As updated as the new EVIL DEAD is, there is one element to the über-gory tale from director Fede Alvarez that struck me as particularly clever and a great nod to the original Sam Raimi early-'80s version. Take a close look at what actor Lou Taylor Pucci is up to in the latest take on the cabin-in-the-woods tale of demons in the woods and under the floorboards. He plays the character of Eric, the dummy who actually dares to open and read from the Book of the Dead. And as soon as you see him, fans of the original film will know what I'm talking about—the oversized glasses, the long stringy hair, the flannel shirt, and he might even be wearing corduroy pants, but I couldn't swear to it.
As played by Pucci, Eric is a throwback, and acknowledgment of the film's origins. He looks like he was yanked right out of the early '80s and dropped in this movie. At least that's what I thought, and when I got a chance to sit down with Pucci at the SXSW Film Festval last month, I was happy to have my theory confirmed.
The funny thing about this particular interview was that I wasn't scheduled to do it. As you may have read in the preface to Quint's Bruce Campbell interview, he inadvertently snaked my Campbell interview, and the kind publicists handled the interview schedule felt so bad about the scheduling snafu that they asked me if there was anybody else I might like to talk to. Being a fan, I asked for Pucci (that and Quint had already scheduled interviews with Alvarez and co-star Jane Levy).
Pucci is probably the most seasoned cast member in EVIL DEAD, being something of an indie film prince with roles in such works as THUMBSUCKER, THE CHUMSCRUBBER, Richard Kelly's SOUTHLAND TALES, Richard Linklater's FAST FOOD NATION, Mark Weber's EXPLICIT ILLS, and THE AMATEURS. He continued in slightly higher-profile films like BEGINNERS, THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, and last year's JACK AND DIANE. But with commitment to introspective indie films, why would Pucci step into a studio horror film, let alone a remake of a film he greatly admires? Let's ask him, shall we? Please enjoy my talk with Lou Taylor Pucci…
Capone: It’s nice to meet you.
Lou Taylor Pucci: What's up? Nice to meet you. What’s you’re last name again, Prokopy? What is that?
Capone: Yeah, it’s Czech.
Lou Taylor Pucci: Got it.
Capone: Everything I’ve seen you in up to this point has been smaller, contemplative, mostly indie films. How did you get pulled into this?
LTP: The coolest way ever. As an actor going to Los Angeles and starting to live there is sort of an investment. That’s how I looked at it, and some things you just aren’t going to get the job if you don’t live there, and I would not have gotten this job if I didn’t live there. So I feel like I did the right thing and my investment worked. It was pilot season of last year, and this audition came up, and I was like “ Oh no. I’m not auditioning for this. This is just stupid. Why would they remake EVIL DEAD? This is a terrible idea.”
Capone: So you loved the original?
LTP: I was totally against it. I loved EVIL DEAD so much from when I was 15 years old when I first watched it to when I showed one of my best friends all three of them in a row and had a marathon, many times. So with EVIL DEAD coming up, I was like “They can’t remake this movie. Who would do that?” Then I started to slowly realize things about it. Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were behind it, and I was like “That’s cool.” And when they wanted me to audition, I said “No” to my reps. I’m like, “I just don’t want to be a part of that. It just seems like a stupid idea. Why would I want to be in a bad version of something perfect?” They said, “Try it.”
I really didn’t want to, but I went into the first audition, and it just sucked. I was terrible. It was one of those scenes where I’m sitting on that trap door, and she’s supposed to be making the trap door jump, and that’s the scene at the audition, it’s me just freaking out. So it was terrible. You don’t feel like you’re acting. In fact, one of the notes was like, “Can you just say it as fast as you can?” You’re like “Oh god! This is so not fun right now.” [laughs]
But I got a callback and I found out basically that it was the casting directors who liked me so much and pitched them and were like, “Lou is good. Try him.” I somehow got the callback and I found out, “I’m going to go get to meet Bruce Campbell at the callback? I am going!” So I went to go meet Bruce Campbell at the callback, and it was the coolest fucking thing in the world. So just saying hello and being in that room with all of them was the most badass thing. I couldn’t believe I got it. Three days later I found out I got it, and it was just impossible. It was like a dream come true, because as it was going on I was learning more about it and I realized they were doing things practically, and that was my biggest thing. I literally thought in my head, “If I go to this second audition, I want to go to the director and say, ‘If you put CGI in this movie, I’m going to kill you.'” But he didn’t, without me even saying anything. It’s true, he knew what it really needed. Fede has good taste and a good eye for what people want.
Capone: As a fan of the original, there are certainly a lot that has been changed, characters are different and yet share similar qualities to some of the people in the original. What did you like about what they changed? Or did you like it because they changed it and didn't try and copy something, as you said, perfect?
LTP: I really liked that they changed it. I loved that they did not have a Bruce Campbell character. That was the main love of the whole idea was that it was going to be a heroine instead of a hero, and the heroine was on heroin, and this trip is her detox.
Capone: You’re blowing my mind.
LTP: I know! But the detox idea was such a good one, and it made so much logical sense that I could see that they really cared about the idea, the thought behind it.
Capone: It was a good idea. It makes her mind vulnerable to attack.
LTP: Right. And why would we not let her out? If someone was seeing things, why would that not be unusual? It’s because she’s detoxing. It filled in all of the gaps and the holes. It was nice. It was really cool to have somebody care about why we were there, and the whole thing gains a little bit of sincerity.
Capone: What’s funny about your character in particular is that you are the only one who looks like you were pulled right out of the time period of the original with those giant glasses.
LTP: You know what’s really funny? I have a really thin head, and so I had to wear child-sized glasses, and they had to build those glasses for me. But I asked for those specifically, and Fede was on board with the glasses. They were not on board with the beard and long hair, but I fought for it, and they came to see that it was a good idea.
Capone: Why did you want that look?
LTP: Because not only is it different, but nobody looks like that as main characters in any movie nowadays, unless you’re playing a dirt bag. And honestly, I’m a very all-around human like, “Let’s share all of humanity with the world.” You know what I mean? “You should be a fat main character. Do something different.” It’s like that show "Girls" or something pushing the envelope with, “You don’t have to be all pretty.” Honestly that was my main reason, but then as it went on, I was like, “This is just too perfect as an homage to the original, which was made in 1981, but had that '70s vibe to the whole thing.” So I wanted that. I wanted to have that homage all to myself, without doing anything.
Capone: That’s funny you say that, because that’s exactly what the connection was in my head, that you were like this man out of time.
LTP: Exactly. I’m really happy that they liked it and that they let me do that, although it was the worst idea, because having that blood in my beard every day was the worst fucking thing in the world, just pulling out your beard hair every day.
Capone: What did you think about the stepping up of the brutality and the gore?
LTP: Thank god.
Capone: I don’t think I’ve ever seen an R-rated film like this.
LTP: I can’t believe it’s R rated. I'm so happy about that.
Capone: I’m sure they had to cut something at some point.
LTP: They did. They cut some stuff. I believe most of it was shortening things so that you’re not just staring at her cutting her arm off for a long time. I think that they had really intensely awkward lengths with some of those scenes, so they cut them down for the R rating, I guess.
Capone: There was a woman sitting behind me who was screaming at all the right places, but it was your… I won’t say what happens, but you know the scene I’m talking about. It's your biggest like scare moment.
LTP: The bathroom scene?
Capone: That's a great one, but I'm talking about the scene where you're suddenly behind someone.
LTP: Oh right, near the end. That's awesome!
Capone: We can talk about this, I guess, because you all get a chance to "turn" in the movie at different points. Tell me about your experience getting that Deadite makeup and the nails and eyes put on?
LTP: I was so happy that I got to be a demon a little bit, oh my god. It was perfect. It was like honestly the most exhausting and painful shit I have ever gone through for a movie. It was so fun, though. In the end, I was counting my blessings every single time we were putting on makeup, because we were not doing CGI. I just couldn’t believe that this was going to have texture, and that’s going to make people squeal.
Capone: That’s what upsets people the most, when it looks real.
LTP: Yeah, it’s that texture. It really is. You can’t get it, at least so far, we haven’t been able to get it from CGI.
Capone: Exactly. All right, man, thanks for sitting down with me.
LTP: Thank you so much.
Capone: What do you have next?
LTP: I’m going to work on a pilot in New Orleans.
Capone: A drama?
LTP: I’ll be starting in two days. Yeah, a one-hour drama.
Capone: Wow. Is there anybody connected to it that we would know?
LTP: Martin [CASINO ROYALE] Campbell is directing it.
Capone: That’s awesome.
LTP: And Ernie Hudson and Patrick Fugit are in it [as are Naveen Andrews and Stephen Lang].
Capone: What’s the name of it?
LTP: It’s called "Reckless," but it’s going to be "Untitled" for a while. I think they're going to look for another title because two other shows are using "Reckless" as well, so…