Elvis Lives

An interview with Bruce Campbell of 'Bubba Ho-Tep'

Before teaming with Don Coscarelli to make Bubba Ho-Tep, horror icon Bruce Campbell starred in all three of director Sam Raimi's legendary Evil Dead films. He has also directed his own documentary -- Fanalysis -- and recently penned his autobiography, If Chins Could Kill. At 45, he has been in more genre and exploitation films than you can shake a 2,000-year-old Egyptian soul-sucker's arm at (should you be so inclined), but even he realizes that in the eyes of Hollywood, an actor's only as useful as he is young, which coincidentally happens to be Bubba Ho-Tep's roundabout theme. Campbell spoke to us about just that from a Chicago convention where he was promoting the new film.

Austin Chronicle: One of the great things about Bubba Ho-Tep is its take on the disenfranchisement of the elderly, and the way it wraps that in a horror film, which is hardly typical of the genre.

Bruce Campbell: Yeah, old age, that's what appealed to me, too. You can always make some damn mummy movie but you don't always get to make one that has some sort of hidden message like this.

AC: You're 45 years old now -- did you find there was anything you could bring to the role at this age that you might not have been able to tap into when you were younger?

BC: Yeah, ability. Here's what it is. When an actor gets in his first movie -- in my case it was Evil Dead -- you sort of learn while you go. You learn how things play and so on but it's a very uptight situation. You're not sure if you're going to put out a persona or a character, or how big it should be, or how small should it be, or if you should depend on lenses, or what. After time passes, you begin to learn that, and you begin to relax a little, and so most of acting is bluffing. You get very comfortable at bluffing. Since I don't really play the movie star game and that's not something that really aligns with my world, I can just worry about being an actor. It's just a matter of having experience that I can bring to it after all these years.

AC: It's taboo almost, even in mainstream films, to get stories involving older characters and their experiences specifically as such. In light of the increasingly older baby boomer generation, why do you think Hollywood continues to view the topic of aging as unmarketable and unpalatable?

BC: I think Hollywood is influenced by society as well, and we have a youth-obsessed society. I used to get pissed off that Hollywood wasn't making movies that I wanted to see but now I've made peace with it because I've realized they'll never make movies that I want to see based on their current criteria. And the current criteria belongs to the strongest purchasing demographic which is the 16-to-24- or 30-year-olds. So why would they have actors any older than that in their films? They don't need 'em. Actors are getting thrown away just when they've figured it out, you know? Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca was 38 -- he wasn't a young guy, he wasn't a Ben Affleck, you know? And you look at a lot of the old-time stars that you remember from your favorite movies, and they were really all in their forties. I think it's not so much Hollywood, but I think that Hollywood is pandering to their best-paying customer. I'll tell you what: If our older generation was going to movies like our younger generation, I can guarantee you that people like Jessica Tandy and Meryl Streep and all of the older people would be working every day.

AC: Do you see any solution to that issue?

BC: Yeah, you fight it tooth and nail and the occasional Bubba Ho-Tep will slip through the cracks. That's all I can hope for, you know, because I know I'm past my age of usefulness in many cases. end story

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Bruce Campbell, Bubba Ho-Tep, Hollywood ageism, Don Coscarelli

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