Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A dead good evening with Betsy Baker

I was so excited, Betsy Baker, the Betsy Baker, star of the original Evil Dead movie agreed to do an interview with me! But why in such a secluded spot I wondered? I couldn't find the place she mentioned on my GPS, so I had to take the directions she had given me... It wasn't exactly a main high road and the only landmark she had told me to look out for was a Chicken Shack, and I had passed that about 20 minutes ago. I was looking for a turn in the road, but this road, with only trees either side seemed to be going on forever. It didn't look too bad in the light of day, but I wouldn't want to be alone here when the sun went down.

After a few more minutes I spotted it, I turned in... Great I thought, another track....

The path to the cabin was rough and just big enough to get through, thank god for my old 4 wheel drive, I’d never of made it without her. She was also going to need a bit of a wash after we got back, mind you, so was I!

After what seemed like an eternity on this dust path I spotted something in the distance. And  log cabin with an old yellow car parked in front. The trees and shrubs around it looked over grown and unkempt, this was certainly no Malibu beach hut… What the hell was I getting myself into here?

But then, like a mirage, there was Betsy, waving at me from what I presumed once was a driveway. I pulled up in front of the house, her warm smile was welcoming, but that was not even enough to steady my nerves, both from the house and meeting Betsy Baker.
Betsy Baker starred in Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic ‘The Evil Dead’, playing Linda, Bruce Campbell’s girlfriend and eventual ghoul… After a break of 17 years she has recently resumed her acting career, appearing in the awesome ‘Tim and Eric Show’ and a cameo in Sam Raimi’s fantastical hit ‘Oz the Great and powerful’.

But to me she will always be that crazy, doll faced ghoulish bitch from hell who was decapitated with a shovel by her boyfriend…

We walked into the cabin and immediately my flesh began to itch and spine crumble. As i entered my trouser leg got caught on a loose nail on the doorway, ripping them at the ankle and lightly scrapping my skin. I took a seat at the table and Betsy poured me a coffee made on an old wood stove, I would have preferred something stronger but it would have to do.

I got out my pad and my Dictaphone, I noticed a dusty old tape recorder on the desk near the table, a good back up, I thought, my recorder had been so unreliable lately.

Gathering my thoughts and wiping away the spider that was making his home in my hair, I took a large gulp of coffee and began my questions. 

So how did you get the part of Linda? 
"Sam and Rob (Tapert) had contacted a talent agency I was listed with; and asked them to contact me about their interest in meeting me and having a discussion about the film."

Ok, Ok... And when did you first meet Mr Raimi?
" I first met Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell (Ash)... at a neighbourhood restaurant, where we talked about the film, and they asked if I was interested.”

I suppose inviting three strange men into your home for a first meeting wasn’t a safe option… Mind you, meeting someone in an old cabin in the woods, wasn’t exactly the Ritz either, which prompted my next question.

I heard that the cabin in the woods, was really a cabin in the woods?
“The actual cabin was indeed in the woods ....”

Wow, perfect setting then, how far was it from civilisation?
“It was at the end of the very same dirt road that the car turns onto, and slowly drives into the woods. At the end of that 'driveway', was the cabin. The driveway was off of a paved road in the countryside, a few miles from the local town.”

I felt my ankle, I think that nail had done more damage than I initially thought …

Despite my amazing company, this place was not welcoming. I had heard that most of the cast had left before the end of the film, leaving Bruce Campbell to help out with the filming and effects, as well as act, was this true?
“Many actors leave the film as soon as they are done with their parts. All of the cast finished their roles - whether it was within the first time frame they were in Tennessee, or if they picked up more scenes later on during the filming.. which is what I did. I worked from the end of October until nearly the end of December, and then did some more scenes the following spring.”

And was filming as bad as rumoured?
“It was freezing, cold, damp, rainy, and miserable many, many nights. We had no heat in the cabin, no running water, no toilets. No hot coffee, and with all the fake blood all over the set, didn't even have clean coats or jackets to put on between takes.”

I looked down at my drink, small blessings, I thought.

I flicked through my notes and chose my next question wisely, not wanting to get too distracted by the pain that was now coursing up my leg. I needed a laugh.

What was it like working with Sam, Bruce, and the other cast and crew? Do you have any funny anecdotes?
“Lots of funny times that we can look back at now .... and laugh. We all became very close during our time in Tennessee; we lived together, worked together, so therefor we were together 24-7. Many times we were so tired and exhausted, that any little thing would set us off and make us laugh. Then again, any little thing or frustration would also make us very mad, too!”

I wasn’t surprised, I was once trapped in a lift with 2 others for half an hour and nearly went crazy, mind you having to listen to the musac version of ‘The girl from Ipanema’ on a loop didn’t help the situation, believe me, if there was someone there with a chainsaw, I’d be begging for a decapitation.

Ooh, talking of chainsaws…
Was it true that Bruce used a real chainsaw on your neck?? (Or rather near your neck) that must have been terrifying!
“Yes -- that is a mistake that I could have unfortunately really, really regretted. I agreed to do it 'for the sake of the scene', but would also be the first to admit it was probably one of the stupidest things I have ever done in my life. Fortunately, they kept true to their promise, and we only did 1 take.”

What about the scene where the possessed Linda attempts to stab Ash with the dagger? Is it true that you actually had no idea where he was. With your heavy, white contact lenses preventing you from seeing?
“That is absolutely true. Neither Ellen, Theresa or I could see anything while wearing the lenses.. so we had lots of rehearsals. Bruce had to work just as hard to miss the dagger, knowing that I actually couldn't see anything while trying to stab him. We had to very carefully count out the running steps that it took to get closer to him up against the wall. A long night.......”

My stupid Dictaphone started playing up, I hit it against the table, it seemed to kick it back to life, but for how long I wondered. Better get on with my questions…

Were the guts really made out of creamed corn??! Were there any other interesting make up recipes?
“Our great special effects man, Tom Sullivan, would be best to have all those answers. But yes - we used everything from creamed corn, to milk, to actual chicken bones from dinner the night before....”

Interesting… I could just imagine the smell. I reached down to inspect my ankle again, this time it felt strange… Crap, It was bleeding, Betsy found me a rag to tie round it, but I was a professional, my questions came first, I made a mental note to pop into the nearest chemist on my way back to my hotel.

Your make-up changed halfway through the film, from green to the iconic doll like ghoul... 
Why was this?
“Not everyone notices this! There is a scene in which I am dragged out of the cabin, and my face is made up with a prosthetic mask. All of us were fitted with them -- but after some discussion with Sam one night on a set, I had suggested that Linda actually turn into a sickeningly sweet baby doll character, very unnatural, and overly frighteningly sweet. It was decided that night that we could probably portray Linda with blushing cheeks, oversized lips, and oversized eyelashes, to appear more like a grotesque baby doll.”
It was getting dark outside now, time to speed up my questioning if I was going to make it out ok.

I heard you lost your eyelashes during the casting of your face!! How did that feel?? And
were there any other accidents on set?
“Painful! Yes -- while we were making the masks with plaster, the plaster became very hot, very fast ( which it's supposed to do).. but they had hard time removing it with ease, and it kept getting hotter and hotter, so they basically had to forcefully rip it off my face... and the eyelashes went with it! There were other scrapes and scratches, and Bruce broke his ankle running down the hill one night. In some of the scenes, you can see him limping.”

Do you love the fact that people copy your makeup for Halloween? (I know I have!)
“Well - let's say it's very flattering... I guess!!”

It was true... Last years costume had been a big hit, and after i'd had a bit too much to drink, no one questioned me sitting in the corner laughing hysterically.

Bruce and Sam are obviously still very close, but are you still in contact with them?
“As "Ladies Of The Evil Dead", going to conventions, we often see Bruce. We don't see Sam as much .. although all 3 of us worked together with him during the making of 'OZ -The Great and Powerful', in which we all had a small cameo role.”

Looking down, there was now pus coming from underneath the rag, not pleasant… and my leg had started to numb. Betsy looked concerned and went to look for a first aid kit. How could one scratch get infected so quickly and so badly but one small nail? There was
something not quite right about this place, I was looking forward to finishing up and leaving and hoped that Betsy was coming with me. Suddenly my Dictaphone, spluttered and died… Crap, I thought, I was so near the end of the interview, I just had a couple more questions to get through… Then I spied the tape recorder again… Maybe I could use that? I hobbled over and grabbed it from the desk. It wasn’t exactly high tech, a Panasonic reel to reel, but it would have to do. There was already tape in it, I clicked it to play, Some professor started talking about a discovery he’d made, I was intrigued and spellbound by his words…
Betsy called from the other room which shot me out of my trance… I checked my notes, just one more question… One more question and I was ready to leave.  My leg was killing me and the woods were dark…

Betsy, I shouted… What was on that tape?
“The tape? On the tape recorder?? .... A warning... to not do any of things we did, go outside into the woods, or even stay in the cabin. Guess we didn't listen too well.. or follow the warnings!!”

The tape continued to roll… Betsy remembered that she had a first aid kit in her car… she left to get it…. The voice on the tape was warning us, don’t go outside… Oh my god, I thought… This was that tape!!!

Betsy re-entered the cabin, she stood in the doorway, her face pale and doll like, giggling like a child… an axe in her hand……………………………


  1. The making of evil dead book
    -special effects

  2. This is a novel interview, Betsy Baker has a lot to say - The Ladies of the Evil Dead

  3. Wow, we were so young at the 25th reunion - Theresa Tilly

    And a tweet from Bruce Campbell! 'An interview with the lovely Betsy'

  4. It's a great interview, you really should publish all of the interviews in a book,as always you set the tone very well, The first few pages warn that these enduring creatures may lie dormant but are never truly dead. They may be recalled to active life through the incantations presented in this book. It is through the recitation of these passages that the demons are given license to possess the living.

  5. Nice interview!! Those eyes and makeup were unreal still as scary as back in the day! - Beyond the gore via twitter