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.

The Very Real Events That Inspired Game of Thrones's Red Wedding

Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham, Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ask any Game of Thrones fan to cite a few of the show's most shocking moments, and the so-called "Red Wedding" from season 3's "The Rains of Castamere" episode will likely be at the top of their list. The events that unfolded during the episode shocked fans because of their brutality, but what might be even more surprising to know is that the episode was based on very real events.

Author George R.R. Martin has said that the inspiration for the matrimonial bloodbath is based on two dark events in Scottish history: the Black Dinner of 1440 and 1692's Massacre of Glencoe. “No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. And he’s absolutely right. See for yourself.

The Massacre of Glencoe

The West Highland Way in 2005, view from the summit of the Devil's Staircase looking south over the east end of Glen Coe, towards Buachaille Etive Mòr with Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh beyond
Colin Souza, Edited by Dave Souza, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

In 1691, all Scottish clans were called upon to renounce the deposed King of Scotland, James VII, and swear allegiance to King William of Orange (of William and Mary fame). The chief of each clan had until January 1, 1692, to provide a signed document swearing an oath to William. The Highland Clan MacDonald had two things working against them here. First of all, the Secretary of State, John Dalrymple, was a Lowlander who loathed Clan MacDonald. Secondly, Clan MacDonald had already sworn an oath to James VII and had to wait on him to send word that they were free to break that oath.

Unfortunately, it was December 28 before a messenger arrived with this all-important letter from the former king. That gave Maclain, the chief of the MacDonald clan, just three days to get the newly-signed oath to the Secretary of State.

Maclain was detained for days when he went through Inveraray, the town of the rival Clan Campbell, but still managed to deliver the oath, albeit several days late. The Secretary of State’s legal team wasn't interested in late documents. They rejected the MacDonalds's sworn allegiance to William, and set plans in place to cut the clan down, “root and branch.”

In late January or early February, 120 men under the command of Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the MacDonalds's in Glencoe, claiming to need shelter because a nearby fort was full. The MacDonalds offered their hospitality, as was custom, and the soldiers stayed there for nearly two weeks before Captain Drummond arrived with instructions to “put all to the sword under seventy.”

After playing cards with their victims and wishing them goodnight, the soldiers waited until the MacDonalds were asleep ... then murdered as many men as they could manage. In all, 38 people—some still in their beds—were killed. At least 40 women and children escaped, but fleeing into a blizzard blowing outside as their houses burned down meant that they all died of exposure.

The massacre was considered especially awful because it was “Slaughter Under Trust.” To this day, the door at Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe has a sign on the door that says "No hawkers or Campbells."

The Black Dinner

In November of 1440, the newly-appointed 6th Earl of Douglas, who was just 16, and his little brother David, were invited to join the 10-year-old King of Scotland, James II, for dinner at Edinburgh Castle. But it wasn’t the young King who had invited the Douglas brothers. The invitation had been issued by Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, who feared that the Black Douglas (there was another clan called the Red Douglas) were growing too powerful.

As legend has it, the children were all getting along marvelously, enjoying food, entertainment and talking until the end of the dinner, when the head of a black bull was dropped on the table, symbolizing the death of the Black Douglas. The two young Douglases were dragged outside, given a mock trial, found guilty of high treason, and beheaded. It’s said that the Earl pleaded for his brother to be killed first so that the younger boy wouldn’t have to witness his older brother’s beheading.

Sir Walter Scott wrote this of the horrific event:

"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."

This article has been updated for 2019.

15 Game of Thrones Products Every Fan Needs

Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Though Game of Thrones might be coming to its official end, that doesn’t mean that your fandom can’t—or won’t—carry on. Whether you’re a years-long defender of House Stark or have been rooting for House Targaryen since the beginning, there’s a candle, collectible pin, coffee mug, card game, and pretty much anything else you can imagine with your name (and preferred sigil) on it.

1. A Song of Ice and Fire Book Series; $46

Bantam's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' book series

Bantam, Amazon

If you’ve never read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the series is based, plenty more Westerosi drama awaits. And just because you’ve seen every episode of the series 10 times doesn’t mean you know which way the books will turn. (The TV show diverged from their narrative a long time ago—and dozens of the characters who have been killed off on your television screen are still alive and well in the books.) Plus, as Martin has yet to complete the series, you may just catch up in time for the newest book.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Map Marker Wine Stopper Set; $50

Nobody solves a problem like Tyrion Lannister … and his thought process usually includes copious amounts of wine (Dornish if you’ve got it). Something tells us you’re going need some vino yourself to get through the giant, hour-long hole left in your Sunday nights once Game of Thrones officially ends. Make sure you don’t let a drop of it go to waste by keeping one of these six wine stoppers—each one carved to represent the sigil of the most noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms—handy.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

3. Winterfell Coffee Mug; $25

If coffee is more your speed—we get it: the night is dark and full of terrors—this simple-yet-elegant Winterfell mug is an easy way to communicate to your co-workers why you’re typically a little bleary-eyed on Monday mornings.

Buy it: HBO Shop

4. Hodor Door Stop; $12

A 3D-printed Hodor door stop, inspired by 'Game of Thrones'

3D Cauldron, Amazon

An important part of being a Game of Thrones fan is accepting that showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have no problem killing off your favorite characters, often in brutal ways. One of the series’ most memorable deaths was that of Hodor, Bran Stark’s personal mode of transport, who we loved despite the fact that the only word he ever uttered for six seasons was “Hodor”—and who we loved even more when, in the final moments of his life, we learned why that was the case. Pay tribute to the gentle giant, and his backstory, with this 3D-printed door stop.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Tarot Card Deck; $25

A 'Game of Thrones' tarot card deck, from Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books, Amazon

Channel your inner Maggy the Frog and see what the future holds for you and your loved ones (your enemies, too, if the mood strikes you) with Chronicle Books’s gorgeously packaged tarot card deck. The tarot tradition and Game of Thrones mythology blend seamlessly together in this box of goodies, which includes an instruction book and illustrated cards featuring your favorite characters and most beloved scenes from the show.

Buy it: Amazon or Chronicle Books

6. Fire and Blood Candle; $12

Mad Queen or not, show that you still stand behind the Mother of Dragons by filling your home with this House Targaryen-inspired votive candle. Best of all: Just wait to see the look on the faces of your guests when they ask “Mmmm … what’s that smell?” If you’d prefer not to answer with “fire and blood—doesn’t it smell delicious?,” there are other scents available: one called "Moon of My Life My Sun and Stars," another called "Be a Dragon," and one inspired by the Iron Throne itself (which must smell like victory).

Buy it: HBO Shop

7. Clue: Game of Thrones; $50

Margaery Tyrell with the battle axe in Cersei’s bedchambers. Rewrite the rules—and brutal deaths—of Game of Thrones with this special edition of the classic board game, which tasks you with figuring out who murdered whom, using what weapon, and where the incident took place. A double-sided playing board lets you choose whether you want to set the game in The Red Keep or Meereen.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

8. Game of Thrones Monopoly; $24

'Game of Thrones Monopoly' game board

Hasbro, Amazon

Who wants to be the Lord or Lady of Winterfell when you can become the preeminent real estate mogul of all the Seven Kingdoms? This special-edition Monopoly board puts a distinctly Westerosian twist on the classic game, with silver tokens to represent the sigils of each of the main houses and a card holder that plays the series’ haunting score whenever you press it.

Buy it: Amazon or Best Buy

9. House Stark Hoodie; $60

If you really wanted to dress like a Stark, you’d have a master blacksmith on hand to help customize your armor—or at least turn your IKEA rug into a luxurious cape. If you’re far less crafty, there’s always this full-zip hoodie featuring an embroidered direwolf on the front and an outlined illustration of the same on the back. The minimalist design is a way to show your fandom in a way that, to the untrained eye, might just look like you’re a fan of wolves. But the rest of us will know better. And approve.

Buy it: ThinkGeek

10. Deluxe Iron Throne Funko Pop! Set; $130

Funko's Iron Throne Pop! set of five

Funko, HBO Shop

Though it seems unlikely that a few of these characters will ever sit on the Iron Throne (either because they’re dead or have gone mad), a fan can always hope. And buying them as part of this five-piece set is an easy way to collect them all. If you don’t see your favorite character here, Amazon has got plenty more squat-headed figures to choose from, including Arya, Brienne of Tarth, Rhaegal (poor Rhaegal), and Ghost (poor Ghost). If you ever happen upon a headless Ned Stark Pop!, grab it; this hard-to-find figure can sell for more than $2000 on eBay.

Buy it: HBO Shop

11. Iron Throne Bookend; $60

After devoting more than eight years of your life to seeing Game of Thrones all the way through, maybe it’s you who deserves the Iron Throne. You can’t sit on this 7.5-inch replica, the base of which features sigils from all the noble houses, but you can show off your fancy George R.R. Martin book collection … or all that dragon fan fiction you’ve been working on.

Buy it: Best Buy or the HBO Shop

12. Game of Thrones Music Box; $13

'Game of Thrones' music box

Shenzhen Youtang Trade Co., Amazon

Channel your inner Arya by psyching yourself up with the iconic Game of Thrones theme song whenever you feel the need to hear it with this hand-cranked music box.

Buy it: Amazon

13. Iron Throne Tankard; $70

Show your guests who's boss at your next dinner party—or raucous feast—as you take your place at the head of the table and guzzle your mead (or giant's milk—we don't judge) from this Iron Throne-themed tankard, completed with sword handle.

Buy it: HBO Shop

14. Game of Thrones Socks; $8

It gets cold in the North. Keep your tootsies warm with this six-pack of stylish ankle-cut socks.

Buy it: Target

15. Living Language Dothraki; $16

A copy of the Living Language Dothraki language course

Living Language, Amazon

By now, you've surely learned at least a handful of common Dothraki words and phrases. But if you wan to become fluent in the (fictional) language, this language course is one way to do it. Now: Finne zhavvorsa anni?

Buy it: Amazon

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