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Bruce Campbell Has An Interesting Set Of Rules For His Sam Raimi Cameos

Actor-producer-director Bruce Campbell and director-producer Sam Raimi, his friend since high school, go together like bloody peas and gore-splattered carrots. Back in the early '80s, the twosome teamed up to make the first installment in the now-iconic "Evil Dead" horror franchise. "The Evil Dead" spawned two sequels, one three-season TV series, one reboot film, and an upcoming non-linear sequel; to say their partnership has auspicious roots is putting it mildly. 

Per IMDb, Campbell frequently appears in Raimi's other non-"Evil Dead" projects. Whether he's Darkman's newest face, a nearly-invisible wedding guest in "The Quick and the Dead," or a Winkie Guard in "Oz: The Great and Powerful," Campbell's cameos in Raimi's work are nothing if not memorable stand-outs. Sometimes the actor even ends up essaying larger supporting roles in Raimi's non-"Evil Dead" productions, such as the part of antagonist Renaldo the Heel in "Crimewave."

The tradition continues in Raimi's most recent feature, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." In the MCU sequel, Campbell portrays a street vendor named Pizza Poppa, a native of Earth-838. Pizza Poppa pays dearly for behaving rudely toward Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who enchants his hand, cursed to punch himself right in the mush for three weeks straight. The movie checks back in with the character during its post-credits scene. There, the spell finally wears off and, with a look of relief and joy, the character delivers the film's final line — "It's over!" – before it cuts to black.

With so many Raimi cameos under his belt, one might wonder what, if any, caveats Campbell has when it comes to showing up in his friend's movies. It turns out he has a couple of rules when it comes to these minor roles.

Campbell's characters must be 'pivotal' and antagonistic

In a May interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bruce Campbell revealed that his biggest request when it comes to a cameo in a Sam Raimi movie is that his character must be important to the plot. "You know, the only criteria I ever need is that the character has to be pivotal," he told THR. When one considers the cameos Campbell has made in Raimi's films over the years, it's notable that the actor's edict is fulfilled by each one. It's hard to deny that each of his characters pushes the plot forward ... well, except for that barely-visible Wedding Shemp.

There's one more rule Campbell has for his cameos. He shared, "The other criteria, honestly, is the only reason to be in these movies, and that is to harass the star. If you look at all the Spider-Man films, all I'm there for is to [mess] with the lead guy." To this, he has a magnanimous view of Pizza Poppa's behavior. "We can't really deny that I took up about an extra 45 seconds of Strange's time. And maybe I saved his life as a result of that. Those 45 seconds, maybe I saved someone else's life, maybe I foiled a plot."

Consider it passing along a fine, consistently-held tradition within the Raimi-Campbell friendship. As reported by Den of Geek, the director has a longstanding history of putting his friend through the wringer, including poking Campbell's (unbeknownst to both Raimi and Campbell at the time) broken ankle with sticks during "The Evil Dead" shoot. The resulting injury left Campbell with a permanent limp. 

Raimi's point of view on the process is a tad less complicated. "I call Bruce and I say, 'Hey baby.' And he says, 'What is it now?' And I say, 'I got another movie for you now.' And he says, 'When does it start?'" he told ABC News in early May about the man he describes as "my long-lost brother, partner, most constant collaborator, friend."

Campbell is 'the only man to defeat Spider-Man'

Bruce Campbell often jokes with reporters and fans who attend his Q&As at conventions (via YouTube) that his characters are very essential to Raimi's version of the "Spider-Man" universe, as he noted in an October 2020 Alabama Life and Culture interview. True to his word, the actor's cameos across the director's three features on the "Spider-Man" mythos are all pivotal — and actually quite important to Peter Parker's (Tobey Maguire) development as a hero. In "Spider-Man," he portrays an amateur wrestling announcer who rejects Peter Parker's pick for a nickname and instead dubs him "Spider-Man" during his pre-match introduction. "If I wasn't in the movie a billion-dollar franchise would be called 'The Human Spider,'" he told Alabama Life and Culture.

"Spider-Man 2" Campbell plays an usher who denies Peter entry to a performance of Mary Jane Watson's (Kirsten Dunst) play because he's arrived late. "I think I'm technically the only character who's ever defeated Spider-Man," he observed. The incident precipitates Peter and Mary Jane's temporary breakup in the film. Finally, in "Spider-Man 3," Campbell appears as a French-accented maitre'd upon whom Peter relies on helping him propose to Mary Jane. Unfortunately, the proposal goes awry. But Campbell looks on the incident's sunny side: "He wants me to help him propose to his girlfriend, so it's sort of a landmark case where a superhero goes to a mortal for help which is pretty rare."