Don Coscarelli: I wasn’t 100% sure Bruce Campbell would work as Elvis


Don Coscarelli shares memories of making the classic Bubba Ho-Tep with Bruce Campbell in a recent interview. However, he had his doubts after casting the actor as to whether or not he would work as the King of Rock and Roll.

Don Coscarelli has long been one of my personal favorite genre directors. Phantasm is high on my list of the greatest horror films ever made but Bubba Ho-Tep has a special place in my heart.

The story of an aging Elvis Presley getting his mojo back by defeating a soul sucking Egyptian mummy sounds crazy and yet, it works. Coscarelli’s effort turns out to be more than just a B-movie largely in part to his adaptation of Joe Lansdale’s phenomenal original story.

With all the right elements in place, the production would not have worked without the talents of Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. I will admit when I first saw Bubba Ho-Tep, I had to let it sink in.

The more I looked beyond the entertaining ride to the actual underlying themes of aging and the fear of losing relevancy, it became personal.  At some point in our lives we are going to encounter both, it’s inescapable.

Bruce Campbell’s performance as Elvis is riveting. Make no mistake, he may be used to one liners and quips but he can act. He was so believable as the King that you don’t even recognize it is him after a while. It is that total immersion into character that is the driving force behind Coscarelli’s brilliant direction.

In a recent interview with Coming Soon, the director spoke about Campbell’s dedication to the part.

"“I’d like to say that I never really worked with Bruce. He was in character as that aging Elvis for 14 hours a day. It was incredible. I’ll be honest with you: When I cast him, I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was going to work. I got a hint that it could be pretty cool, but to see the final film and the way fans have responded to his performance is nothing short of magic.”"

For anyone that has seen Bubba Ho-Tep, magic is indeed the right word. Hard to believe that Coscarelli wasn’t sure Campbell would work. While he doesn’t resemble Elvis Presley, there is something to be said for his ability to channel him.

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Could someone else have played the King? Probably. Would they have turned in a better performance? Possibly. Here’s the thing, this film is about heart and soul and for my money, Don Coscarelli bet on the actor that could take care of business.

Have you seen Bubba Ho-Tep? What do you think of Bruce Campbell’s performance as Elvis Presley? Feel free to leave your comments in the section below. We want to hear from you.