This is an interview conducted with Ted Raimi over one phonecall; on March 21, 2013. You can listen to the raw audio recording of the interview below, or read the edited & formatted transcription further down.
Most famously playing the role of Possessed Henrietta in Evil Dead II, Ted also had small parts in numerous Super-8 productions, including Six Months to Live, Torro, Torro Torro!, Stryker's War and as Milton's younger brother Bradley in It's Murder!, as well as playing the Cowardly Warrior, Second Supportive Villager & S-Mart Clerk roles in Army Of Darkness, and a string of other well known titles including Crimewave, Intruder, Hercules & Xena as the comical wanna-be warrior Joxer.
Ted Raimi relaxing in Wadesboro, North Carolina, while working on Evil Dead II (1986)
What are the earliest memories you have, of you and Sam making Super-8 movies together, and then later with a larger group?
My first memories were those of any younger brother watching his older brother, as he and his pals leave the house. They were able to drive away, which left me thinking "I'm too young to do that, but man, would I like that kind of freedom!". Instead of going out and doing what 16 year old kids do; partying & drinking, they would go out and make their movies. I was always asking to come with them, I didn't really understand about movie making at eight years old, but I did understand that they were doing something really fun, so I would tag along whenever I could.
I think a little brother tagging along with a Big Brother is rare, and the only reason I was allowed to at first was because Scott Spiegel, Bruce Campbell, John Cameron, Tim Quill and those guys liked me even though I was this just bearable little eight-year-old kid. As time passed I started to help them, mostly as a background extra.
I do remember shooting You Nazi Spy; a World War II drama-comedy, in which I played a moustached guard. This was because they were so low on people, which was absurd at my age, but a lot of fun. So that was really my introduction into it. It was really less about wanting to make movies, and more about it being a great excuse to get out of the house. Because of that, I wound up liking the acting gig, realising it was something could do.
Ted making an early appearance in the background as a moustached guard in You Nazi Spy (1976)
It's Murder poster (1978)
Moving on to It's Murder, in which you played Bradley when you were 12. What are your memories of that role, and whose idea was it to incorporate your cello skills into the production?
Yes that's right, I'd just started taking cello lessons then. I was only a first year student at that point, so still quite bad. If I'm not mistaken it was Scotty Spiegel's idea, to have this horrible brace faced kid playing a cello when Scotty's character first comes in.
Ted as Bradley in It's Murder (1978)
Ted playing the cello in It's Murder (1978)
I'm a much better cellist now than I was then though. I think I helped here and there over a few more days, but that role was just about all I did on It's Murder.
In Within The Woods you're credited as a crew member, what did you do on that?
I was a catering assistant, and that's really giving a broad stroke to something that was really more like maintaining the kitchen in this little farmhouse in the middle of Michigan. David Goodman was the caterer, and I would help him by organising the kitchen, putting snacks out, all that kind of crap. I was only about 12 years old then, but it was a good introduction to the business. It was a great advantage because years later when I started to act professionally at 16, I had a big head start. I really have Sam, Bruce & Rob to thank for that.
By default you were around when Book Of The Dead was first coming about, did you ever take any interest in it?
It wasn't a matter of being interested or disinterested, I simply wasn't a part of that movie initially. At that point I was a kid in middle school kid and I wasn't needed in any production or any acting sense, that was strictly Sam, Rob, & Bruce's picture.
Ted pictured in the main room of the Tennessee cabin location for The Evil Dead (1979)
Josh Becker's Evil Dead journal mentions you being in Tennessee on the 23 December 1979, do you remember this?
I certainly do, I'd just turned 14. I flew down there on my parents dime. My dad thought it would be a good idea for me to see a working film set, as well as checking my brother was alright because he was probably working pretty hard. I was really expecting warm weather coming from ice cold Michigan, but I remember getting off the plane and it was absolutley freezing!
Bruce Campbell & Ellen Sandwiess on-set in the cabin location in The Evil Dead (1979)
I went straight to the house where everyone was staying. Now you have to remember that these are a bunch of 18 to 22 year-olds with absolutely no idea how to take care of themselves, much less take care of anything else in their life, maybe thirteen people all living together in this really small house. The whole place really stunk! There were garbage cans overflowing, five-day-old dishes piled up in the sink, it was a total disaster! Amidst all that, everybody was working towards making this movie, and nobody seemed to be bothered by the fact that they were all jammed into this tiny little space, sleeping in sleeping bags and on the floor. It was like a little beehive, with food coming in, people walking back and forth at all hours trying their hardest to get this movie made.
Again I helped out David Goodman with the catering, helping him organise the food and bringing it to the set. I would walk that long long trip from the house to the cabin. It was a really strange journey through these these dark woods in the middle of winter. Inside the cabin there were tons of lights, generators going on, a lot of activity with all these young twenty-somethings completely wired out of their mind on coffee and caffeine pills, trying to stay awake. Within that there were blood effects, and I remember a couple of the girls reaching the 'latex point' after being in the make-up for too long. I tsked at the time but as I got older and did that myself, I realised that that was really one of the hardest things that you could do as an actor, to be in all that make-up and not go crazy.
It was really fun, crazy experience. Such things are repeated all the time but this was a truly unique experience. Most kids today will just go to film school, but this was a time when film making was still considered a trade and not an art, and a trade can be learned like plumbing, in that if you get under the sink long for enough, and just fiddle round enough, then eventually you'll probably figure out how to be plumber. Back in those days, nobody went to film school, you just made the best film that you could with all the money you could possibly muster.
Bruce, Ellen, Sam and others, working away in their production house in The Evil Dead (1979)
You were credited as a Fake Shemp in The Evil Dead, with your legs doubling for Scotty's in one shot in the movie, and possessed Cheryl's hands bursting out of the trapdoor in another?
Yeah that's right. There was a couple of things that I did that I don't think anybody but a young teenager like myself would have done. I crawled underneath the cabin, with dirt, plywood, rusty nails, all kinds of crap, to have my hands flying out to the floorboards at Bruce's face. We found that as the floorboards were so hard, they had to be scored to allow me to punch through. Dart used a skill saw to cut a star shape into the wood, so when my hands come bursting through it would splinter. Unfortunately I was so stuck underneath that cabin, that there wasn't time to have me crawl back out, so as Dart made the cuts, I could see the blade moving, maybe three or four inches from my eyes!
Ted doubling for Rich DeManincor's legs in The Evil Dead (1979)
Ted punching through the floorboards in The Evil Dead (1979)
I think it was two or three takes, before I was actually able to punch through and grab Bruce's face. I was so jacked up trying to get through those boards that I grabbed Bruce's face way too hard! I just couldn't feel anything, I was just so numb from the cold, and slamming my knuckles against that wood.
Being a young age you were, were you are allowed to attend the première given the violence that was in it, and did your parents have any qualms about the final picture?
No, my parents had no problems in letting you watch that picture, and by the time the movie came out in late '81 I was nearly 16.
I grew up watching the great violent pictures, although my parents were good about keeping us away from a lot of that stuff. My mother was, and is a great lover of movies. She loved to point things out in classic movies. She knew every actor's name, director's name, writer's name, she was a big fan of all the studios and the kinds of movies they made. I can't speak for Sam, but I know I got my love of acting from her.
Sam & Ted Raimi in front of an early New Line Cinema poster for The Evil Dead (1983)