Down-to-earth Campbell rides out of the Midwest

September 17, 1993|By Mike Duffy | Mike Duffy,Knight-Ridder News Service

Not to worry. Bruce Campbell hasn't gone Hollywood.

"The only thing more boring than a sports figure being interviewed is an actor talking about himself," joked Mr. Campbell, a Royal Oak, Mich., native and life member of Sam Raimi's movie commandos.

Mr. Campbell, 35, is most definitely an actor.

He gives an engaging, star-making performance in the title role of "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.," Fox Broadcasting's new comic-tinged Friday-night Western series (8 p.m. WBFF, Channel 45).

But the lanky, good-looking Campbell is perhaps best known to horror movie mavens for his over-the-top lead performances in director Raimi's hilarious gorefest classics, "Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead II." He also starred in Mr. Raimi's "Army of Darkness," a 1993 swashbuckler-from-hell adventure comedy that was actually a sequel to the bloodier "Evil Dead" movies.

"I maintain, if you're a miserable person before you get into show business, you'll be a miserable person after you get into show business," Mr. Campbell said during an interview in Los Angeles this summer.

Nope, he's not a miserable person. Too down-to-earth and level-headed. Besides, a self-deprecating wit helps insulate one against Hollywood misery.

"You're the tall one with the square jaw. Get out there in front of the camera and act," is how Mr. Campbell describes his start as a highly skilled professional.

Mr. Campbell grew up making movies with fellow Detroiter Raimi.

nTC They started out on nickel-and-dime budgets creating 8-mm extravaganzas in high school and at Michigan State University before moving into the "big time" of low-budget horror films. Mr. Raimi's brother Ted, an actor and a regular on NBC's new "seaQuest DSV," is a third member of this group of movie musketeers.

"In the low-budget independent [movie] world I come from, you have to have it together from the start or you'll look awful up there," Mr. Campbell said.

Anticipating the chance to direct his first film, "The Man With the Screaming Brain," a spoof of '50s horror movies, Mr. Campbell says he has always felt comfortable behind the camera. Working with the Raimi brothers, he's had numerous opportunities to edit films and to do sound effects and post-production work.

That sort of experience helps ensure that Mr. Campbell will never become a prima donna performer. Whether "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." succeeds or fails, don't look for Mr. Big Bloated Glitterati Ego.

"There's no special formula; it's all about work," Mr. Campbell said.

"I know what everybody on the set does. If you insult the camera operator, you're going to be out of focus. He's just as important as you are."

Working behind the scenes and as a producer on Mr. Raimi's films have been invaluable in developing that balanced Hollywood perspective, Mr. Campbell said. "You become a more responsible actor. You don't complain about the size of your trailer."

A friendly, handsome lug with a looney tunes sensibility, Mr. Campbell comes across as sort of James Garner meets Daffy Duck. In front of a startled bunch of TV critics, he uncorked a full backflip pratfall -- whomp! -- during a Fox press conference for "Brisco County, Jr."

Most actors would never pull that sort of spontaneous, off-the-wall stunt. But Mr. Campbell was just making a point. He's a dedicated pratfall craftsman.

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