When I think of ‘cool’ some of the names that pop into my head are: Frank Sinatra, George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, James Dean, Sean Connery… But the first name that flashes in my head is always Bruce Campbell. The man is just cool. He has leading man good looks and comedic timing that is second to none. I wrote a screenplay and one of the characters I wrote specifically for the man, the myth, the legend that is Bruce Campbell.
Born and raised in Michigan he met a trio of brothers in high school who cemented his fate. Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Ted Raimi assimilated Bruce, along with other friends in the neighborhood, and they made tons of super-8 films. From those shorts he honed his sardonic wit, unflappable bravado and dead-pan delivery. All that helped him become the greatest B-movie actor of all time.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of my favorite Bruce Campbell roles.
Sam Axe (Burn Notice)
To the casual fan, this is who they know Bruce as… Not a bad representation of ‘The Chin’. Sam Axe is a booze swilling, womanizing smooth operator who is loyal to the bone. He can be gruff but that is why we end up loving him… that and his bevy of beautiful shirts. Sam Axe’s floral shirt collection ranks in the top three with Thomas Magnum’s and Alton Brown’s.
Bruce Campbell (My Name Is Bruce)
The premise of this movie is brilliant. Bruce Campbell plays a caricature of himself and a diehard fan really believes Bruce is the character Ash he plays in the movies. Because of that disconnect from reality the kid tricks Bruce to come to his town and fight a real monster that is terrorizing the folks in the area. It is pure excellence of B-Movie goodness.
Elvis Presley/ Sebastian Haff (Bubba Ho-Tep)
Again a fantastic concept for a film. Bruce stars as Sebastian Haff an elderly man living in an East Texas rest home and dying of cancer on his, well, groinial area. We find out that Sebastian actually is Elvis Presley. He switched places with the real Sebastian Haff, who was an impersonator, because Elvis needed a break. The impersonator ends up dying before they switch back so Elvis is stuck. His best friend in the rest home is Jack, played by Ossie Davis. Jack believes he had his brain scrambled and is actually JFK and has to live out his life as an artificially dyed black man.
Ok, that is the back story. The main story of the movie is about this Egyptian Mummy who is preying on the residents of the rest home Elvis and Jack live in. So they team up to battle the evilness that has been feasting on their cohabitants. Needless to say… This. Is. Awesome.
Daring Dragoon/Jack Stiles (Jack of All Trades)
Back before Pirates were the in vogue thing, Bruce played the best and the greatest swashbuckling hero that the French have ever seen; the Daring Dragoon. In actuality he was Michael Westin before Michael Westin was Michael Westin… Michael Westin. Sent to the tiny island of Polau Polau by President Thomas Jefferson, Jack Styles was tasked with stopping Napoleon. Aided by the British spy Emily Rothschild (played by the BEAUTIFUL Angela Marie Dotchin… Had such a crush <3) the two worked together, for the most part, to stop the Emperor from colonizing.
It also had a great intro…
Autolycus (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys/Xena: Warrior Princess)
When you have the name Autolycus King of Theives, you have to be funny, charming, smooth, debonair and many other adjectives. Bruce plays all those things perfectly because he IS all those things.
Brisco County Jr. (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.)
Brisco is a Harvard graduate bounty hunter making his way across the western front doing what bounty hunter/gunslingers do. His side kick is a lawyer, Socrates Poole (played by the immensely talented Christian Clemenson who I loved on Boston Legal) who helps him try to avenge Brisco’s fathers murder. It is a great western that throws in elements of steampunk and got the shaft by… Surprise, surprise… Fox. Bruce has said that any show he is the star of is short lived and anything he costars or has a reoccurring role on is a long running hit. I wish this got a better shake…
Yet again another great open…
Ashley ‘Ash’ J. Williams (The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II/Army of Darkness)
For the fans of BC this is who we think of when his name is thrown out. Ash is one of the best characters to ever grace the screen. Bruce is one of the best physical comedy film actors of all time. He throws everything into what he does and the evolution of Ash in the three films is brilliant. I could write for days about the virtues of this man and this character, but it is best if I let the man show you.
There was an homage to this scene in the movie ‘Idle Hands’, it was done well but nothing beats the original.
Ash has some of the best one-liners in the business. Here is a compilation of a bunch of them.
Honorable mentions go to Mayor Shelbourne (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), William Cole (Man with the Screaming Brain), Ivan (Alien Apocalypse), Gordon Moore (Serving Sara), Virgil (McHale’s Navy), Carl (Running Time), Renaldo ‘The Heel’ (Crimewave), Jack Forrest (Maniac Cop/Maniac Cop 2), Coach Boomer (Sky High) and pretty much every other character he has played.
(And if by any chance Bruce happens to read this, Happy Birthday!!!)
There it is, for better or worse. That is my list of Bruce Campbell roles.
Let me know…