Bruce Campbell, probably so often referred to as ‘That Ash guy from the Evil Dead films’, may be expected to have few life experiences that would spice up an autobiography. Could he really have more to tell beyond tales of endless appearances at cult movie conventions and a few guest spots acting? Thankfully, Campbell has been avoiding the dull and mundane track through life, even before setting out to make no-budget shocker Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1982) with his chums. If Chins Could Kill offers an amusing anecdotal approach to Campbell’s life story with enough insights into filmmaking, particularly from a decidedly never-in-demand-actor point of view, that it never fails to be an entertaining read. Old Bruce has never had it easy, but he sure seems to have enjoyed the ride so far.
Growing up in suburban Detroit, Campbell tells us about his fearlessness as a child that led to a L-shaped scar on his chin, befriending life-long ‘bane of my existence’ Sam Raimi and an early introduction to film production. Yes, Bruce has been making home videos with Spider-man director Raimi since about eighth-grade, but never quite gained the same level of notoriety to break into the big time. Of course, Evil Dead saw the pair, together with a few other school friends, earn their strips as filmmakers. However it would probably be surprising how many people have not heard of Campbell or the cult horror trilogy. Indeed, reading this book you realise why Raimi was the real go-getter, very likely aiming for Hollywood from the beginning, and that Bruce fell into most things in life unsure where it was taking him.
a decidedly never-in-demand-actor point of view
He freely admits that as an actor, he has never had any formal training to put him up there with Tom Hanks or perhaps Marlon Brando. However, what does come across is his knack for getting things done the hard way and giving us an insight into how the lower ends of the movie industry work. It is not a case of throwing millions at a project until it works, as the money just is not there to begin with. Being involved in B-movies is about fighting for that extra dollar to shoot a key scene. Campbell tells us how as a co-producer he saw how an actress tried to do her own make-up but ended up looking more like a ghost with red lipstick and the troubles of trying to sell a film that you would not give away.
There are amusing accounts of the early films he made, learning tricks on home equipment and their growing ambition to make a real movie. Littering the page with old photographs, diagrams and generally anything relevant Campbell could find his hands on it is very much in the style of a life scrapbook. It is particularly surprising that Campbell went head-to-head with Billy Zane to be cast as The Phantom in the mid-1990s film featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones, and I think he would still be bitter if it had been a box office success. His tales of working in television on series such as The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys provide a lot of insight into the back stage practises of American shows.
Campbell has adopted a light-hearted attitude to his work, telling us a plenty of secrets about the films and also revealing the gruelling story of touring to promote the book in the latest editions. For anyone who has long been a fan of Bruce Campbell, this proves to be the perfect read. For those who have never heard of him it is probably worth finding out how being almost famous is a full time occupation.