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Bruce Campbell: Confessions of a B-Movie Idol

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November 2, 2001

Bruce Campbell: Confessions of a B-Movie Idol

  Photo by Lee Bouse
 
LEE BOUSE
  Actor Bruce Campbell slayed a crowd of 800 (although, thankfully, not literally) at a Chapin Auditorium appearance on October 14.

Sporting black trench coats, multiple piercings, and crayon-colored hair, hundreds of horror fans, primarily men, were on campus October 14 to hear from one of their B-movie idols, Bruce Campbell, star of cult classics such as Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, and Army of Darkness, as well as several TV shows, including Xena: Warrior Princess, on which he has had a recurring role as Autolycus, king of thieves.

The crowd of about 800, mostly horror and sci-fi fans, packed Chapin Auditorium. Promoting his memoir, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, Campbell was brought to campus by the Odyssey Bookshop and MHC’s Film Studies Program.

Fans were treated to a screening of Campbell’s 25-minute film Fanalysis and a reading from the book, in which he speaks of the many letters, some frightening, that he has received from fans. He said several were from fans of his TV shows, especially the one-season flop The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., who said Campbell’s work was what kept them from committing suicide. “Folks, I have a word of advice for you. If you’re a TV show away from ending it all, I can’t help you,” he told the audience, adding that he prefers to have fans take his work with the same lightness and sense of humor he has while making it, rather than searching for something deeper that just isn’t there.

He then asked for the lights to be brought up for a question-and-answer session, recoiling in mock shock at the rowdy crowd that faced him. As he answered their questions, he poked fun at his low-budget films, his mostly failed TV shows, and the mildly obsessed fans themselves.

Fans asked about his roles in several upcoming movies, including longtime director and friend Sam Raimi’s new version of Spiderman—“I’ve got a pivotal role in Spiderman. At the credits, it’ll just say ringleader, but it’s oh, so much more”—and a Jim Carrey film that comes out in December—“I wasn’t in scenes with Jim because he fears me.”

The audience responded enthusiastically when Campbell announced that he was going to turn his back while the audience screamed out “the movie of mine that you most want your money back for.”

Rising quickly to the challenge, the crowd bellowed out names, including Congo, a big-name box office flop, which he turned around to explain looked much better on paper than on screen. Presenting his back again, he was verbally pelted with more titles, including McHale’s Navy and “the one where you’re bald,” to which Campbell answered in mock apology: “I don’t know, it was just before Christmas and I had a lot of presents to buy.”

After a few turns, followed by half-serious explanations and justifications, Campbell told the now bloodthirsty audience: “So we’re going to stop this game because pretty soon you’re going to name every film I’ve ever been in.” Of course, with critical acclaim for the Evil Dead trilogy, which he cocreated, produced, and starred in, along with his popular role on Xena and parts in TV’s Homicide and X-Files, Campbell is clearly not a failed actor, despite his status as a B-movie star.

Asked which was the hardest film to shoot, he chose Army of Darkness, which he described as 103 days of shooting “where every day was some new way to suffer physical torment.” The Army of Darkness reference brought several related questions, including how the actor felt about the action figures bearing his likeness. “Well, they’re delightful, but it’s hard to get excited when they come out ten years after the movie is made,” Campbell said.

The final questioner asked what upcoming roles he would be working on. The veteran actor replied: “The role of taking two months off, that’s my next role, because I haven’t taken any time off in ten years.”

Seconds after he finished his talk, a line of fans eager for the actor’s autograph began snaking around the auditorium. Proving his affinity for the fans, he announced that despite signs declaring that only books would be signed, he’d be willing to sign the hundreds of pieces of memorabilia he saw clutched in the audience’s hands, if they’d just let the books go first. That announcement earned him yet another round of booming cheers from the crowd, many of whom had tins, posters, T-shirts, and other items from Campbell’s extensive film repertoire.

Among the fans waiting for a signature was Valerie L. Grimm ’01. “I’m a fan of the Evil Dead movies, and a fan of Xena as well,” she explained. While she would have gone anywhere to see Campbell, she said she was glad the lecture was held at her alma mater. “We had some cool stuff when I was here, but to have him here, it was cool.”

Agreeing that it was a coup for Mount Holyoke to host such a well-known B-movie actor, Samantha Birtel ’02 and Stephanie E. Bortis ’02 sat patiently waiting for the line to shrink before joining it. “I came here for my little brother,” said Birtel, pointing to items she brought for autographs. “But now I think I’m becoming a fan.” Bortis said she was already a fan of Campbell the actor, but that the lecture had shown her a new side of him. “He is a gifted speaker. He seemed really at home and in touch."

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