[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.]
Bruce Campbell couldn’t believe it, either.
Not only did the iconic actor land another cameo in his pal Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, he was even bestowed the final end-credits scene. Not too shabby.
The Evil Dead star found himself in Multiverse of Madness as the cantankerous New York street vendor known as the Pizza Poppa. The hilarious moment even included a nod to another Campbell-Raimi classic, Evil Dead II.
In a wide-ranging (sometimes serious, sometimes sidesplittingly silly) chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Campbell talked about his honest shock he made final cut of the most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe film and how proud he is of his oldest friend’s triumphant directorial return to the massive superhero stage. He also touches on Raimi’s recent comments that Campbell was once considered for the Spider-Man villain Mysterio role and those Darkman sequel rumblings.
Having just returned from is post-production, executive producer duties on the upcoming Evil Dead Rise, Campbell teases that HBO Max film while also discussing the newly released Evil Dead; The Game, which saw a number of delays due to the pandemic and development. However, he knows fans are going to love the final, blood-soaked video game experience.
Pizza Poppa has taken on a life of its own among fans. Did you have any inkling he would go over so well?
I can’t believe I made it into the movie! I used to joke that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t sure he was going to be in the movie because they were constantly reworking the storyline and Sam had to shoot additional stuff that wasn’t in the original script, so it’s a shell game.
How do these cameos with Sam come about? Does he just text?
Yeah, that’s usual. Sam and I are always in touch because of Evil Dead and a lot of other stuff, but we’re also friends. And I know when stuff gets going, and I can always harass my agent and go, “Hey, see what’s going on in there.” It’s a combination of things, mostly.
The Evil Dead II nod with Poppa’s hand fighting him was not lost on us diehards. Who came up with that?
I think it was always in the basic scene. We had to figure out what to do and how Doctor Strange would defeat him. The idea was he’s just some obnoxious guy and Doctor Strange has to teach him a lesson — which of course he does. On the day, we figured it out, workshopped it, blocked it, and shot the damn thing.
Is Poppa your favorite Raimi cameo? Do you even rank them?
You know, the only criteria I ever need is that the character has to be pivotal. In the first Spider-Man, I named Spider-Man. In the second one, I’m the only character to defeat Spider-Man by not letting him into the theater. And in Spider-Man 3, he comes to the maître d’ for help with his proposal to Mary Jane. How many superheroes come to mortals for help? Like, zero. So, I set a precedent. And if you do put me in there, it’ll change the movie forever. Sam is aware that I’ve made his movies iconic.
(Laughs.) The other criteria, honestly, is the only reason to be in these movies, and that is to harass the star. If you look at all the Spider-Man films, all I’m there for is to fuck with the lead guy. That’s it. I belittle him, make fun of him, confront him and harass him. Of course, he’s always victorious, but you have to create obstacles for your hero and make the journey harder. That’s my job.
And here, we can’t really deny that I took up about an extra 45 seconds of Strange’s time. And maybe I saved his life as a result of that. Those 45 seconds, maybe I saved someone else’s life, maybe I foiled a plot. I didn’t know if you wanted to go this deep with this conversation, but I was prepared to go deep.
You never disappoint, sir. What do you think of all the Poppa love? There is even a TikTok with more than a million viewers of a cook making those pizza balls.
As long as the Pizza Poppa gets paid, everything is fine. So as long as they’re not saying that they should get something for free, I’m fine with anything they want to do. (Laughs.) Yeah, the memes are coming out already. You want something to be remembered. Maybe I’ll stop being the Evil Dead guy, and I’ll be the Pizza Poppa guy.
Speaking of fan reaction, there was quite the response when Sam revealed in a recent interview he was considering you for Mysterio in Spider-Man 4. Did you have any idea, or did you find out with the rest of us?
No, because the deal fell apart before that conversation was going to happen. I mean, they had bigger fish to fry than how are we going to give Campbell his stupid part. Plus, Jake Gyllenhaal is such a sweetheart, you know. He’s so dreamy. Why would you not ultimately want him?
You and Sam are life-long pals whose celebrated careers are intertwined. Does that still blow your mind when you collaborate?
Well, as Sam said recently, “I can’t believe they’re still letting us do this.” It’s been a while now. You know, The Evil Dead came out in 1981, but we shot the movie in 1979. So it’s 43 years old, technically. And fans are still showing up. We’re just putting the finishing touches on Lee Cronin’s new version, Evil Dead Rise. And I’m tickled pink. I come in for post-production a lot, just to see what’s going on. It’s fun to see what other people do with this horror concept. It’s going to be a very solid, respectful entry into the franchise.
In a separate interview, Sam mentioned a proper Darkman sequel is being kicked around. Any Raimi-Campbell fan worth their salt knows you were the final Darkman disguise. So, any insight you can share?
My interest depends on if Sam’s involved. He’s not going to direct it, though. Look, Sam, he’s back in the game. The old bird’s still got it, and it’s great to see. And mostly, it’s going to be fun because now he’ll have a little more leeway again. And look, they let Sam Raimi make a Sam Raimi movie. Marvel is always going to put the Marvel stamp on it, but Sam was pretty good at weaseling himself in there. You could just tell there were some definite Sam moments. And people being worked up about it being PG-13 — the violence was pretty cartoonish.
And finally, the long-awaited Evil Dead: The Game from Saber Interactive just dropped. Seems like, from the reaction in the Esports community, it is well worth the wait.
I’m glad they waited, honestly. There were three previous Evil Dead games made, and you know, they got better. But they were all cheeseball. They kept delaying this game because of platform changes, technology changes, and stylistic things change. So we sort of rolled with it, and we’re glad that they waited. I’m very pleased with it, and the game seems to be well received.
Among the plethora of Evil Dead franchise characters to choose from, do you have a recommendation for players?
Evil Ash is a lot of fun — but also old Ash [from Ash vs Evil Dead]. Don’t count the geezers out: the experience, they know when not to panic, they have good life-saving skills, and they know how these demons operate. Young Ash is good because he can keep getting back up — but play the old guy sometimes too.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters now. Evil Dead: The Game is now available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.