This is an edited transcription of an email interview conducted with Tony Elwood between July to August, 2019, for BookOfTheDead.ws by French fan Anthony.

Tony was credited for 'Special Props' for Evil Dead II; creating and modifying a number of well-known props at short notice & last minute including the Evil Deer Head, various Chainsaws, and even making the Freddy Glove and squirrel Possessed Ash Bites into. He's also worked on a long list of productions in various capacities since, including writing, producing & directing Road-Kill U.S.A. (1993) & Cold Storage (2009).

Tony Elwood puppeteering the Evil Deer Head next to Bruce for the Vortex sequence in Evil Dead II (1986)

How did you get started in the film industry?  
I grew up in North Carolina, not the Mecca of filmmaking back in the 60's – 70's, so getting a chance to work on movies was unheard of. I always knew I wanted to work in the film industry, so I started making short films with friends on Super 8mm film back in the 70's. Every weekend I would wrangle up enough money for a roll of Super 8mm film and head out with my friends to shoot a short horror or stop motion film.

After I graduated from high school I heard about a man, Earl Owensby, in Shelby, North Carolina, who had built a movie studio, (E.O. Studios) and was making low budget feature films. I bugged him for work for several years, sending him photos of creatures I had designed and even carting my super 8 projector and screening him some of my 8mm shorts (all of which were crude, but showed good effort). Then one day, I lucked up and landed a job building a miniature space ship for a film he was producing called Hyperspace (released as Gremloids in Europe). From that job until now, I've never stopped working. From E.O. Studios, I made my way to Wilmington NC, where Dino De Laurentiis had set up a studio called DEG Studios. While there, I worked on various films, including Cat's Eye and Dracula Widow, when I heard rumors of Evil Dead II. This piqued my interest for sure.

Can you tell us about your role on Evil Dead II?  
I submitted my resume and got an interview with the production manager. Blanche Sindelar and I drove from Charlotte (where we lived at the time) to Wadesboro, a small town about 40 minutes away. Blanche got the Prop Master job and I got the Special Effects Props job. We had about a month and a half to gather and build props.

Tony on-set next to one of the cabin windows in Evil Dead II (1986)

My first task was to make foam props for action scenes, everything from foam rocks, shotguns, wooden steps, axes, chainsaws, and an entire foam trapdoor that needed to be identical to the real one and mounted to the set floor. I also created breakaway light bulbs, wooden boards and chairs.

A foam 'stunt' replica of the working chainsaw, created by Tony for Evil Dead II (1986)

The "laughing room" was one of my biggest challenges. The script said, "the entire room begins to laugh." I asked director Sam Raimi what he had in mind. He responded, "You know, the room is laughing at Bruce; books, lamps, and even the seat cushions." It took me a week to rig the room, build the mechanical lamps, and create books that would open and close. I used every trick in the book: hinged cables, mono-filament, air bladders, and cable-controlled armatures.

The Evil Deer Head, modified by Tony for Evil Dead II (1986)
There were two lamps that needed lots of motion: the banker's lamp next to the tape player, and the lamp near the door where Bruce falls. Both took days to rig, not to mention the other items in the background: the clock, windows, bookcases. You name it. Sam wanted the banker's lamp base to do a hula dance while the top moved back and forth. The clam-shell lamp near the door needed to respond to Bruce's movements, so it was rigged so I could be on a ladder above the set and pull a thin metal wire up and down to make it work.

Then came the Deer Head. When it arrived, Sam asked if I could make it look more possessed. I personally thought it looked amazing but did some slight makeup touches to the eyes and mouth. I was also the person who had to puppeteer the deer. First, it was hot as hell one the set, and being above the working fireplace made it even hotter. Managing to not pass out while puppeteering the head was difficult, but lots of water and towels soaked in cold water kept me alive.

I was also in charge of making all of the wall blood. With the help of Vern Hyde, the Special Effects genius, we created well over 600 gallons of various colors of blood. It needed to be thick so it would stick to Bruce, so we added a thickening agent. The stage was on two levels, so when we pumped the blood into the tubes leading into the holes on the set, it would explode out and hit Bruce in the chest with extreme force. We lined the floor under the living room set with large sheets of plastic to funnel the blood out into a large kiddie pool. By the time all of the colors mixed, it became a thick black ooze. After each take, we would have to clean the set, dry it down, and repaint the boards. The crew would head out to shoot exterior shots as we cleaned up the bloody mess. The set didn't take long to dry, which was good for us, but tough on the crew. The heat that year was the hottest it had been in 20 years. The temps were in the high 90s for 3 months, with many days well over 100. No rain, no breeze, just pure hell. Even after three takes we were never able to get the proper pressure needed to get the blood to shoot straight out.

Vern later suggested to Sam that they build a small set and have Bruce on his back and just have the containers above and let gravity do the job. They shot a version of this sometime after we wrapped.

Every day was a challenge. Sam would be constantly thinking up new ways to bring more unique ideas to the story. He would throw things at me constantly, keeping me on my toes and up at night. The night before we were to shoot the possessed Ash running through the woods, Sam decided it would be funny if Bruce was to grab a squirrel and begin chewing on it.

Sam approached me and said, "You think you could get me a stuffed squirrel for a shot tomorrow?" I always wanted to please him, so I said, "Sure." I hopped In my car and drive to the only store open at the time, knowing good and well I wouldn't find a squirrel on the shelf. So, I found the next best thing... a stuffed toy Ewok. It was the only thing in the entire store with fur. I grabbed it and headed back to my shop and dissected the hell out of it. I did my best to convert an Ewok into a squirrel, along with entrails so that when Bruce bit into the chest cavity some fleshy gunk would be exposed. The next morning, I delivered the squirrel to the set and Sam seem pleased. We shot the scene a couple times, each time getting plenty of laughs on the set, but it didn't make it to the final cut. Oh well.

The squirrel which Possessed Ash Bites into, made by Tony for Evil Dead II (Photo taken 2019)

Do you remember anything about the green/gold table lamp shown on the professors desk?  
Sam originally wanted a hula girl lamp. Something that would move when the room gets possessed. We couldn't fine one in time that would work, so I suggested we use a bankers lamp. I found one that had room for the air bladders, and used those to make it move. You'll see in the film that body of the lamp moves from side to side and up and down during the demonic laughter sequence.

The unidentified green lamp on the professors desk in Evil Dead II (1986)
A photo of the lamp used in Evil Dead II (1986)

In the Evil Dead II Workprint, steam pipes can be seen appearing out of the piano, any idea on the thinking behind that?  
Not sure I can say. I helped rig the piano and there were no steam pipes used on set. Could have been old footage from another film used as slug until they got the hero image. That does happen sometimes.

Do you know the story behind the rat seen in the cellar & workshed sets nicknamed Señor Cojones  
We raised all of the rat from babies. They grow pretty darn fast. Sam wanted the rats to become familiar with people and not run off. He had a big set of Balls, so Señor Cojones it was.

A plastic replica of the Nightmare On Elm Stree Freddy glove, made by Tony for Evil Dead II (Photo taken 2019)

Is the somewhat dilapidated Freddy Kruger glove shown in your photos, the same one hung in the workshed & Cellar of Evil Dead II?  
It is the same glove. I suggested the idea of using the Freddy glove and Sam liked the idea. Continuing the Sam vs Wes idea from the original Evil Dead. I made it from one of my old leather work gloves, a plastic soda bottle, rivets and sheets of thin plastic for the blades. Painted it up and aged it. It's one of the few things I still own.

A Talent Show flyer created by Tony during Evil Dead II (1986)
A Talent Show flyer, created by Tony during Evil Dead II (1986)

Much of the Evil Dead II Talent Show, appears totally & utterly nonsensical. Are you able to elaborate on this event?  
The party was my idea. When we took over the school, we used the auditorium to screen our dailies. One night, I was hinting to Sam that we should put on a talent show. He loved the idea. It was a great idea to help everyone relieve some stress. I created a couple flyers and posted them all over the school and had them copied to the back of the call sheets. Word quickly got out and before you knew it, we had a show. The entire crew and cast jumped in and participated. Just a fun way to blow off steam. The art department created the set, and the lighting department rigged up some lighting. Sound hooked us up with a mic and speakers. It was a blast. All we needed was air-conditioning. I performed magic, while Sam kept the stage fogged up with a small hand-held fogger. This worked great until it accidentally got unplugged. This caused the oil to squirt out of the nozzle and not dissipate.

Tony with Sam Raimi during Evil Dead II (1986)
During one of my tricks, Sam shot me in the face with the smoke, sending hot oil into my right eye. It was a total accident; he had no idea. But the show had to go on. The oil caused my eye to water and swell shut. I did my best to keep going and did. The entire night was a memory I'll never forget, full of fun, pain and lots of hangovers the next day.

Are there any final memories you want to add?  
Working with Sam, Bruce, Rob and Ted was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We remain friends today and I'm still big fans of them all. Also getting to work with several of my heroes, including Mark Shostrom and Tom Sullivan. Getting to meet Tony Gardner and Greg Nicotero, along with the entire makeup department, was amazing. I learned so much from them. Getting a small cameo as a luggage monkey in the airport scene was a blast. Sam, knowing I was a filmmaker myself, let me shoot some B-Roll. A couple of the shots ended up in the final film. One couldn't ask for a better experience. Yes, it was hot, full of long hours and stress for everyone, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

Huge thanks to Tony for taking the time to do this interview, and with providing some great photos.