With the screenplay in order, and the production ready to begin, the time had come to find Evil Dead's brave, potential horror-icon-in-the-making leading lady—not the female Ash, but a whole new badass hero.
Fede Alvarez: "Every young actress in Hollywood read for the role of Mia. When I was at SXSW [for the worldwide Evil Dead premiere on March 8], it was amazing because I stayed there for the whole week after the premiere to watch movies—I was watching four movies a day, and having a blast. I'd bump into people I met during the opening night premiere and they'd say, 'Wow, you're still here?' I'd say, 'Of course! I have a film badge and I'm going to use it!' [Laughs.]
"Watching all those movies at SXSW, I noticed that, if there was a young actress in the movie, they read for the Mia character in Evil Dead. A lot of people read for that role and a lot of people wanted it, but Jane Levy [star of the ABC sitcom Suburgatory] did the best job. It's funny, she read for the role, did a great job, left the room, but then came back and apologized because she thought she did such a shitty job. She apologized to Bruce and I, saying that she was embarrassed. That showed us that she very talented but also very humble, and that she was going to be somebody who'd be a trooper during the shooting of the movie."
Bruce Campbell: "We were talking to another actress [Lily Collins, Mirror, Mirror] who thankfully did not do it. Jane just turned out to be right person. There was pressure to use someone who has more of a name than Jane Levy, and we're thankful we didn't go down that road. These movies are special as far as the physical hardships, so you have to cast somebody who's tough. We were fortunate that, A, she can act, and, B, she's tough. She has to play three parts: a junkie, a demon, and a hero. Any one of those would have been plenty for an actor to handle, and she had to do all three."
Fede Alvarez: "Usually with these kinds of movies, the studio has a list of actresses they want you to go after without having them read, and Lily Collins was on that list. She came in, read for the role, and things were looking good, but then she decided she didn't want to do such a crazy horror, genre film."
Bruce Campbell: "I warned all of the actors. I sent them an email to warn them about what was coming, specifically the actors who were going to also play demons. 'Don't party too much, and you're going to have to be the most patient you've ever been because the makeup takes a long time to put on.'
"Everybody talks about how long it takes to put the makeup on, but it also takes an hour to take it off. It's three hours to put this monster shit on and then another to take if off, so that's four hours that you're not even on set, and then you're going to shoot for 12 hours, so welcome to a 16-hour day. It's a combination of physical exertion, acting, and memorizing. This is not My Dinner with Andre—it's just not.
"And Jane was ready for it all. We're all very thankful for Jane Levy—she was sent from heaven to do a story about hell. I just hope she's ready for the iconic stature that can come from a role like this, especially in an Evil Dead movie. I said to her, 'Hey, baby, are you ready to get your face tattooed on people's arms, legs, and asses?' [Laughs.] She gave me this look, like, what are you talking about? I said, 'Yeah, stick around.' I have this collection of about 130 photographs of Evil Dead tattoos, every kind imaginable. I see them every time I go to a convention, which is often."