the "Laurence Olivier of bad movies," no actor has done more with a strong chin and questionable scripts than Bruce Campbell. The 60-year-old Michigan native achieved B-movie infamy beginning with The Evil Dead films before garnering primetime employment on USA’s Burn Notice and a three-season stint on the Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead. Campbell also frequently appears at comic book conventions, where his playfully combative repartee with audiences (choice quote: “You’re a dumbass!”) has further endeared him to the non-Oscar voting crowd.

Having closed the door on any further appearances as Ash, Campbell is jumping into hosting duties, headlining a revival of Ripley's Believe It or Not! that will premiere on the Travel Channel in summer 2019. In the meantime, check out all the gory details we’ve dug up on Campbell's formative years, his bid for superhero status, and why it took him so long to pick up another chainsaw.

1. Sam Raimi began torturing him in high school.

Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi attend STARZ' Ash vs Evil Dead At New York Comic Con at Jacob Javits Center on October 10, 2015 in New York City
Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images for STARZ

The Evil Dead director and frequent Campbell collaborator Sam Raimi has repeatedly expressed his delight in torturing Campbell for cameras, drowning him in fake blood and poking him with a stick in order to elicit his desired performance. Their dysfunctional relationship began in high school, where Raimi was fond of sitting behind Campbell and pressing a pencil into his back while his “friend” was attempting to answer a question from a teacher. Despite the acrimonious classroom behavior, the two began to collaborate on Super 8 films along with friends Josh Becker, Scott Spiegel, and Raimi’s brother, Ivan.

2. He was not a fashion plate.

As detailed in his 2001 autobiography, If Chins Could Kill, Campbell saw no need to sport blue jeans while cruising the hallways of his Michigan high school in the 1970s. They “wore through at the knees and butt too quickly,” he wrote, preferring Montgomery Ward’s work pants and his father’s dark brown smoking jacket as his ensemble of choice. By the time he graduated, he had gone on less than five dates.

3. He fended off the advances of prostitutes.

After dropping out of college to pursue acting, Campbell found work with a Detroit-area taxi company, Southfield Cab. While working the overnight shift, he sometimes found himself toting around prostitutes who would offer their services instead of paying the fare: Campbell declined the arrangement. He lasted a year as a driver before recommitting to film work in 1978 with Raimi’s low-budget, shot-in-Michigan short Within the Woods, which would become the proof-of-concept for their feature film, The Evil Dead.

4. He hated The Evil Dead as a title.

Blu-ray copy of Sam Raimi's 'The Evil Dead'
Anchor Bay Entertainment

When Raimi and his crew finally finished shooting their splatter flick The Evil Dead and began seeking a distribution deal, they were calling it Book of the Dead. Irvin Shapiro, a wheeler-dealer who had helped horror filmmaker George Romero find his audience, dismissed it, insisting people would think they’d have to read. Among the alternative titles suggested were Blood Flood, Death of the Dead, and The Evil Dead, which Campbell called “poor” but “the least worst of the bunch.”

5. The Evil Dead led to soap opera stardom for Campbell.

Flush with success from 1981’s release of the horror classic, Campbell returned to Michigan and got himself hired on the regional soap opera Generations. He played a teacher named Alan Stuart and received $35 a scene. As a bonus, he also met his first wife, co-star Christine Deveau. Having ditched his Montgomery Ward’s pants, Campbell says it was “the first time a woman had openly expressed an interest” in him.

6. He was bumped from his next starring role.

After filming a Chrysler commercial, Campbell agreed to jump back in with longtime tormentor Raimi for an action–comedy picture called Crimewave. Both men assumed Campbell would portray the lead, but the studio told them to slow down: They asked Campbell to film a screen test first. He did, and word quickly came down that he would not be the star of the film. Campbell took a supporting role instead; production was strained, and the movie (released in 1985) bombed.

7. He guarded beer.

While Campbell and his partners were eventually able to film 1987’s Evil Dead II, it did not result in any huge financial windfall for the actor. Needing some steady income between acting gigs, he took a job as a security guard for an Anheuser-Busch plant in the San Fernando Valley and worked from midnight to 8 a.m. After several nights together, his co-worker recognized him from the “Evil Death” films. When more Hollywood work came in—1989's Moontrap among the opportunities—Campbell walked away from the graveyard shift.

8. Raimi put him in a film just to shut another actor up.

By 1993, Raimi was an A-list director, shooting the Western The Quick and the Dead with Leonardo DiCaprio, Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone, and Russell Crowe. When Campbell visited the set, Raimi quickly put him into costume and tossed him into a “scene” with actor Pat Hingle—but the shot was never intended to make the movie. Raimi was indulging Hingle’s request for his character to confront a pimp who had sordid dealings with his onscreen daughter. Campbell found himself in the role of the villain, kicked and tossed around by Hingle, as Raimi cackled.

9. He got a gig by beating himself up.


Fox

For his first leading role in network television, in 1993’s The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Campbell auditioned for a series of executives who were eager to find an actor with the physicality to ride horses and perform stunts. Grabbing himself by the collar, he performed a forward-flip, a trick he and Raimi had taught themselves back in high school. The impressed casting director insisted he do the flip every time he was called back. (The show lasted one season.)

10. HE AUDITIONED TO BE THE PHANTOM.

After Campbell had finished shooting Brisco in 1994, he got a call from the show’s co-creator and executive producer, Jeffrey Boam. Boam was writing a big-screen adaptation of The Phantom comic strip for Paramount and invited Campbell to screen test for the title role. Though he wound up becoming a finalist, the part ultimately went to Billy Zane. Coming on the heels of the Batman films, the role was coveted—but the film bombed.

11. HE MIGHT BE THE BEST REVERSE ACTOR IN THE BUSINESS.


Getty Images

To achieve some of the more surreal effects shots in The Evil Dead series, Raimi had Campbell employ a “reverse-motion acting” technique, which required him to perform in reverse so Raimi could play a sequence backwards. In 1992's Army of Darkness, a miniature version of Ash is impaled by a fork: this required Campbell to begin the scene by dying, returning to life, getting a fork pulled out of him, then running. This difficult task became a Campbell trademark, but missed attempts would prompt Raimi to exclaim that, "This is some of the worst reverse-motion acting I've ever seen!"

12. He once had to carry dog food so wild animals wouldn't eat him.

Campbell began work on a script he titled Man with the Screaming Brain in 1983. Financing opportunities were spotty, and production didn’t actually start until 22 years later, in Bulgaria. Directing and starring in the film, Campbell took note of the fact that the country was home to packs of wild dogs. To avoid being attacked, he kept dog food on his person to feed any creatures that came around looking for a snack.

13. He built a movie set on his property.

For 2007’s meta-comedy My Name Is Bruce, Campbell cut costs by erecting sets on his lavender farm near Medford, Oregon. “It's so big I can't take it down,” he told The Portland Mercury. “It confuses the hell out of delivery people—some guy comes up and he's like, 'I didn't know there was a town [named] Gold Lick out here!' My wife and I say, 'Let's meet out by the tavern!' or 'I'll meet you in the livery!' It's a great conversation piece."

14. He officiated a zombie wedding.

Campbell’s devoted fans have made him a frequent guest of horror and comic conventions, where they flash Evil Dead tattoos and plead for him to sign body parts. One couple took it a step further and enlisted the actor to preside over their zombie-themed wedding. The ceremony took place at ZomBcon 2010 in Seattle. Campbell, resplendent in a red suit, married the two, then supervised 40 other couples who wanted to renew their vows.

15. Army of Darkness paid him about $93,000.

Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness
Universal Home Entertainment

To illustrate the plight of the working stiff actor, Campbell once provided a helpful breakdown of his salary for 1992’s second Evil Dead sequel, Army of Darkness. With a $500,000 salary nipped at by agents, managers, income taxes, and a now-ex wife, he figured he made roughly $93,000. But the film took two years to complete, meaning his net profit for portraying horror icon Ash in a major motion picture was less than $50,000 a year. No wonder he was in no hurry to return.

Additional Sources:
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, by Bruce Campbell
The Evil Dead Companion, by Bill Warren

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

7 Things We Know (So Far) About Baby Yoda, the Breakout Star of The Mandalorian

© Lucasfilm
© Lucasfilm

From the moment he appeared onscreen in the closing moments of the premiere episode of the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian on November 12, the creature referred to as Baby Yoda has become an internet sensation not seen since the likes of the IKEA monkey. The Rock has displayed his affection for the cooing green infant on Instagram; a man purportedly got a tattoo of Baby Yoda holding a White Claw seltzer and insists it’s permanent; and a Change.org petition is underway demanding a Baby Yoda emoji.

That Baby Yoda has gripped the imagination of the country is no small feat, as precious little has been revealed about his origins other than that he appears to be a member of the same unnamed species as Jedi master Yoda, which has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy. More will be revealed as The Mandalorian continues its weekly run through December 27. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far about the alarmingly adorable creature canonically known as “The Child.”

1. Baby Yoda is 50 years old, but he still seems a bit behind developmentally.

Owing to the long lifespan of Yoda’s species—Yoda himself lived to be roughly 900 years old before expiring in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, set five years prior to the events of the Disney+ series—it makes sense that the “baby” in the show is the human equivalent of someone about to subscribe to AARP: The Magazine. We learn Baby Yoda’s age in the first episode, where Mando is told he’s being tasked with finding a target that age. It’s a clever bit of misdirection that sets up the climactic reveal that the bounty hunter is after an infant.

And though his habits—tasting space frogs and playing with spaceship knobs—seem developmentally accurate, child experts told Popular Mechanics that such curiosity is more in line with a 1-year-old, not the 5-year-old Baby Yoda might be analogous to in human years. He’s also not terribly verbose, putting him behind what one might expect of a person his relative age.

2. Baby Yoda is male.

After rescuing Baby Yoda from an untimely demise at the hands of bounty hunter IG-11 in the debut episode, the titular Mandalorian takes off with his young bounty to deliver him to his Imperial employer known as the Client (Werner Herzog). In episode 3, the Client receives the baby; his underling, Doctor Pershing, (Omid Abtahi) refers to the character as “him.” A pre-order page for a Mattel plush Baby Yoda also refers to the character as a "he." We have, however, seen a female member of Yoda’s species before. In 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a green-skinned Yaddle sits wordlessly on the Jedi Council.

3. Baby Yoda’s genetics are of great interest to what’s left of the Empire.

Why was Mando sent to fetch Baby Yoda? From what we could gather in episode three, the Client was desperate to gather knowledge from the creature, with Doctor Pershing told to extract something from his tiny body. That motive has yet to be revealed, but thanks to The Phantom Menace, we know Force-sensitive individuals can carry a large number of Midi-chlorians, or cells that can attenuate themselves to the Force. One fan theory speculates that these cells can be harvested, creating people with greater capabilities to wield Jedi powers.

4. Using the Force really tires Baby Yoda out.

In episode 2, a battle-weary Mando is in real danger of being trampled by a Mudhorn, a savage beast. Channeling his (presumed) Force abilities, Baby Yoda is able to dispatch of the threat, but the effort seems to exhaust him, and he spends most of the rest of the episode sound asleep.

5. Baby Yoda might become a Jedi Master in a hurry.

Despite his infantile status, it seems like it won’t be long, relatively speaking, before Baby Yoda achieves the Zen-like mindset and formidable skills of a Jedi Master. It’s been pointed out that Yoda achieved that rank at the age of 100, at which point he began training Jedis. That would mean Yoda’s species is capable of some pretty rapid development between the ages of 50 and 100.

6. Werner Herzog has a soft spot for Baby Yoda.

Herzog, the famously irascible director of such films as 2005’s documentary Grizzly Man and 1972's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, portrays the man known as the Client, out to capture Baby Yoda. Interacting with the puppet on set was apparently a source of amusement for the part-time actor, who sometimes addressed Baby Yoda as though he were not made of rubber. "One of the weirdest moments I had on set, in my life, was trying to direct Werner with the baby,” series director Deborah Chow told The New York Times. “How did I end up with Werner Herzog and Baby Yoda? That was amazing. Werner had absolutely fallen in love with the puppet. He, at some point, had literally forgotten that it wasn’t a real being and was talking to the child as though it was a real, existing creature.”

Herzog was so emotionally invested in Baby Yoda that he reacted harshly when The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and producer and director Dave Filoni spoke of wanting to shoot some scenes without the puppet so they could add him as a computer-generated effect later in case the live-action creature wasn’t convincing. “You are cowards,” Herzog told them. “Leave it.”

7. Baby Yoda bootleg merchandise has become a force.

When Favreau decided to keep Baby Yoda under tight wraps before the premiere of The Mandalorian, it forced Disney to postpone plans for tie-in merchandising, which can often leak plot points from film and television projects in retailer solicitations months in advance. As a result, precious little Baby Yoda merchandise is available, save for some hastily-assembled shirts and mugs on the Disney Store website. That leaves craftspeople on Etsy and other outlets to fabricate bootleg Baby Yoda plush dolls and other items.

The shortage runs parallel to the predicament faced by toy maker Kenner upon the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. Faced with a huge and unexpected holiday demand for action figures, the company was forced to sell consumers an empty box with a voucher for the toys redeemable the following year.

Stranger Things Star David Harbour Claims He Still Doesn't Know if Hopper Is Dead or Alive

Jason Mendez/Getty Images
Jason Mendez/Getty Images

With the fourth season of Stranger Things in the works, fans are holding out hope that Jim Hopper, played by David Harbour, is still alive and will be returning to the series. It turns out that we aren’t the only ones.

ComicBook.com reports that the Black Widow star recently made an appearance at German Comic Con Dortmund and, naturally, was asked if he would be returning to the Netflix series. The 44-year-old actor replied:

“Oh my Lord! I don’t know. Should we call the Duffer brothers? We don’t know yet, we don’t know. They won’t tell me anything, so we’ll have to see. I think you’ll find out at some point, we’ll find out at some point. Let’s hope he’s alive.”

The Hellboy actor then asked the crowd if they wanted Hopper to still be alive. When he was met with an explosion of cheers, he joked, “Guess what? Me too. Because I like working.”

Though many are still in mourning over Hopper’s presumed death at the gate of the Upside Down, Harbour stated that it was integral to the character that he died to release the guilt around his daughter’s death. He explained:

“I think Hopper—from the very beginning I’ve said this—he’s very lovable in a certain way, but also, he’s kind of a rough guy. Certainly in the beginning of Season 1 he’s kind of dark, and he’s drinking, and he’s trying to kill himself, and he hates himself for what happened to his daughter. I feel like, in a sense, that character needed to die. He needed to make some sacrifice to make up for the way he’s been living for the past like 10 years, the resentments that he’s had. So he needed to die.”

Though his death might have been necessary to rid him of his demons, we hope to see Hopper return.

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