TED RAIMI INTERVIEW
BY ALAN JONES.
1987 STARBURST MAGAZINE (UK)
( VISUAL IMAGINATION LTD.)
EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN
STARBURST FEATURE BY ALAN JONES
The end credits of EVIL DEAD 2 contain this little statement "The sequel to the ultimate experience in grueling terror was filmed in Wadesboro , North Carolina and Detroit U.S.A." And this in-joke reprise from THE EVIL DEAD made me laugh just as much as all the inspired mayhem which proceeded it.Why? Because it reassured me that director Sam Raimi had retained the two aspects of his personality which I had always admired him for most.
One. his razor-sharp sense of humour, and two, the almost pathological grip he has on his roots. All rather heartening in an industry where cult success often goes hand in hand with "going Hollywood" - the route Raimi nearly took when he made Crimewave for Embassy Home Entertainment. The subsequent editing wrangles and nonsensical retitlings he battled over before the film sank without a trace seemed to teach him a lesson he will obviously never forget.
Raimi has always been a disarming character. It was easy to see why journalists liked him so much as he had the habit of calling everyone "Sir" during his worldwide promotional tour for The Evil Dead. And yet this wasn't affection, it was a grateful acknowledgment that we could see something in his work which he wasn't even sure if he understood himself. Even now, six years after The Evil Dead, every time I bump into him at various film festivals, he thanks me for all my support on the first film and, although I'm very suspicious by nature of that sort of thing, I know he genuinely means it.
This interview took place in New York after Raimi had given a lecture to
various student bodies about the importance of his school days on his
eventual movie career.
An example? "When I was a student at Michigan State University studying literature and history I desperately wanted to make movies but couldn't figure out how to do it. So I came up with this scheme. I'd make super 8 films and advertise the showings in the local newspapers and use the University cinema. I'd charge admission and it was a valuable learning tool for me. I would sit trough the screenings and if the movie stank the audience would tell me so in no uncertain terms. At this time I made comedies that didn't work although I wanted them to be compared to the Three Stooges. Some hope huh! The audience who paid $1.50 to get in were so abusive but after a while and after more movies the criticisms would change to " Well we hated it but not as much as the last one", so slowly I got better and came to the conclusion that the better you made a film the more an audience would like it. There's a deep insight for you! But using the students in school as a testing ground guaranteed an amazingly honest response. Once I screened one of my movies, and it cost me my $4,000 life savings and only one person showed up at the Big Premiere. All this money and all the effort, what could be worse than this I thought. I soon found out. Ten minutes into the film he screamed, ' This sucks, Shut it off and you can keep my money'. So I did".
The budget for Evil Dead 2 was $3.75 million but Raimi brought the film
in for $3.6 million. " mainly to show we were responsible artists". He
continued, " I wrote the sequel with an old school friend of mine,
Scott Speigel. We had collaborated on many screenplays together
but this one we wrote in hotel rooms , my house and offices in
Ferndale, Michigan. I can honestly say we have the largest film
production office in Ferndale! Then we went around from film
company to company talking through the screenplay looking
for prospective backers. Some said they would decide in six
months and I was so desperate I even negotiated with Embassy
again. Then Alex De Benedetti, one of Dino De Laurentiis' right-
hand men, called Robert Tapert and myself with an offer to make
a picture for them and we pitched Evil Dead 2 to him. And finally
Dino said ' I want to make this picture'."
(One of Raimi's undiscovered talents
is his gift for mimicry which