Bruce Campbell Talks Sam Raimi, Evil Dead and Pizza Poppa’s Backstory

As the superheroes on screen get increasingly larger than life, sometimes it’s the smaller characters that completely steal our hearts and our attention. That was certainly the case with Pizza Poppa, a character played by legendary horror icon Bruce Campbell in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Although he had less than a minute of collective screentime, Pizza Poppa’s impact cannot be denied. He was even the focus of a game at San Diego Comic-Con called Pop-a-Poppa.

To celebrate the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on Blu-ray, Pizza Poppa actor Campbell stopped by to speak with Collider’s own Perri Nemiroff about the backstory he imagined for the character, but also about working with director Sam Raimi, and the legacy of the Evil Dead franchise.


Campbell’s appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness wasn’t his first Marvel experience, as the actor has cameoed in Raimi’s three Spider-Man movies. When asked how the process of making a Marvel movie has changed over the last two decades, and how it has stayed the same, Campbell said:

“A Marvel movie is always tricky if you’re in them, because you never know if you’re going to still be in them. Like if I was Benedict Cumberbatch, I’d be nervous that I was going to be cut out of Doctor Strange, because it’s a big storyline. It’s really a miniseries, all of these movies. They’re not individual movies.

Because I was talking about it, there’s a lot of exposition in Doctor Strange. I mentioned that to someone, and they go, I needed every bit of it. And I never thought of it that way, because I didn’t know the 14 other movies, the chronology. So I see how important it is to people. So people really, I mean, the fans of these Marvel movies, it’s an army of people. If I tweet anything associated with it, like I should just wake up in the morning, go “Marvel,” with a picture of myself and people, they go crazy. Because there’s so many fans of Marvel. The Evil Dead movies have a good low, strong pulse of a fandom. But you know, they’re small and humble. Marvel is massive. It’s amazing. They’ve really sustained it to for 20 years now, since Spidey, the original Spider-Man. It’s a stunning run.”

RELATED: Justice for Pizza Poppa: ‘Doctor Strange 2’s Working Class Hero Reveals the Real Villain of the MCU

When asked about how the character of Pizza Poppa evolved specifically, Campbell said that the character was always envisioned as some kind of street vendor. But when it came to comparing the original pitch to the final product, he added:

“It always changes with Sam, because whatever’s on the written page doesn’t really hold water when you actually go to shoot. Because he’ll see it, and then he’ll go “Okay. All right. Yeah, you’re not gonna say that anymore. Let’s just try that, say this.” It’s very fluid, which is great. It’s a great way to work. Because some writers don’t change a word. And some writers are really, really uptight. And some directors are nervous that they’ll get yelled at if you want to fool around a little bit. Sam throws it all out the window when you show up to work.”

But because it’s a Marvel movie, and everyone in a Marvel movie has a backstory, even when it’s just in the actor’s head. Nemiroff asked Campbell what he envisioned for Pizza Poppa’s backstory. Campbell jokingly suggested there might be more to the character than meets the eye:

“I can’t talk about a lot of it. But if you think he’s just the pizza guy, you are so gravely mistaken. Okay? It’s a character that’s special interloper. He’s an interloper between universes. There was a reason why he delayed Doctor Strange for about 45 seconds, did he not? He delayed him. He did not go further down the street. You can put into it whatever you want. I know for a fact he saved Doctor Strange’s life for a reason. So he’s put there for a reason and it’s not because he’s a pizza vendor. He’s not just going to be what I call P Squared.”

Campbell had a lot of good things to say about his longtime friend and collaborator Raimi, who it’s clear he has a great deal of respect for. In considering the parts of Raimi’s process that have remained the same, and the things that surprise him after all this time, Campbell said:

“Sam, he’s a technically literate director. Like he read the American Cinematographers Manual. And nobody reads that crap. Aperture settings, and frame rates, and exposures and all that. He sort of looked at it like a magician, so what are the tools that I have of this camera here? Like, what can that Canon camera do? And I think we would all know about 10% of what that camera can do. Sam would learn 100% of what that camera can do, and he would make it roll over and bark.

We did Army of Darkness, and we had a scene where — it was not in the finished movie — I had to hit like 12 different marks on the floor without looking at them. The camera was doing crazy readjustments everywhere I went and at the very end, it ended on an extreme closeup of my ear. I was taking pity on myself like I’m really I’m working, I’m really earning my pay. I look over at the guy who was pulling focus. He was pouring sweat, because he goes, “This movie is killing me.” He goes “Every trick I’ve ever learned on any shoot I’ve had to use in like, the last three weeks on this movie,” because of how demanding Sam is, and it has to work. I mean, that that was one uncut, fluid shot. It had to work. It had to be in focus. And this guy, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I mean, he was like twitching, trying to make sure that final close up worked. So that’s how he works. He’s very demanding. But he’s a blast to watch.”

As much as Pizza Poppa has stolen everyone’s hearts, Campbell is definitely best known for playing Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise. He most recently played the role for three seasons on Ash Vs. the Evil Dead, which he remains very proud of, even though he admits poor ratings played a part in the show’s cancellation. He said part of the reason for that rested on the fact that when it was airing, not many people had access to it on Starz, and it was only once it hit Netflix that it began to gain a following.

When it comes to continuing Ash’s story, however, given that Season 3 ended on a cliffhanger, Campbell suggested that the best way to do it would be in animation:

“You can do the future a lot easier in animation. I still sound like Ash, and you know, my voice hasn’t been as beat up as my body has been, so I can still do that crap. So I’ll still do the video game. And we’re already talking about an animated [series].”

While he said they’re considering the idea of an animated project, Evil Dead Rise, a new film set in the Evil Dead universe directed by Lee Cronin is set to release this October. Campbell said that this film stands completely on its own, and praised Cronin for trying his own thing rather than trying to imitate Raimi’s style. As for whether we can expect him to cameo in this one? Campbell says to listen for a priest’s voice being played back on a record.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is available on Blu-ray on July 26.

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