When “The Evil Dead” hit theaters in 1981, the film’s lead actor Bruce Campbell said that starring in a horror film was just “one rung above porn” for an actor.
But now the horror genre is big business at the box office and the cult classic has been turned into a beloved franchise that has its own TV series, “Ash vs Evil Dead,” which returns for its third season on Starz Sunday.
CNN spoke with Campbell at New York Comic Con in October about the series, playing the cult hero Ash Williams for nearly 40 years, and where horror as a genre is going.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
So did you ever envision that “Evil Dead,” this small shoot, would ever become a TV series and this big franchise?
Well, we were the little movie that could, I think. While we were making the movie, it took pretty much four years to finish it. So no, we were just terrified that investors would never get their money back. And that this would be the first and only shot at getting into this business.
What is it like playing the same character for 40 years?
It’s good because I can go back now and work on him. Ash needs to be inflated to a three dimensional creature, and he was very two dimensional before, so taking advantage of the fact that it’s a TV show show where he lives… so we’re getting to see a whole lot more of him in situations which we never have and which makes him feel more human and more likable.
“The Evil Dead” was one of the most influential horror films ever made. What do you think about horror right now as a genre? Do you think it’s in a good place?
Comes and goes. It’s one of the great staples of mankind, of cinema. It will always be there. When I first got into horror, it was really just one rung above porn in your acting career. Most actors when their lives or their careers are failing, you end up in, like, a cheesy horror movies and stuff, but it’s progressed. It’s come out of the shadows. Shows like “The Walking Dead” had made it completely mainstream. What do they get? 14 million viewers? Those are mind boggling numbers… These conventions went from 70 percent men. Now it’s 50/50 men and women. The genres are all becoming more mainstream in our consciousness. With horror, I think it’ll just keep progressing and I hope it does.
Why do you think “The Evil Dead” has lasted over 40 years?
Because Ash is not a special guy. He’s you. He’s not a superhero. You know what I mean? Ash is not a superhero… he’s your neighbor. Your neighbor goes and saves the world. I think most people watch it and go, “Oh, you idiot, I can do that better than you.” And that’s sort of what you want instead of, “Wow, I can never be that guy.”