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18 Oct

Chapter on Bruce Campbell in the Making

Written by Michael Fuchs
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"Don't Call Me Ash!" Success! The Bruce Campbell Way

While there has been much scholarly debate about what exactly constitutes a "cult film," most critics and scholars would agree that The Evil Dead is a prime example of the phenomenon. From the legendary origin story (complete with under-financing and extensive adversity) to the low production values and, of course, the questionable acting, the movie shows all the hallmarks of cult. Its success in connecting with cult fans is evident not only in the enduring esteem accorded to the movie by fans and critics alike, but also in the many spin-offs and sequels the movie has spawned. The guiding force behind this enduring success has always been the original film's iconic star, Bruce Campbell. While there have been many cult film stars, one would be hard-pressed to find a deeper synergy between actor and film(s) than the profound symbiosis that exists between Campbell and the Evil Dead universe.

In our proposed contribution to this volume on the Evil Dead franchise, we will explore the ways in which Bruce Campbell has successfully forged a "B-movie superstar" persona out of the raw material provided by his Evil Dead stardom by extending and developing this persona through a range of texts. Our discussion will touch upon Campbell's appearances at sci-fi/horror conventions and in satirical commercials, his parodic autobiography/behind-the-scenes of The Evil Dead titled If Chins Could Kill, his self-parodic meta-celebrity memoir Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, his self-produced documentary about fan culture Fanalysis, the film My Name is Bruce (in which a fictionalized Bruce/Ash comes face to face with a fictionalized Bruce Campbell fanatic), and finally the recent Starz television show Ash vs. Evil Dead, which represents Campbell's return to his origin story. We will demonstrate how these vehicles combine to add a unique and highly self-reflexive twist to Campbell's cult image, anchored in the fictional character of Ash. Essentially, Campbell declares himself "in on the joke" and a fan of his own products (including, of course, all things Evil Dead), thereby reducing the distance between the star and the fan. We will suggest that Campbell has fostered the idea that he is "one of them" to enhance his allure for the fan base by promoting fan identification with a conflated construct of the actor and his iconic character.