Even though the Panic Attack! feature-length project stalled, Sam Raimi's fondness for Fede Alvarez inspired him to give the young filmmaker an even riskier assignment.
Rob Tapert: "We were getting serious about doing [an Evil Dead remake] as we saw remake after remake come out that we didn't think was as good as the original material. Still, [Evil Dead] was never really going to happen until a project that Panic Attack! started to crumble and Sam said, 'Oh, I like him. Let's get him involved in the Evil Dead remake.'
"We knew that it was something that needed a vision from the start. We talked about trying to find a writer first, and there were names we talked about once we had Fede on. But after his Panic Attack! experience, he convinced us to let him try and write a draft. He felt very strongly that he and his partner, Rodo, would do a great job. They found a very simple hook for why people would go to the cabin that's very this century instead of last century. It wasn't a situation anymore where people were going to a cabin to party down; they were going to have an intervention. He had the right take for a very simple story.
"In the beginning, I thought there were so many roadblocks, and I thought that Sam would be reticent to let it go, but, oddly enough, Sam [pictured above, right, alongside Bruce Campbell during their original Evil Dead days] was the one who was the most eager to do a remake out of all of us. Bruce had a much closer relationship to the fandom, so he didn't want to see somebody try to recreate the character of Ash, which is all we could conceive of. He thought people would hate that, and he didn't really want to see that."
Bruce Campbell: "I was fine with a new Evil Dead if Sam was good. Rob and I never pressured Sam. The word 'remake' was never really in our vocabulary, mostly because we always talked about doing another straight-up sequel. A remake was a whole new concept that came up between Sam and Fede while Fede was pitching some ideas. And then we thought, 'Well, we might be able to accomplish both things. We can leave some wiggle room to allow the Ash character to show up in a new story, but let's give the Evil Dead fans what they want, which is another Evil Dead movie.'
"I don't even call this a "remake"—I prefer to just call this a "new Evil Dead movie." I hate all of those labels. It's another Evil Dead movie that doesn't have the Ash character and has a completely different story. We were really glad when Fede didn't pitch [a new version of Ash]. He pitched us a non-Ash story and that made us more interested ourselves. That was definitely a selling point to us. It's a great thing because, this way, audiences who don't know the older Evil Dead won't even know the difference and audiences who love those movies will appreciate the fact that we're saving Ash for our own series.
"I didn't interact with Fede during the Panic Attack! period. I got to know Fede when he was stuck in Miami. I was in Miami shooting Burn Notice, and Fede was supposed to fly back to Uruguay but there was a volcano that went off in Peru and he was stranded here for four days. So I put him up here at my house and took him to the Burn Notice set to show him how American television is shot, and as a filmmaker I think he was mortified by how fast we do this. We did three different locations and five different scenes all in one day. It was a ridiculous say of shooting. But that's when I got to know him. We rode bikes and lived the Floridian life for a few days.
"And then we spent a lot of time together during the casting process. I got to see how he worked with actors, and that was a big relief. There's a lot of directors who don't know what to say to actors to motivate them and get good performances out of them. Fede was able to do that during the casting period, and that's when I said, 'OK, we're good.' And then I got involved in the post-production process because Burn Notice was done. I had to sort of work around my Burn Notice day job.
"It was important for me to work closely with him throughout the whole process. We're the producers—our names are on this film. We wanted fans to know that we were totally onboard with everything surrounding this project. The first three movies were very hand-made; they were not made by anybody else but the three of us. So for this Evil Dead, we wanted to make sure that the fans got what we felt they deserve, which is as much as we could possibly give them."