Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert walk into a bar...
[This interview was originally posted as part of our South by Southwest 2013 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of Evil Dead.]
Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert: Two of the three masterminds behind everything Evil Dead. I had the amazing chance to talk to them about the new Evil Dead film, as well as the franchise as a whole. Of course, in typical Geoff fashion, I started off the roundtable interview with an aside about Campbell's suit handkerchief.
Spoilers are abound!
That’s a nice little pocket square.
Bruce Campbell: My wife is always tweaking it.
BC: I iron my own clothes. I press my own clothes. My first wife taught me how to iron.
BC: Yup. You start with the collar, iron it flat, and then you flip it over and iron that. Then you do the back, then you end with the sides and the sleeves.
I’ve watched so many YouTube videos. I can’t figure it out.
BC: Oh, ironing is key. Ironing is important… depending on what you’re going for.
That’s true, and if you mess up, you could cover it up with a jacket anyways.
BC: Well, here we are…
How often were you guys on set?
BC: Rob was there.
Rob Tapert: I was there...
They made it seem like you were on the set a lot.
BC: No, I was working on my day job, on Burn Notice, the TV show. Rob was the man in the trenches there. But you know, as Rob explained it, if you’re doing your job right as a producer, you don’t have to be there looking over the guy’s shoulder. Nobody wants that.
RT: I had an office there, and there would be days where I would go there, spend all day in the office, kind of doing stuff related to another thing I was doing, Spartacus, in the Evil Dead office in case anything came up. Saw Fede [Alvarez] and the guys at lunch, talked about [stuff], then go afterwards and talk to the actors, go back to my office, and that’s [all]. I wouldn’t actually hang around on set because I think [being] on set’s really boring. If I’m there, something’s wrong.
BC: It’s true, it’s true. It’s a good way of looking at it.
RT: Or I will have watched dailies, then I would go out and say, “Oh that was really great,” or “You know, we should keep our eyes on this.” But otherwise, it ran pretty smoothly.
Now Bruce, I know you were the most resistant, reluctant to do the remake.
BC: Well, not necessarily. I wouldn’t characterize it like that.
Well, the things you were letting go… It’s kind of like letting go of Ash…
BC: I didn’t really have an issue. Look, to us, it was if Sam was on board, we’re on board. We were surprised at how on board he was. Rob and I came up afterwards, after the fact.
RT: We didn’t want to do a bad version. I had seen a lot of remakes that were a bad version, so until there was a proper filmmaker… and it all worked out right. We needed somebody who was going to write the script and direct it, and kind of take ownership of… take the hand off the franchise into their own hands, and that’s what happened. There were many missteps we could have made.
BC: And we were happy to relinquish Ash. We didn’t want to put that on some actor, “Blah blah blah, you’re going to play the part. You’re going to imitate me.”
Because that would have been a direct remake as opposed to its own thing.
BC: Yeah, yeah. This gives it a lot more space, and this way the series can operate independently in different universes. We can still make Evil Dead 4. There’s nothing to do with this movie. This [Evil Dead] gives it a lot of space, and the series can operate independently in different universes. We can still make Evil Dead 4. [It] has nothing to do with this movie, whatsoever. Nothing, just a creepy book, that's the only thing they have in common.
If you guys do go forward with an Evil Dead 4, would you still be considering continuing in this more modern universe?
BC: Sam's been talking about it. Rob and I are like, 'Show us a script.' [...] If we did another, Army of Darkness 2, which is really what it would be, it wouldn't be Evil Dead 4 because Army of Darkness changed its name a bit. So really, it would be Army of Darkness 2.
RT: Nowhere was it called Evil Dead 3. It was Army of Darkness everywhere. Fans knew it as that, and in foreign countries, they called it whatever… La Casa 3 or something.
What were things that Fede did that you saw in dailies [where] you were like, “No, we don’t want this.” Anything you kind of objected to?
RT: No. There were things… Bruce, Sam, and I watched the movie when it was about 80% shot, and we went, “Oh, this is really good. This is great. He’s done a great job,” and we said, “These are areas where we want you to think about. We think you should beef up something.
BC: Just to punch it up a little.
RT: Punch it, make it bigger.
BC: Go a little crazier.
RT: He took that opportunity in a couple of extra days, and we made some of the things bigger. We were happy with that.
Was the raining blood, was that your guys’ thing?
RT: No, that was Fede. He fought for that forever. He had to have it.
BC: It’s pretty unique, though! Not many movies have a blood rain sequence.
How does it feel to come out to [the premiere] and to have fans out there cheering?
BC: It feels great! It’s kind of like we’re being provided for now 30 years later. We’re sort of getting paid now for what we did a long time ago. None of us really made legitimate money off of [them], especially the first one. It was just the fact that we wanted to get into the film business, that’s what it represented. This is sort of odd that it’s nationally released, it looks good, real photography, good visual effects, the music is over the top, and it’s just great to see this movie all spit polished and looking nice where people can’t tell how you did the effects. That’s all you want, we just didn’t have money to hide our effects.
Was there any question it was going to be practical effects vs. CGI?
RT: There was a little discussion over what we were going to do and how. There were shortcuts you could make in production that save you a day, a couple of days of shooting at the end of a schedule if you opted to say, “Oh, we’re just going to split that tongue in CGI.” Fede fought against that, and he was right to fight against it, and [we] ultimately said, “Okay, you know what? We’re going to go down that [path]…”
BC: As a result, the film also has a retro look, a pre-CGI look because there’s no ghostly image going around.
Even though it’s a very different film, it’s going back to that 80s genre of horror films where now, it’s kind of more like that hostile, very violent [film] where there’s no point, but this is more gore because it’s scary as opposed to gore for the sake of gore.
RT: And found footage.
Do you have a favorite sequence in the new film?
RT: I like the nail gun sequence, the nail gun and crowbar sequence [where] Natalie ends up armless [and] crawling across the floor [saying], “My face hurts!”
BC: I like Jane Levy’s never-ending scream where she just stands there and she just screams and shit is blowing around the room. You’re like, “What? What?!” And she just keeps screaming and keeps screaming. That was really cool.
They said [at the post-screening Q&A] that your scream was mixed.
BC: Yeah, it’s in there a couple of times.
RT: But Jane’s a real screamer. You get actresses who can scream and some who can’t, and Jane was a real screamer.
BC: Yeah, she could scream.
There are a few homages and allusions to the first film. Was that all on Fede, or was that you guys kind of encouraging it?
BC: We didn’t discourage it. I mean, look: It should be Michigan state, so it’s [in] Flint, Michigan we’re talking about, you see the car, you’ve got the book. There were things to give people the basics. Fede had a lot of wiggle room to go around that.
RT: And I hassled him about the car all the time, not that I was against having it in, but I wanted him to explain why it was there. At the end of Evil Dead, it gets sucked down a hole.
BC: Sucked into a vortex. It’s in 1300 right now.
RT: Yeah, so what is that car… No, it traveled with you into the future… depending on the ending.
BC: We don’t know where the car is.
RT: “Why’s the car there?” [Mimicking Fede] “Oh, the fans are going to love it.” That’s not good enough. You’ve got to tell me why that car’s there. To his credit, he just kept saying, “The fans are going to love it. We have to have it.”
BC: He used that line on me, too. We were mixing the sound, and there’s one part where we just wanted to keep pushing the music while the possessed chick is kissing… the blood kiss underneath the stairs, and she’s just barfing in her mouth. Fede just wanted the music louder and louder. I said, “Fede, you’re crazy. The music’s too loud,” and he goes, “No, the fans would insist on it.” I was like, “Okay… fine,” so we left it. In his soul of souls, he was like, “They need it.”
Going forward, you guys [talking about a sequel], if you make Evil Dead 4, [would it be] separate, so this Evil Dead [sequel] would be its own thread, its own world?
BC: Yeah, connected to the first movie, not to any of the original movies.
So if you made Evil Dead 4, it would be its own separate [film]?
BC: It would matter not.
RT: Evil Dead 4’s the one with the guys in the walkers.