For Bruce Campbell, who’s gone from iron-jawed B-movie icon to journeyman actor and back, fan love comes in cycles.
“You have the whole new generation now,” Campbell said this week, on the way to Austin, Texas, as part of a 35-city book tour. “You have kids who are 18 going, ‘I saw you as Coach Boomer in “Sky High” at age 9,’ or ‘I watched you on “Xena” or “Hercules” on Saturdays when I was 10.’”
A lot of fans know Campbell for the role that first made him famous: Ash, the chainsaw-wielding demon killer in “The Evil Dead,” the 1981 horror movie he made with his boyhood buddies, director Sam Raimi and producer Rob Tapert.
He returned to the role for the TV series “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” which debuted on Starz in 2015. (The third season has been shot, Campbell said, and he and Tapert are awaiting approval from Starz for a fourth.)
Campbell, 59, dishes on “Ash vs. Evil Dead” and other highlights from the past 15 years of his career in a new memoir (co-written by Craig Sanborn), “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor” (St. Martin’s Press; hardcover, 320 pages; $27.99).
He will bring his book tour — and his audience-participation game show, “Last Fan Standing” — to Salt Lake City’s Tower Theatre Tuesday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50, or $100 for a VIP pass that includes a meet-and-greet — and everyone gets a signed copy of “Hail to the Chin.”
Campbell’s 2001 book, “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor,” covered his early career: “The Evil Dead” and its sequels, a raft of low-budget genre movies, and into his TV work on the Western “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.,” as a homophobic boss on Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom “Ellen,” and a recurring role on “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.”
The new book chronicles what he calls Act Two of his career, as he and his wife, Ida, abandoned Hollywood for a home in rural Oregon, and Campbell started to get more selective in the work he would take.
“That’s exactly what the criteria is: What’s going to get me off this mountain?” he said. “The criteria gets smaller and smaller every year.”
Some projects that did get Campbell off that Oregon mountain were:
• “Bubba Ho-Tep,” a horror comedy in which he played a geriatric Elvis.
• “Sky High,” a Disney-produced action comedy set in a school for superheroes.
• Cameo appearances in Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy.
• Going to Bulgaria, for budget reasons, to film his directing debut, the mad-scientist spoof “Man With the Screaming Brain.”
• Co-starring for seven seasons on the action series “Burn Notice,” playing a veteran spy.
The book comes back, full circle, to “Ash vs. Evil Dead.” Campbell said he wasn’t surprised that fans love Ash’s comeback.
“The fans have been clamoring for another ‘Evil Dead’ for years and years,” Campbell said. “We gave them a remake in 2013, it wasn’t quite enough. They wanted more of the real deal.” And with Raimi off making blockbusters (most recently “Oz the Great and Powerful” in 2013), Campbell and Tapert (who produced “Hercules,” “Xena” and “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”) took it to TV.
The love for “Evil Dead” and its progeny wasn’t always a sure thing. “‘Army of Darkness’ bombed, that’s what people forget,” Campbell said of the franchise’s third chapter, released in 1992, which took Ash back in time to fight Deadite demons in the Dark Ages. “It got re-edited, the whole thing was a fiasco.”
Fans don’t always know what’s best, Campbell said. “They jump on the bandwagon, too,” he said. “There’s a lot of clamoring for another ‘Bubba Ho-Tep.’ I shot it down. Let’s not do another one and let’s stop talking about it. … [People] are like, ‘Why aren’t you in “Sharknado”?’ I say it’s because I’m in movies that don’t try to be bad.”
With his Act Two literally in the books, Campbell said he’s eager to see what Act Three will bring.
“Act Three’s going to be very different than Act Two,” he said. “Act Three will be the final application of everything you’ve learned. You go, OK, no more of this, we’re only doing this, we’re only doing that. And it takes a long time to get there. You have to lay a lot of bricks to figure how how you’re going to lay that wall.”
‘Last Fan Standing’ with Bruce Campbell<br>Bruce Campbell — on tour with his new memoir, “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor” — emcees a live game show, “Last Fan Standing,” in which every audience member has a chance to win.<br>Where • Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City<br>When • Tuesday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m.<br>Tickets • $50, or $100 for VIP tickets (which include a meet-and-greet with Campbell). All ticket holders have a chance to participate in the game show; available at slfs.org or wellerbookworks.com<br>Presented by • Weller Book Works (as part of the Utah Humanities Book Festival) and the Salt Lake Film Society (as part of Art House Theater Week)