Bruce Campbell talks Blood, Sweat, and Raimi with the cast of “Evil Dead II!”

The following was transcribed from audio recordings taken at the Evil Dead II panel. It took place at the 2018 Indianapolis Horrorhound Weekend and consisted of Bruce Campbell (Ash), Kassie Wesley DePaiva (Bobby Jo), and Dan Hicks (Jake). Campbell, himself, acted as the moderator which made the occasion seem less a standard Q&A and more of a conversation between friends. The result was a hilarious 45 minutes that proved that after three decades the chemistry was still there.

Bruce: (After applause dies down). Okay….as always, panels either suck or they’re great depending on YOU, the audience. First of all, everybody please stand up. We’re going to take thirty seconds to do what I call, the ‘Ants in your Pants Dance.’ So let’s do it.

(Everyone, including the panelists, gets up and starts shaking around)

Bruce: Okay, that’s enough of that shit.

(Everyone sits down)

Bruce: Okay, now we’re all awake, energized, and ready to ask questions about a movie that’s thirty-two years old. Kassie, how did you get the part…actually why did you even want the part for Christ’s sake?

Kassie: Are you kidding, I begged for the part.

Bruce: Oh, you did not!

Kassie: Yes, I did! I was as green as green could be and auditioned for it.

Bruce: Did you audition for San (Raimi)?

Kassie: Um…Sam was there. I don’t remember who else. I just remember that after I got the part they wanted me to “bulk up” which didn’t happen.  

Bruce: What were you told about the script going into this thing?

Kassie: Oh, I read the whole script. I just wanted to do it.

Bruce: So you read it and were like, ‘I just gotta play Bobbie Joe!” (audience laughs)

Kassie: Yeah! It was great fun, shot in North Carolina. By the time it premiered I’d already started working on (the daytime soap opera) “Guiding Light.”

Bruce: It’s a very similar job (audience laughs)

Kassie: I’m from Kentucky where they talk to the screen and when I came on I heard someone yell, “Om my God, it’s Chelsea!” (her character from Guiding Light)

Bruce: Yeah, I went from Evil Dead II to “Knott’s Landing.” I have no idea how I landed that part. The make-up guy says to me, “You’d look much more intelligent if you let me pluck between your eyebrows.” I never had more makeup on in my entire life than when I was on “Knott’s Landing.” On that show, they would do just one take. Sam Raimi would do five…six…seven takes. I remember we’d do a take on “Knott’s Landing” and my costar, Michelle Lee, would look at the cameraman…not the director…and ask, “How was that Leo?” He’d give her a thumbs up and this was always the case since Leo never had a problem with anything. That was it, one take. It would be another five years before I’d do television again.

Kassie: Was that “The Adventures of Brisco County?”

Bruce: Yes, it was.

Kassie: Do you prefer television work or film work?

Bruce: TV because it moves fast. By lunchtime, you’ve killed the bad guy, given little Billy his medicine, and kissed the pretty girl. Sam Raimi could take all day on one scene. Some guy on the set who knows his only job is to hook you into a harness will have a copy of the book “War and Peace” in his hand because he knows they’ll be lucky if they get one shot in for the entire day.

Kassie: In soap operas, you do like 90 pages a day.

Bruce: And if you screw up they don’t do a retake unless you really screw up, right? What’re the most pages you personally got through in a day?

Kassie: (thinks for a moment) I’d say about 86 pages. I would go into work on like a Tuesday and have to do three episodes at once.  

Bruce: 86 pages!? Yeah, but because you have to get through that many pages, nobody knows their lines. You want to see my impersonation of a soap opera actor? (starts reading at a pretend script). “Uh…hi, Cindy” (looks back at script)…”what are you doing today?” (squints back at an imaginary script and then pauses for a moment)…”Oh…why am I here???” (looks back at script)…“Oh, I have to tell you something.”

(Audience laughs)

Bruce: (to Kassie) Now you’re very good even though I hate you…I mean I hate your character on the show. I don’t trust her.

Kassie: Well that’s because I’m an aging slut. (audience laughs)

Bruce: (turns to Dan Hicks) Now, Dan, your first acting experience was also Evil Dead II.

Dan: Yes, it was.

Bruce: How did you hear of the job, did you live in LA at the time?

Dan: No, I lived in Michigan but I had an agent who got me the audition.

Bruce: Was Sam at your audition?

Dan: Yeah, Sam was there but I’m not sure who the others were. My agent told me the description of the character was a “scuzz-bucket.” So I went out and got all dirty…rubbed grease all over myself and rubbed my hands in the gravel..messed up my hair. So when I got to the audition I said to Sam, “How scuzzy do you want this character?” And he said, “Well how scuzzy can you get?” So I took out my dental plate and said, “You want him this scuzzy?” And Sam says, “Oh my God….an actor without an ego” and I was hired on the spot.

Bruce: So did either of you have any idea what kind of movie this was and what was coming? We filmed for like twelve weeks in North Carolina and it was so hot the locals would come up and apologize. “Oh, it’s usually no more than a 110 degrees this time of year,” they’d say. Worse, we were shooting on the second floor of a school gymnasium with no air-conditioning. So it’s not 110 degrees on the second floor, it’s more like 3700 degrees! And poor Ted Raimi (who played the possessed Henrietta Knowby) sitting there wearing a pig suit. Any time I felt miserable, I’d turn and look at him and go, “Oh…then there’s Ted.” Sam cast his brother because he didn’t want to put the older woman playing Henrietta (Lou Hancock) through all that. So he’s like, “I’ll put my younger brother through it, instead.” (audience laughs) Ted always wanted to be an actor and this was how he got himself into the Screen Actors Guild…and then tried to get OUT of the Screen Actors Guild. So Ted would sit there after 5-6 hours getting into make-up and then they’d put him into a harness and hoist him up. Then they’d start spinning him in a circle and he’d be spraying the entire crew with his sweat.

Kassie: It was nasty!

Bruce: And they had a little slit where his mouth was. So in one scene he turns to me and says, “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-s-s-s-ssssh” and a huge stream of unbroken sweat comes pouring on top of me. At the end of the day the makeup crew, who were very devious men, would take his foot booties off and then pour the sweat into Dixie Cups and put it up on a counter. And then they’d put the date on each cup so you could see which days Ted suffered the most. It was the most rancid shit you’ve ever seen in your entire life.

Ted Raimi

Dan: I remember he ended up melting the ass off that suit and was flying around with his bare ass cheeks showing. I remember thinking, “Poor bastard. He must really love his work.”

Bruce: I remember there was one scene we were all in and Sam had the camera scroll over us one frame at a time. Most directors shoot 140 frames but not Sam. No, we’d have to stand there for a dolly shot and listen to him say, “You can’t blink, Danny” while you hear the slow clicks of the camera. The end result was great but Sam would treat his cast members like they were chess pieces and/or puppets. But, at the time, we were happy to keep up with it. Sam was on the top of his game during Evil Dead II and just full of energy.

Evil Dead 2 Panel 9

Campbell mimics the directing style of Sam Raimi

Kassie: He was very pleasant to work with.

Dan: It was actually so much fun working for him you forgot you were even making a movie.

Kassie: It was a good group of people and we were hands on. Remember that scene where the deer starts laughing and everything in the cabin starts moving? I’m actually behind the sofa moving the cushions around.

Bruce: Sam had no problem throwing everyone out there. The phone would be ringing all day in the production office because they’d be out doing stuff on the set for him instead of their actual jobs. If there was some child sitting at a nearby lemonade stand, Sam would have no trouble yelling, “Get over here, kid!” It was just that kind of shoot. Sam would build and build and build from one idea.

Sam Raimi

Kassie: The crazy thing is who knew over thirty years later we’d be talking to a room full of people who loved this movie. (applause)

Bruce: The funny thing is we were really languishing as far as funding went. It was the great Stephen King that helped the first two Evil Dead movies. He was a fan of the original which he saw at the Cannes Festival and called “the most ferociously original film of 1983.” He let us put that quote on our poster and that really changed things since we’d been getting terrible reviews up until then. An Atlanta paper called us “the sickest of the sick” and that “Sam Raimi put every bad idea he had into a low-budget blender.” Then Stephen King puts his quote on the poster and the next review is Kevin Thomas from the LA Times calling it “an instant classic.”  King would help us again with Evil Dead II.  We were languishing so bad we had to let a crew member go. We were like, “We gotta let you go because we’re just never gonna get this sequel made.” She flies out to North Carolina to work on Maximum Overdrive (1986) and starts shooting the breeze with King on the set. He asks her what she’s been working on and she tells him, “Oh, I was working with these guys trying to get Evil Dead II made but they can’t get the money.” King goes to Dino de Laurentiis, “You should give them some money to get this movie made.” Laurentiis smacks his hands together indicating it was as good as done. So basically, Dino de Laurentiis gave us the money because Stephen King told him to. I’m sure when he saw the profits the first film made that didn’t hurt either. Dino was also behind Army of Darkness (1992) which unfortunately bombed when it came out. (Audience boos) Oh, yes…I got twenty-seven years on you people. Why do you think it took so long to see anything related to Evil Dead after that? It took a long time to heal. With Evil Dead II we had started talking about it during the success of the first one. (turns to Kassie and Dan) That’s how come you guys made so much money off that project.

The mighty Stephen King

Kassie (laughs): I remember my contract was like one page.

Bruce: Well, we wanted to keep things simple for you. What did you make, like a $1,600 a week?

Kassie: Less than that, it was like $1,000 plus you got 10% for your agent. So my check was like $1,100.

Dan: Yeah, we worked for scale.

Kassie: You could get overtime but I don’t remember doing much of that. What did we work, just like four weeks?

Bruce: Twelve weeks…you were done in four, I was done in twelve.

Dan: Oh, that’s right, you got all the money.

Bruce: Is that who got it all?

Dan: Well it sure wasn’t us!

Bruce: Well, Danny, answer this…in Army of Darkness, did you have to put half your salary back into the movie?

Dan: No, you cut me out.

Bruce: We cut you out? What did you give a poor performance? (laughter) Kassie, you were done with movies after this, right?

Kassie: No, I did one more called We Are What We Are (2013) but I died in the opening sequence. I would love to do more movies but nobody offers me any jobs. They’re like, “Oh, you’re a soap opera actress.”

Bruce (to the audience): Hey, any directors out there, hire this poor girl! Honestly, producers should want to hire soap opera actors.

Kassie: And why is that?

Bruce: Because you can do 86 pages a day!

Dan: Well, what about theater actors?

Bruce: Theater actors are fine. What was it like for you going from a theater background to this?

Dan: I just remember that on my first day I forgot all about that theater shit when you hit me in the head with a shovel.

Bruce: Oh, yes. And then complained that the back of my heel hit you in the dingleberries. He hits me in the back of the head and I fall forward into the cabin. My heel apparently went up as the front part of me went down and glanced his dingleberry.

Kassie: Yeah and knocked his teeth out.

Bruce: What are his teeth doing on his dingleberry? (Turns to the audience who are laughing) Ladies and gentlemen, enough of our bullshit. Maybe it’s time for some of your bullshit?

Audience member #1: Have any of you seen “Evil Dead the Musical?”

Bruce: I saw it in Oregon, and thought it sucked on every level but never laughed harder in my life. It’s in Vegas five nights a week, just don’t play the slots that day and go sit in the splatter zone because someone’s arm will get cut off and it will shoot out all over the place. But they don’t have enough money to hire a stage crafter so after the arm goes you’ll hear a loud motor from the back of the theater where a pump is starting on a fourteen-second delay. And the guy who played Ash was blonde and I couldn’t hear him from five feet away. I knew the lines and still couldn’t figure out what he was saying.

Kassie: My favorite song was “What the Fuck was that?”

Bruce: Yeah, and “Do the Necronomicon” is performed like Frankie Avalon doing “Beach Blanket Bingo.” I like that and they manage to get all three movies into one show.

Dan: I haven’t seen it.

Kassie: Oh, you gotta go see it!

Audience Member #2: Was the car in the Evil Dead movies functional and did you have a chance to drive it?

Bruce: What car? You mean that piece of shit Delta 88? Well, Evil Dead was the first time that car was featured in a film but it ended up in every Sam Raimi movie thereafter; all his Spider-Man movies, Darkman (1990), Drag me to Hell (2009), and even the latest Evil Dead (2013 which Campbell produced). The question I want to ask is ‘what the hell happened in that car that made him so obsessed with it? That’s what I want to know! He obsessed about that car to the point where…guess what? It’s in The Quick and the Dead (1995) for God’s sake and that’s a western for those of you who haven’t see it. Sam had the chassis pulled off and stuck a wagon cover on top of it just so he could have that stupid-ass car in every picture. I swear when he gets old enough and his teeth are falling out they’ll put hanging pieces of the motor on his wall just so he can point to it and say, “That’s my car!” What the hell happened in that car? Anyway, it’s still around and Sam will not tell me where it’s located. It’s like Dick Cheney, “It’s in an undisclosed location.”

Dan: I heard when he was filming Spider-Man (2002) he had like six or seven of those cars?

Bruce: Yeah, but I know the first one…you can’t just look at the cars, you gotta open the door. It’s like having a potato up your ass driving it. But speaking of Spider-Man, you know I was in all three of them, right? If it weren’t for me in that first one he’d be going by “the Human Spider.” And you know I defeated him in the second movie? Yes, it’s true. I’m the only character who’s ever defeated Spider-Man. He comes late for a play to see his girlfriend and I won’t let him in. There you go – Defeated! And in the third movie, I’m the maitre d. How many superheroes ask mere mortals for advice? But he comes to me so I can help him ask to marry Mary Jane. Do I help him out? No, because he was d-bag to me earlier.

Dan: Your characters are all very mean. I was a homeless guy in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and I have a bit part in the third one.

Bruce: Let me tell you about Sam Raimi. You know I work with that guy a lot. Years back he starts working on this show called “American Gothic.” There’s a part in it for me so I call my agent and ask, “What’s with this part? Um…I think we need to get that.” He tells me he’ll call Sam. Two minutes later Sam calls me, “Do you think you can do this part?”  I’m like, “Hey, asshole…are you fucking kidding me? We’ve been together since like 10th grade!!!” So then he’ll say real calmly, “Okay, I’ll go talk to the producers.”

Campbell and Raimi

Audience Member #3: Earlier this morning I was showing someone the hand possession scene.

Bruce: This morning you showed someone your what???

Kassie: She said “the possessed hand scene!”

Bruce: Oh…well why are you watching that in the morning!?

Audience Member #3: It occurred to me that there was so much physical comedy in this film and I’m curious what was the hardest scene for each of you?

Dan: All I can think of is Bruce grabbing himself by the back of the head and flipping himself over.

Bruce: Yeah, Raimi would stand there calmly and say, “And now you’re going to flip yourself.” Well, when your fourteen and made of rubber you may be able to do that once but I know with Sam Raimi you’re not just gonna flip once, he’s gonna have you do it seventy-two times. And then I used that same flip to get the part in ‘Brisco County.’

Dan: For me, it wasn’t really any stunt, it was just so damn hot.

Kassie: I don’t recall anything either although I did do most of my own stunts since my stunt double was 5 feet and I’m 5’ 9.

Bruce: Yes, folks, nobody was hurt during the making of this motion picture…well actually there was this one guy but he wasn’t a cast member but an electrician. There’s this one day where I’m the only actor on the set and I’m spending the entire time screaming and yelling when I suddenly hear someone from above the rafters moaning. I’m like, “Motherfucker, are you making fun of me!?” but it turned out the guy was getting an electric shock. We had to literally kick him off the platform he was on. That same guy was walking around the set disoriented for about a week. Then one day the guy gets into his ATV and crashes it, breaks his collarbone, and has to leave the shoot. So he had a great time working on this movie.

And on that happy anecdote, we’d like to thank you for coming to this convention and panel. We know you had many choices today and, again, thanks for coming out for this!

Dave~ 

 

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