Bruce Campbell admits Jay Leno might have a chin at least as famous as his own.
But Leno can’t lay claim to having starred in some of the most beloved B-movies of the modern era, from “The Evil Dead” franchise to “Bubba Ho-Tep.”
This weekend Campbell and his strong jawline are returning to KC — a city where Campbell has a surprising family connection. More on that later.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Campbell is touring in support of his second memoir, “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor.” A follow-up to his 2002 debut “If Chins Could Kill,” the latest endeavor recounts his subsequent adventures filming Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, the long-running TV show “Burn Notice” and his gloriously gory current series, “Ash vs Evil Dead” on the Starz network. The book also delves into more personal exploits, from visiting troops in the Middle East to carving a domestic life in the Oregon wilderness.
Some patrons attending his sold-out Alamo Drafthouse appearance Saturday will get to partake in a live, interactive game show called “Last Fan Standing,” which, he says, bridges his world of sci-fi, horror, fantasy and pop culture.
“It’s a game show for geeks,” the 59-year-old actor says. “Our questions are like, ‘What does Thor’s hammer weigh?’ You won’t hear these questions on ‘Jeopardy.’”
Calling from a train en route to Boston, Campbell spoke to The Star about cult films, his famous catchphrases, brushes with actual evil and that KC connection.
As Ash would say, “All right you primitive screwheads, listen up …”
Q: How is going on a book tour like making a low-budget movie?
A: It’s wild and wooly. There are a lot of unexpected twists and turns. For instance: I was on the 33rd floor of my hotel two days ago, and the elevators were not functioning. That’s always a blast. I got a little extra cardio.
Q: I know you’ve toured through Kansas City before. Do you have any other connections to KC?
A: My mother (Joanne Louise Pickens) was born there.
Q: Really? How did we not know about this?
A: People don’t usually blab about where their mother was born, I guess. I think she was born on the Missouri side of Kansas City because she liked to associate more with Missouri. (Campbell grew up in a suburb of Detroit.)
Q: You can hide behind characters as an actor, but you can’t when writing an autobiography. Were you hesitant to reveal any personal details?
A: Oh yeah. Like getting a DUI. You kind of go, “Am I going there?” You have to because it is part of the story. You can’t deny it. I hate pretending like stuff never happened. It happens to actors, who are sometimes the biggest idiots on the planet. There’s no point messing with the truth. As the saying goes, “A liar has to have a good memory.”
Q: Was there any chapter in “Further Confessions” that was especially challenging to write?
A: Not so much challenging, but the chapter that had a different feel to it was when I went to see the troops in Iraq. Tough to properly convey the conflicted feelings one has when one is in a war zone. I don’t like war in any size or shape or color. But I have no problem with the soldiers. That’s what that was all about.
Recalling going to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) because you want to be sensitive to the horrible sacrifices these guys made, it really did make an impression on us when one guy didn’t want to see us. He was like, “I don’t care if you want to shake my hand. I don’t want to shake your hand because I’ve got other (stuff) I’m dealing with.” That puts it all in perspective, which is pretty handy for actors. We think we’re the center of the universe. Now you go, “Oh wow. There’s other stuff going on in the world that is so much more important.”
Q: Have cable and streaming services blurred the definition of what a B movie is?
A: Yes and no. A-list is still represented by movies that are the most expensive with the biggest stars, biggest promotional budgets and studio-backed. B-movies are like what you find on Sci-Fi Channel. But all these big-shot actors are now racing to television. I laugh because I’m like, “Where were you 20 years ago, jerk?” It’s too bad because I felt like I had television all to myself for a while. Now they’re invading.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene from the first two seasons of “Ash vs. Evil Dead”?
A: My favorite stuff is in Season 3. Ash gets a daughter that he didn’t know about, of course. So in the middle of saving the world, he has to raise an unruly daughter … and do it very poorly. No one can screw up fatherhood like Ash. And the weird stuff that’s happening, he’s trying to convince her it’s true. He’s got a line where he says to her, “I may be a crappy father, but I’m also a crappy liar.”
Q: You’ve fought a lot of evil things onscreen. What is your definition of real-life evil?
A: Ignorance. Most of the world’s ills would go away if people knew what was really happening and how things really work. Get perspective. I would force every American to leave the country for one year when they’re 18. You cannot stay. Do you know that 75 percent of Americans don’t have a passport? They couldn’t leave if they had to. One of the best things in my line of work is you travel a lot. It’s important to see other countries. You go, “Oh, they’re not worried about the stuff we’re worried about.” Or you go, “Wow, they seem to have figured this out.” Americans are very good at thinking we have everything figured out. And we don’t.
Q: When was the first time you went out of the country?
A: I went to Nogales, Mexico, when I was 10. We went across the border to buy switchblades. We were obsessed. We heard you could buy switchblades in Mexico. And we got them. It was really exciting to click that button, and I don’t know why.
Q: Of all your memorable lines of dialogue, which ones do fans bring up the most?
A: Probably, “Give me some sugar, baby” (from “Army of Darkness”). I do know that the line has power. A guy came up to me at a book signing and said, “Thanks for ‘Give me some sugar, baby.’” I said, “Why?” He said, “I was working in China, and I had that translated into Mandarin. I went into a bar, used it on a chick and got laid.” It works!
Q: Have you ever compared chins with Jay Leno?
A: No. That would be unseemly.
Jon Niccum is a filmmaker, freelance writer and author of “The Worst Gig: From Psycho Fans to Stage Riots, Famous Musicians Tell All.”