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This history covers the period from the completion of Darkman, and through Army Of Darkness. It draws from many sources, but mainly three books; The Evil Dead Companion by Bill Warren, If Chins Could Kill by Bruce Campbell, and The Unseen Force The Films Of Sam Raimi by John Kenneth Muir. All these books are a must for any Evil Dead fan, and I would highly recommend buying all three of them. The page is split up into three parts; Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.



Pre-Production

Back during production on the original The Evil Dead, Irvin Shapiro had suggested making Evil Dead II. Sam worked on the concept and settled on the idea of a large scale medieval epic set in the year 1300AD, with Deadites, a castle & Ash travelling in time. He wrote a story, then worked with Sheldon Lettich to produce a screenplay. Irvin really liked the idea and took out ads in the trades announcing 'Evil Dead II: Evil Dead and the Army Of Darkness', in 1983. This script was put to one side, but then resurrected a few years later and made as Evil Dead II, although the reduced budget meant that the film had to be scaled back, and the epic medieval setting was predominantly exchanged for the cabin, with it only to be shown at the end.

In 1988 while Universal was dragging it's heels prior to green-lighting Darkman, Renaissance Pictures made a deal with Dino De Laurentiis to make a sequel to Evil Dead II. The original script for Evil Dead II was dusted off, to be adapted into a third film using its partial medieval setting. Scott Spiegel, Bruce Campbell & Sam Raimi all worked on the script at various points, but entire project was put on the back burner once Darkman got the go ahead.

Following Darkman's release, the deal still stood and Army Of Darkness was back on the table. This was somewhat of a step back for Renaissance as the budget was lower than that of Darkman's sixteen million dollars, but this was viewed as a trade-off, as much like their experience on Evil Dead II, Dino didn't interfere with Sam, Bruce & Rob, giving them creative control over the movie, something which was distinctly lacking from Darkman.

Sam & Ivan Raimi began re-writes on the original script over about eight months, working either at Sam's house in Los Angeles or in Ohio, where Ivan worked in a Palmdale ER at the time. There were multiple script drafts, some back at the cabin, while others set entirely in 1300AD. They were drawn by the concept of technology vs the supernatural, putting forward the notion that technology can defeat the supernatural, which was a juxtaposition to the common theme of the supernatural defeating modern technology, in films such as the Star Wars Trilogy. In order to appeal to a wider audience than it's predecessors, Army Of Darkness was guided more in to the adventure & fantasy vein than horror, playing to comedic rather than horrific effect with virtually no gore.


As they continued work on the script into the pre-production period, it became clear that Dino's proposed budget of eight million dollars was going to be too small. At the time, Dino had an ongoing multi-picture deal with Universal, so Dino put Army Of Darkness in to that deal, and the then 50/50 co-financed budget was increased to eleven million dollars, with Dino's primarily foreign investors, and Universal's primarily domestic investors, although the final budget was actually around thirteen million dollars. Knowing what it was worth, Renaissance negotiated to retain England as a territory, while having the option to sell the rights back to Dino if they needed the extra funds. In the end, Sam, Bruce & Rob put around one million dollars of their own money between them back in to the picture to fund some extra elements which Dino believed were unnecessary.


The role of Ash's the leading lady was filled by South African actress Embeth Davidtz, her first role in an American film, and a few years before appearing in Steven Spielberg Schindler's List. Dino was not quite as confident as the guys, but he soon relented when he saw her performance in the dailies. Among the other actors of note; Bridget Fonda has a short cameo role as Linda (The third person to play that role) in the prologue, the Deadites second in command was played by Bill Moseley, who also played 'Choptop' in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, although his role was largely reduced in the final cut of the film, and Super-8 regular Tim Quill also appears as the blacksmith (shaving his head for the role), along with John Cameron as first assistant director, Ted Raimi, Josh Becker, and long list of Fake Shemps.

Sam's popularity was attested to when many of the Darkman crew were re-hired to work on Army Of Darkness, but given the reduced budget took a big pay cut to do it, and still performed excellently. Renaissance also had to hire new crew members they had not worked with previously in order to handle the production's more complex elements such as large sets, complicated special effects, and horses. Most of the actors were members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) union, but many of the crew were not. Initially they looked at shooting at locations out of California, and even scouted locations as far afield as England and Spain, as the further away they were, the less likely they were to be hassled with union pickets. Ultimately they decided to stay within California inside the so called 'Studio Zone' and take that risk, which never materialized in the end, and meant that any production travel & transportation expenses were kept to a minimum.



Production

Principal photography began around in early summer of 1991, and continued for fifty-five days. The shooting schedule was arranged so that the miniatures were shot a month before principal photography began, to allow time for developing & editing, before the footage would be needed for projection at Introvision. While the miniatures were being shot, the production leased a stage in North Hollywood and began shooting the windmill interior set. Once this had been completed, the production changed over to location filming, located in and around the California area. Most of the exterior shooting took place over twenty-seven days in the castle set, which was built on a hill located on a private ranch at the edge of the Mojave Desert, near Acton & Palmdale which is around fifty miles from Los Angeles.


The majority of the action and battle sequences were shot here, and shooting continued through to the end of July 1991. Typically the crew would arrive at 5pm and begin setting up, shooting would start around 9pm and run through to 4:30am as dawn broke, with a one hour lunch break around 11pm. The cast & crew stayed in a hotel nearby in Lancaster. Other shooting sites were also used including Vasquez Rocks, which is located between Palmdale and Los Angeles, Charlton Flats in the Los Angeles National Forest, and Bronson Caverns in Griffith Park, used for the climactic Apocalyptic alternate ending. Further to this, thirty-seven days were spent shooting various sequences on sound stages.


Given that the majority of the movie takes place at night, and they were shooting around the equinox point, when the days are longest and the nights are shortest, each day's shooting schedule was very tight. A lighting setup could take an hour and a half, leaving only around six hours of actual shooting time before dawn, sometimes involving elements such as horses and complex makeup & special effects. A mid-summer shoot presented the production with other problems such as the weather. The days were extremely hot, and the nights were freezing. Most of the cast were dressed in heavy clothing or wool which made the daytime shoots quite uncomfortable.

Bruce was required to competently ride a horse for his role, so took riding lessons using a horse called Buster (which he sometimes acrimoniously referred to as 'the Widowmaker') but they didn't go particularly well, and Bruce never did learn to ride properly. He also took fighting lessons, which included hand-to-hand combat as well as weapons such as staffs and swords. Although the shoot was not as gruelling as it's predecessors, Bruce still had some difficult moments. One infamous story often told; Bruce cut his face on a piece of his armour as he flipped a stuntman while shooting the castle staircase sword fight. Upon arriving in the local emergency room in full makeup, the surgeon that gave him stitches had to be assured that he really only had been cut once. Given the number of fake cuts on his face already, one more or less didn't really effect continuity, and the production continued as before.


Another incident of note didn't pass off quite so smoothly. While shooting the opening sequence in a gravel pit, the Delta 88 Oldsmobile had to be suspended out of shot via a crane up on the cliff, in order to drop in behind Ash as if having fallen out of the 'Rift'. Unfortunately, before shooting started the crane became unsteady and tipped over the cliff edge, crashing into the gravel pit below. Luckily the crane operator had jumped clear and there was no one below, so nobody was actually hurt, but incidents like this served to eat away at the very tight budget.



Post-Production

Once they had completed exterior shooting, the production re-located to the Introvision International Inc stages in west Hollywood for seven weeks, where they could begin the Introvision process and Pete Kleinow could start work on the stop-motion animation sequences. Introvision is a variation on the standard rear-screen projection process, allowing a background with additional foreground elements which an live actor can interact with. A good example of this was combining live fighting with previously shot stop-motion skeletons.

Principal photography for the movie took a total of 111 days from start to finish, and was completed in autumn 1991. The original production schedule was to finish shooting on the Introvision stages, then two more weeks of location work before wrapping. Because everyone on the shoot was exhausted, instead they opted for a short break upon completion at Introvision in mid-September to so they could assemble a rough cut and then regroup in November. The ability to edit a rough version of the film also gave Sam a clear list of any missing pick-up & insert shots that would be needed. The editing process became a battle between Renaissance and Dino & Universal. Contractually, they had the final cut so could arbitrarily demand editing changes where they & their focus groups & test screening audiences saw fit. They required that everything unrelated to the central plot was trimmed back. This included a new introduction, changing the apocalyptic ending to something more heroic, and editing the running time from the then 96 minutes, down to a prospective 81 minutes. This meant sections had to be re-shot along with entirely new footage, and removing around 15 minutes of the end battle sequence.

Around a month after principal photography had wrapped, a list of revised and entirely new sequences were shot. While working on the main body of shooting a number of scenes were dropped to balance the budget with the hope of working them in to the reshoots. Sam had hoped to shoot for two more weeks in January 1992 in addition to the two weeks planned in November, but financial constraints meant this was not possible. Unfortunately, some of those missing scenes contained vital plot points, and as the script was so linear it proved difficult to edit the film in to a form that made total sense from from beginning to end. Revised scenes we hastily written to be included with the November re-shoots and other scenes already shot had to be removed so the film could at least be edited in to a releasable form.



The production returned to Bronson Caves to re-shoot Henry the Red being captured & some battle pickup shots, portions of Ash's time in the windmill were shot in Santa Monica, areas in the hills north of Glendale were used for Ash's tumble into a puddle, as well as the new introduction sequence featuring Bridget Fonda, The omitted temple ruins sequence was replaced with a scene in which Ash kills the possessed witch played by Patricia Tallman, and the revised heroic ending was shot in a Malibu lumber store over four nights. The S-Mart prologue had already been shot as was in the script from the start so they already had most of the set design & character costumes worked out, but that original location was unavailable so they had to shoot elsewhere. The budget for the re-shoots was tiny in comparison to the main bulk of shooting, usually with a crew of just five to eight people.


Jo LoDuca was brought on board to score the majority of the picture, and Darkman's composer Danny Elfman composed the 'March of the Dead' theme. The completed film was then handed over to Universal, and slated for a summer 1992 release. Unfortunately, litigation arose between Dino De Laurentiis and Universal over sequel rights to the character of Hannibal Lecter, something which Dino owned having made the the first film in the series; Manhunt. This lead to a frosty relationship between the two companies. Army Of Darkness became a leverage in the situation, with Universal holding back three million dollars of funding and dropping the film from their release schedules while the lawyers battled it out. This state of affairs continued for around six months until the matter was finally resolved.

In order to appeal to the widest possible audience, Universal decided to drop any mention of Evil Dead from the the prospective title of Evil Dead 3: Army Of Darkness, or The Medieval Dead which Sam preferred, and reduce it to just Army Of Darkness to allow it to stand as it's own film rather than being tagged as a cult sequel. Universal desperately wanted a 'PG-13' rating, given that their target audience was primarily teenagers, but the MPAA gave the film an 'R' rating. Various parties involved attempted to tone down the film, re-submitting it a number of times, but still couldn't pass as 'PG-13'. Having exhausted every avenue, Universal just decided to stick with the original version and take the 'R' rating.

Universal ran the advertising campaign, and Army Of Darkness was finally released in US theatres in February 1993, followed shortly after with various foreign releases spread over May, June & July. The version which was theatrically released actually ran at a slightly longer 87 minutes, although neither Renaissance nor Universal were totally satisfied with the final cut. At the US box office, the movie performed quite poorly, with many fans feeling somewhat disappointed with the horror comedy & adventure tone the trilogy had taken, and the combination of genres leaving the wider audience confused, not knowing how to take the film. Overseas and on home video however, the film did quite well.

This was to be the final outing for the character of Ashly J. Williams, although subsequent, and fairly constant speculation of a sequel, or more recently a remake, has unfortunately not come to fruition as of yet. Following his role, Bruce went from strength to strength, with many subsequent high profile acting roles in a varied range of film and TV productions, and much the same can be said of Rob in his role as producer. The film's box office receipts none withstanding, Sam was well on his way to becoming a Hollywood director, having taken the helm of a number of big budget productions recent years, such as The Quick And The Dead, A Simple Plan and the lucrative Spiderman franchise.
 
 
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