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SAM'S THE MAN MASTER OF MACABRE SWITCHES GEARS


Posted 02/10/99

The Edmonton Sun
01/17/99
By STEVE TILLEY, EDMONTON SUN
Page SE5 (Express)
GRAPHIC: 2 photos (1) Director Sam Raimi on the set of A Simple Plan with stars Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton. (2) Previously, Raimi was best known for horror flicks like Army of Darkness, which starred Bruce Campbell.

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COMMENTARY
I used to have a major crush on this guy when I was little tyke (Indian Summer, sigh), anyways, here's a whole article about Sam Raimi and how he appears to be becoming a MAINSTREAM movie director. FYI, A Simple Plan was not nominated for an Oscar. This covers a lot of the hostory between Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell.

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   In the worlds of science or philosophy, it could be called Sam Raimi's
paradigm shift.

   The world of Hollywood, however, sometimes has trouble with big words or
tricky concepts. There, it might be easier to say, "Sam's got a new movie out,
and there aren't any evil spirits or zooming cameras in it."

   In the space of one movie, this dimunitive and exceedingly polite filmmaker
has gone from being the master of the shock-a-lock horror cartoon to the " heir
apparent to Alfred Hitchcock," as star Bill Paxton puts it.  

   The film is A Simple Plan, Scott Smith's screen adaptation of his own novel
about a Pandora's box of greed and suspicion that's opened when three men from a
rural midwestern town stumble across a fortune in cash.

   A Simple Plan is considered a dark-horse contender for a best picture Oscar
nomination, and has already made it onto several critics' Top 10 lists for 1998.
It opens in Edmonton this Friday.

   The film's praise has raised many an eyebrow in Hollywood, not because Raimi
is an unknown - the 39-year-old has been making movies since he was in his late
teens - but because of what he's known for.

   When he was 19, Raimi and close friends Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell
scraped together enough cash to film a campy, gory fright flick called The Evil
Dead. At the time of its 1982 release, author Stephen King declared it "the most
ferociously original horror movie I have ever seen."

   Five years later, with only a forgotten film called Crimewave in the interim,
Raimi wrote and directed Evil Dead II, with buddy Campbell returning to play the
hapless anti-hero, Ash. Few flicks in the horror genre have as much of a devoted
cult following.

   Campbell returned for a third Raimi-directed Evil Dead film in 1993. Army of
Darkness sent Ash back in time to once again do battle with the supernatural
Deadites. A classic horror trilogy was born, and Raimi's reputation as a master
of the genre was cemented.

   The thing was, he wanted more.

   His connection to the weird and supernatural has been Raimi's blessing and
curse. He's had a hand in the likes of Darkman, the wild western The Quick and
the Dead with Sharon Stone, the Jean-Claude Van Damme sci-fi flick Time Cop, the
short-lived but lauded TV series American Gothic and the current syndication
super-duo Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.

   Nobody really seemed to think Raimi's signature style was suited for anything
more than oddball films with swooping camera movements and unusual shot angles.

   As Raimi tells it, he was 13th in line to direct A Simple Plan. It turned out
to be his lucky number.

   "Scott Rudin (the film's original producer) said he had about 12 directors in
front of me," remembers Raimi.

   One director after another fell through, and the movie was pushed back.
Finally, five years after he'd first expressed his keen interest in the project,
the reins fell into Raimi's hands.

   Billy Bob Thornton had already been cast as Jacob Mitchell, the older of two
brothers who discover $ 4 million in cash inside a plane wreck deep in the snowy
backwoods near their rural midwestern town.

   Co-stars Paxton as Hank Mitchell, and Bridget Fonda as his wife, were brought
on board and the film finally got off the ground.

   "I've finally gotten to the point where I don't have to write my own
material, I can now choose some of the best material in Hollywood," says Raimi.

   "The only way I could make pictures before was by writing them."

   Energies that would normally go into constructing wild shots and camera
movements instead went into coaxing subtle and powerful performances from his
cast.

   Even before A Simple Plan's release, Raimi's curse seemed to have been
broken. His next feature as director is the Kevin Costner baseball film For Love
of the Game, about an aging pitcher.

   "Now, for some reason, I'm being offered scripts of a higher quality," Raimi
says. "The ones I'm able to make now are of a higher calibre, more about
characters."

   Which is not to say Raimi plans to abandon his roots. He and his brother have
an Evil Dead IV script in the works. Whether or not it will ever see the light
of day remains to be seen, but Raimi is enthusiastic about it.

   "We find (Ash) back at the S-Mart, where he works as assistant manager," says
Raimi.

   "He's gained, like, 70 pounds. I'm going to make Bruce gain 70 pounds for the
role."

   For now, though, Raimi is content to sample the more serious side of
filmmaking.

   "I just want to take advantage of these great, quality scripts," he says.

   "It's like a great course in English literature - you're finally able to read
the good stuff. So I'm trying to read the good stuff for a little while."

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