Mar 24, 2017

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Evil Dead 2

Article By: Tony Timpone

For a 35-year-old franchise, there’s still plenty of blood left in the venerable Evil Dead series, which launched in 1981 with no less than Stephen King singing the first film’s praises. The unrated movie begat Evil Dead II in 1987, Army of Darkness in 1992, a well-received remake in 2013 and currently a hit Starz show, the Bruce Campbell-starring Ash vs Evil Dead, which begins its third season this fall. Today the Friday 13 celebrates the 30th anniversary of Evil Dead II, which many Dead-heads acknowledge as the best of hero Ash’s humorously gruesome misadventures. Join us as we exclusively pull memorable anecdotes from the Sam Raimi-directed movie’s cast and crew.

1. Dino saved the day

The veteran producer of the 1976 King Kong and 1980 Flash Gordon remakes signed Evil Dead II’s $3.6 million check to get the sequel rolling after other deals stalled. “The movie almost got financed by an early [incarnation of] Anchor Bay Entertainment, but they were too slow,” recalls producer Rob Tapert. “The deal with Dino De Laurentiis took 15 minutes. Dino had been chasing Sam to direct [Stephen King’s] Thinner and when he called back after four months to find Evil Dead II was not financed, he said he would do it.”


2. Steven Spielberg and Whoopi Goldberg were previous tenants

For lensing, Evil Dead II set up shop in Wadesboro, North Carolina on the identical location as Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed race drama. “The movie was filmed on the same property as [1985’s] The Color Purple,” reveals Tapert. “We used the main house in that movie as our location production office.”


3. An apple a day…

Raimi coined the big demonic face at the movie’s finale after one of America’s favorite fruits. “The head that came into the cabin door was named the ‘Rotten Apple Head’ by Sam because both of the maquettes that I sculpted for the character were about the size of a large apple…all shriveled up and leathery,” notes Tony Gardner, one of the film’s FX creators and sculptors. “The idea of adding the faces of the victims to the face of the Apple Head came about really late in the game, so not all are functional. Only Bruce’s has the full neck stalk like [Deadite] Henrietta. The Apple Head eyeball that gets chainsawed was made out of gelatin and filled with slime tubes, so that Bruce could actually chainsaw it on camera.”


4. The movie had its own set of "Jaws"

“The teeth for the Rotten Apple Head were based on sharks’ teeth—multiple rows, turned in toward the gullet, with barbed bases on each tooth,” reveals Gardner, who just wrapped work on another sequel, Cult of Chucky. “They were cast out of lightweight epoxy, so they were actually really sharp. Rotten Apple Head was a latex and sheet foam construction built over a welded aluminum armature. The tree branch that ‘feeds’ Bruce to the face was manufactured the same way. Even so, both were still so large and bulky that they were a challenge to puppeteer. The head was actually ‘webbed’ into the doorframe with spandex, so that when the head tried to push in, the spandex would stretch out and then stop the head from getting in any further. Lots of shredded spandex was hung from around the mouth as well.”

“The Rotten Apple Head prop was later used in a local haunted house attraction,” Tapert adds.


5. Henrietta, not a party animal

Though Campbell absorbed most of the splatter classic’s abuse, Raimi’s younger brother Ted endured tortures of his own playing the possessed Henrietta. It took the actor as long as six hours to get suited up, and Raimi sweated buckets of sweat for his demonic shenanigans. “In Wadesboro, all of the effects guys would throw a party once in a while in the house they rented there,” recalls Ted Raimi. “All of them, Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero and Bob Kurtzman, were very fun and super funny guys, so the parties were something to go to. One night after work, I went to the party with Bruce. I walked into the living room ready to start drinking, but being so exhausted from Henrietta’s makeup, I only managed to crawl behind a couch and fall asleep without even one sip of beer. That’s how hard I partied.”


6. Co-writer Scott Spiegel almost played redneck Jake

Long-time buddy Scott Spiegel, who co-wrote Evil Dead II, sometimes cameos in Raimi’s movies (including Darkman and Spider-Man). He almost nabbed a meatier role in Evil Dead II too. “Sam Raimi had me audition for the role of Jake,” says Spiegel, who also penned Clint Eastwood’s The Rookie. “I was seated next to Danny Hicks in the casting waiting room, and we struck up a conversation. Danny eventually got the role. However, I did get to be a knight in armor at the end. In fact, at the very end of the film, just before it cuts to black and the end credits roll, when the two knights thrust their silver gloved fists into frame blocking it out, that’s my fist on the right side of the frame. Sam Raimi’s fist is on the left side.”


7. Two famous genre voices might have opened the film

“Sam Raimi and I wrote the opening narration for legendary voiceover artist Paul Frees [Disney Haunted Mansion narrator; original War of the Worlds and The Time Machine], but he died before we started filming,” notes Spiegel, currently prepping to direct Zombie Wedding. “So then we wanted Christopher Lee to narrate, but he was too expensive. The late John Peakes, who played Professor Knowby in Evil Dead II, did the opening narration instead.”


8. And a future Oscar winner nearly landed a lead role

“While writing Evil Dead II, our roommate, Holly Hunter, showed Sam, Fran McDormand and me the awesome slasher film The Burning in which she co-starred,” recalls Spiegel of the future Oscar winner for The Piano. “Sam and I wrote the role of Bobby Joe for Holly, but producer Rob Tapert was more interested in Kassie Wesley [DePaiva] for the part.”


9. Naked fat ladies were hard to find

Professor Knowby’s late wife does not stay buried in the fruit cellar for long, much to Ash’s chagrin. FX designer and creator Mark Shostrom recounts the heavy hag’s offbeat research process: “I originally conceived of Henrietta as a skinny corpse, with ribs and hip bones showing through. When Sam cast his muscular brother Ted in the part, I had to go with a really fat look so I could sculpt down into the flesh and still expose the bones a bit. That meant I needed reference photos of fat, naked women. I suppose today there are porn sites devoted to such things, but back in 1986, it proved nearly impossible to find photos. I sent 17-year-old Aaron Sims on the hunt. ‘Find me pictures of naked, fat women—and don’t come back without them!’ I instructed him.

“Poor Aaron returned at day’s end, after going to every bookstore in Pasadena,” Shostrom continues. “He sheepishly showed me his find—a single greeting card with an obese woman jumping out of a cake. Aaron looked at me like I was going to fire him. I just laughed. Luckily, I found a book in my reference library by Czech photographer Jan Saudek. He had some erotic photos which worked fine for what I needed.”


10. Double the Bruce

Tom Sullivan, who created The Evil Dead’s goriest bits and its infamous Book of the Dead prop, returned to contribute to the sequel’s visual FX magic. Sullivan reported to an abandoned Wadesboro high school, which the film company retrofitted as a soundstage to host the cabin set, inside and out. The FX artist recalls a funny episode at the location. “Bruce had a weight lifting room across from my art department and next to the men’s bathroom,” Sullivan says. “I went to the bathroom and in came Bruce dressed up like Ash. I was chatting with him and suddenly realized why he was so quiet. It was Bruce’s body double for the mirror scene!”


11. Raimi drove the FX guys crazy

Evil Dead II turned out to be a dream job for a small army of young makeup FX artists, who toiled for a marathon six months in North Carolina to bring Raimi’s nightmares to life. “Evil Dead II was a difficult shoot for many reasons,” says crew coordinator Greg Nicotero, now a producer, director and FX ace on The Walking Dead. “Sam Raimi is a very imaginative director, so imaginative that he’d say to us, ‘That’s great, but can it do this?’ That’s OK, but the effect might not have been built to do that!”


12. The big and small of it

Various techniques brought one character’s dance of death to life. “The trees on the miniature cabin set that Linda’s corpse puppet dances on were about 3 feet tall,” notes Gardner. “The tops of the trees were loose balls of fishing line, sprayed with glue, and the leaves were tinted oatmeal. The fishing line ball was painted, sprayed with glue, rolled in the dyed oatmeal, and then attached to the top of the tree.”


13. Here’s blood in your eye

As a producer on the film, lead Campbell had no one to blame but himself for tackling most of Evil Dead II’s most dangerous gags without the benefit of a stuntman. In his memoir If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, the star discloses one particularly wet and sticky incident: “Above me, a 55-gallon drum of fake blood was mounted—with a bathtub-sized plug. The idea was to pull the plug and I’d get hit full force [with the bloody torrent]. I lived to tell the tale, but every time I blew my nose for the next two weeks, the snot was bright red.”

Read more about this splatstick classic in The Evil Dead Companion by Bill Warren. For an autobiography of its hapless hero, check out Campbell’s If Chins Could Kill. Get your Deadite out over on our Facebook page or Twitter using #Friday13.

Tony Timpone previewed genre highlights at this spring’s Tribeca Film Festival here.

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