Xena Magazine #16 - Writer/director Bruce Campbell

Source: Titan`s Xena Magazine #16

When we last spoke with Bruce Campbell almost exactly a year ago, his career was at a crossroads. The actor's frequent guest slots and directing stints on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena:Warrior Princess appeared to be drawing to an end, his new Pacific Renaissance series, Jack of All Trades, had just started shooting, and he was beginning to work on his autobiography.

Now, a year later, with Xena: Warrior Princess in its final season, it looks more than likely that we've seen the last of Autolycus, Jack of All Trades' short but entertaining run seems to be at an end, and Campbell's autobiography Confessions of a B-Movie Actor - will be released in a few short months' time.

It's certainly been a year of change for Campbell, and in that year, the subject closest to his heart has been Jack of All Trades. The actor has said many a time how much he's enjoyed working on the show. The swashbuckling action-adventure series, set on an island in the East Indies at the turn of the 19th Century, sees Campbell as Jack Stiles, an undercover US spy working to thwart Napoleon's plans to conquer the area. His co-star in the series, Angela Dotchin, plays Emilia Rothschild, a British secret agent who works alongside Jack to foil France's plans, and the pairing has hilarious results and sparks more than a few fireworks.

In our last interview, Campbell voiced some very definite ideas about how he wanted the character of Jack Stiles to come across to viewers: as a heroic Autolycus, with a lot more redeeming qualities than the King of Thieves. So how much does the actor feel the character met with those expectations? "Well, good or bad, Jack came across how I intended him to be," Campbell says. "He had enough integrity to be tolerable, but still maintained a high enough degree of volatility and irreverence to be interesting."

The announcement that Jack was to be discontinued late last year came as a surprise to fans the world over, and represented a sad moment for Pacific Renaissance and the show's cast. But Campbell is philosophical about the end of the show.

"I'm never hurt by cancellations if I've given it my all," he explains. "On Jack of All Trades, l can safely say that everyone involved gave 110 per cent.
"If the ratings weren't good enough for the show to stay on the air, then so be it," he continues. "I won't play the blame game that's so easy to get into. I can also claim my personal life back for a while, so in that sense there's no harm done whatsoever."

Campbell also admits that, while there is a chance that the show could be picked up by a US television network in the future and revived, he personally feels the series has served its time and that it would do more harm than good to resurrect it.

"Folks always want some future incarnation of cancelled cult shows (like Brisco County, Jnr)," he ponders, "but I can stand on record by saying that old television shows age like anything in television land. Nobody on the corporate level wants to be associated with a loser, and since they finance the shows, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy."

So, with Jack of All Trades no longer filming, Campbell is back on his home turf. But while the actor is happy to be able to settle down in the US with his family for the time being, he admits that working in New Zealand has always been a pleasure. "New Zealand is a great place to work for several reasons. Firstly," he points out, "it's a pretty place with very nice, hard-working folks. And secondly, it's so far away from the Hollywood system (Southern hemisphere and all), that you pretty much work in a vacuum, with no Big Brother watching over your shoulder and no outside distractions to take you away from what you're doing.

"I'd rather be where the work is good," he adds, "and for a long while it was New Zealand. Right now, I have no compelling reason to take me back there, so I'll see where the winds blow next."

At the time of this interview, Campbell had just finished directing four episodes of the Pamela Anderson-Lee action series VIP. Given that he had the experience of directing several episodes of Xena and Hercules under his belt, how did directing this show compare with helming those productions?

"I was spoiled by working on those shows because of the professionalism of the main actors," he acknowledges. "Working on Xena and Hercules was always virtually problem free, and the producers were very accommodating. The US productions I've been involved in since have been a bit of an eyeopener as far as work ethics go. But that's enough said on that subject.

"As far as comparing it to the US, the New Zealand film industry is very young and the people there are very eager to do stuff right," he adds. "I learned a lot about proper time-saving procedures on their sets that aren't instigated in the US. The Kiwis have been able to take what the Americans know and make it better. They also have a bit of that English by-the-book procedure that comes across as stuffy at first, but in the long run, you appreciate its effectiveness."

Campbell cites the episodes One Fowl Day, in which he got the opportunity to act up alongside Ted Raimi as Joxer; and Yes, Virginia There is a Hercules and For Those of You just joining Us, in which he portrayed a fishing-obsessed Rob Tapert, as a few of his highlights of working on Hercules and Xena. But can the actor name any not so great moments from his time in the Xenaverse?

"One word: Tsunami... ha!" he laughs, referring to the shipboard season three Xena adventure which represented more of a serious turn for the actor as Autolycus. "It was just tough soaking in water all day for six days of the episode."

Many of Campbell's Renaissance co-stars have been happy to recall some witty behind-the-scenes anecdotes from their time on the shows for the amusement of Xena Magazine readers, but Campbell is tightlipped about what went on when the cameras were turned off. "I have too many anecdotes to recount now," he teases. "But they will all be in the book!

"Sorry to be so cagey," he adds, "but I can't give it all away!" Although Autolycus has only guest-starred in a handful of Xena and Hercules episodes, the character has always remained a firm favourite with fans, not surprisingly when you consider how hysterical his appearance in such adventures as Men in Pink, The Quest and Genies and Grecians and Geeks, Oh My! have been. But Campbell remains surprised by the impact the role made on fans, especially considering Autolycus was not initially written into the series as a recurring character. "I didn't know he would be recurring at first," Campbell recalls. "It was meant to be a one time gig. I guess the character fitted well into both worlds and could serve as a counter balance to the 'gotta do-the-right-thing' lead characters.

"Aside from that, Auto was one of the top three fun characters I ever played," he acknowledges. So how similar are Bruce Campbell and Autolycus? "It's like any character," he remarks. "There is always part of the actor in the role or you wouldn't be able to pull it off. I'm very sarcastic in real life and I'm sure it bleeds over to the characters I play, but I always like to have just enough human ity so viewers won't be turned off!"

Talking about characters Campbell has played, aside from his turns as Autolycus and Jack Stiles, as well as Brisco County, Jnr in the popular but short lived US comedy Western The Adventures of Brisco County, Jnr, not to mention a host of other roles the accomplished character actor has played on the big and small screens, there's one particular role which got the actor's career off to a flying start.

Campbell will always be heralded as a star by cult horror movie fans for his role as Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy, the low-budget films which also launched the careers of then little-known director. Sam Raimi and producer Rob Tapert. So is the actor at all bothered by the fact that he will always be so closely associated with the character of Ash and the three hit movies?

"I have no problem with Ash or the trilogy," Campbell counters. "Creatively, they were hard to touch. Evil Dead is responsible for everything career-wise since, in one way or another, and I'll always be grateful for the opportunity those movies afforded us all. "Granted, we made our own opportunity with those flicks," he continues. "But having said that, I'm not sure I like being best known as that character, having been pretty busy for a decade since the last Evil Dead flick."

No one can deny that Campbell has achieved more than most actors since he first graced the silver screen in Evil Dead, and you only have to take a look at what he currently has either on the go or in the pipeline to realise that no one could ever accuse the actor of not being versatile.

"I just finished editing my documentary on fans, called Fanalysis," he says. "It's a fun peek or poke at the good folks at conventions, etc, told from my point of view. I'm also appearing in several episodes of [the US comedy series] Beggars and Choosers for Showtime. I have more appearances scheduled, and I have a speaking engagement at Virginia Tech.

"For the next six months, I'll be extremely busy promoting my book," he says of Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, which is due for release spring 2001 from St. Martin's Press, "and finishing my documentary. But the book is going to consume much of my time soon - most likely from January through to the summer of next year.

"But fear not," Campbell assures fans. "I am devoting an entire web site to the book and it will have everything anyone wants to know. I'm in the tech phases of it right now and will reveal more when I have a firm release date."

In Issue 14, Ted Raimi hinted that he and Campbell were working on a project together which Raimi would direct and Campbell would star in. Two months down the line, can Campbell give us any further details about this project? "It's all mumbo jumbo right now," he says, "but Ted and I love working together. That was reaffirmed by a couple of cabaret acts we put on at conventions recently. When something firm comes up, I'll post it on my site."

The cabaret act Campbell is referring to is a special music and comedy show he and Raimi have rehearsed and performed at a number of conventions around the world, debuting at the Creation convention in New Orleans in June 2000. No doubt fans of the two actors who have missed the show would like the opportunity to see it. Is there any chance of the cabaret show being made available to more of their fans via any other medium, perhaps on video or as a touring show? "I'm not sure," Campbell admits. "There are no plans right now. But it was a heck of a lot of fun and, schedule permitting, I'd like to do some more of those."

Returning to Autolycus - no doubt the subject closest to most of our hearts - Campbell has probably been asked this a number of times recently, especially with Xena's conclusion looming rapidly nearer and nearer. Have we seen the last of Autolycus? And if Campbell did have the opportunity to make a final appearance as the lovable thief on Xena, would he take it?

"I have found in the reality of show business that nothing comes out like you'd expect," Campbell says cryptically. "Some things are better and some things are worse. It's like that in putting characters to bed - you rarely get the big send off that you would hope to have.

"Xena isn't in a position right now to bring some of the old characters back - both from a story point-of-view and from a budget point-of-view. I had a fantastic time on that series," he enthuses, "but I think it's unrealistic to expect anything 'final' from old Auto.

"On a side note," he adds, "I wish Lucy and Renee the best for the future. They held up really well and both remained impressively sane right until the end!
"I"m sure we'll be seeing much more of them. Oh yeah, and Ted too!"

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