As we countdown to the Evil Dead franchise returning to our cinemas, we caught up with several key players who were instrumental in cementing the movies as horror classics. Here, we talk with Danny Hicks, aka Evil Dead II's opportunistic hillbilly, Jake...
Starburst: You played Jake in Evil Dead II. How did you come to be involved in the film?
Danny Hicks: I auditioned for the part. I lived in Detroit at the time, and even though I didn't know Sam, Bruce or Robert I got the part. I found out later that they had looked in New York and L.A. and couldn't find the right actor. Detroit was the last stop. If they couldn't find Jake there Sam was going to play the part.
Were you already a fan of the original Evil Dead?
Don't tell anyone, but I didn't see The Evil Dead until five or six years ago.
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have of course gone on to become enormous cult figures since making the Evil Dead trilogy. What was it like working with them?
It was wonderful. I've worked for Sam on several movies and for Bruce on My Name Is Bruce. It’s a hell of a lot of fun working for either one of them. Bruce and I are close friends.
The Evil Dead trilogy is still phenomenally popular today. What do you think might be the key to its lasting success?
I think it’s because Sam is a genius and Bruce is insane. Sam had a perfect vision of the film. He knew exactly what he wanted and he got great performances from his people and the F/X crew were incredible. In the scene where Bruce beats himself up, he almost killed himself. It was awesome!
Do fans still respond to you and your character from the film?
Your most memorable line from Evil Dead II is you loudly repeatedly screaming “Bobby Joe!” into the woods. Do people ever shout that line back at you?
All of the time!
What did you make of Jake's scabby dungarees? Did you keep hold of them after the film?
I thought they were great. They were perfect for Jake. They helped to define the character. In fact they were close to what I wore for the audition.
No. I wish I would have. I don't think I was smart enough to realize how valuable things from the movie would become.
What is your abiding memory from making Evil Dead II?
It was one of the most exciting times of my life. It was my first role in a feature film. The heat. We didn't have to use any fake sweat, that's for sure. The interior shots were done on the inside of an old junior high school gymnasium. The set was two stories high to allow for the cellar. It had to have been 120 degrees inside. But I think the most memorable thing was just how much fun a person can have as an actor. Even though we beat the hell out of each other, it was a blast. After working on Evil Dead 2, feature film work was all I wanted to do. It really changed my life.
What are your thoughts on Evil Dead II and its legacy, all these years later?
I have to say that I am amazed! When we were working on the movie, I don't think anyone had any idea what to expect. I don't think I realized just how big the movie had become until I went to a horror convention. There are a lot of wonderful crazy Evil Dead fans out there, I mean, “I'm gunna get yer face tattooed on my butt” fans. And I love every one of them. I am truly honoured to be a part of it.
The Evil Dead remake is of course due out very soon. Will you be watching it?
I will. I watched the trailer not long ago. It scared the hell out of me!
You've also appeared in small roles in a number of other great films, from Darkman to Spider-Man 2. Which has been your favourite? Do you have any anecdotes from those sets?
I think Darkman was my favourite. I played a one-legged guy named Skippy. This was before CGI so we designed a harness that kept my leg strapped up behind my back. It was very painful hopping around like that all day. People still ask me if I have two legs. Also we spent almost a whole week of shooting killing Skippy but it's not in the movie. Skippy lives. Because of technical problems the whole scene had to be cut. I wasn't very happy about that. In fact, a lot of my role in the film ended up on the cutting room floor. That's Show-Biz. It was also fantastic to work with great actors like Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand.
When we were shooting Maniac Cop, there is a scene where I arrest Bruce's character. I am slamming his head and face into the side of a police van. We must have shot the scene ten or fifteen times. At the end of every take, the director, Bill Lustig, would say "That was perfect. Now let's do it again only harder!" I thought I was going to kill poor Bruce. Come to think of it, I have kind of made a career out of beating the crap out of Campbell!
EVIL DEAD 2 is available on Special Edition Blu-ray from April 15th. EVIL DEAD (2013) opens in UK cinemas April 18th.
Click on the cover below to grab a copy of our EVIL DEAD Issue!