B-movie legend Bruce Campbell is most noted for his starring turns in the Evil Dead films, and while he does reveal in our interview that a remake of that horror classic “is happening and moving forward,” he currently keeps busiest seven months out of the year costarring as Sam Axe in the series Burn Notice, which will begin its fifth season later this year. The series is a hit, with Campbell stating that viewers just can’t get enough of it.
“What the audience wants is more material,” he says. “They expanded the show from 13 episodes to 16 to 18. But audiences want more. So we’re trying. This is a way. We can at least give them another two hours worth of Burn Notice stuff.”
Campbell is referring to the original movie Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, which premieres April 17 on USA Network. Directed by Campbell’s series costar Jeffrey Donovan and written by Burn Notice creator Matt Nix, the film is a prequel to the series. It is set in 2005, during Axe’s last active mission.
Campbell jokes about playing a slightly younger, and more military, version of Axe, who is a lieutenant commander in the film, compared to the character Burn Notice fans are used to seeing. “I have to stand up straight, darken my hair. … [Sam] is still kind of a joker, but he can be serious because he’s on a mission.”
That mission takes place in Colombia. While advising a local military platoon, Axe discovers deep layers of deception and realizes that he may be allied with the wrong side. When I talked with Campbell, he had just finished filming the movie on location in Bogota.
“It’s a crazy location for a city, and it’s a big city,” he says. “It’s the size of Los Angeles at 8,600 feet in the Andes Mountains. They’ve had their stigma, but I’ll be the first to say that we felt that it was pretty safe.”
Campbell also stayed safe considering the physicality of his role.
“Yeah, man, we’re back at it again. Running and jumping and rolling and shooting; fighting, getting beat up, riding donkeys. I have a fabulous stunt guy who does stuff that the insurance company will not let me do. Other than that, I stay pretty busy doing my own stunts.”
Fans of the Burn Notice series might stay busy themselves looking for references to the show in the movie, and even a few answers to some questions.
“The birth of [Axe’s] pseudonym ‘Chuck Finley’ is revealed in the movie,” says Campbell. “And possibly Sam’s relationship with the CIA is defined in the movie. Let’s just say that it’s not a good relationship. Because in the show, Sam knows everybody; he’s got a buddy in every agency. But he never mentions this thing about the CIA, and now Michael [Donovan’s character on the series], in Season 5, might be getting back in with the CIA, so there could be some issues there.”
Speaking of Donovan, Campbell — who has done some directing himself — discusses having his series costar direct him on this movie.
“He’s a smart guy,” Campbell says. “I didn’t really have to offer that much because he’s a very quick learner. So I look forward to working with him again. He’s a taskmaster. He always envisions it differently than I do, which is not bad. He’s a good out-of-the-box director.”
And should this movie be successful, Campbell thinks that Donovan’s character would be ideal for another Burn Notice film.
“What happened to Michael Westen? How did he get burned? What incidents led up to him getting burned that you could also reveal some amazing stuff? I think they’ve got a whole series of movies that they could do if it’s successful.”