Zoe Bell talks Death Proof with RT
The Kiwi stuntwoman gives us the scoop on Tarantino's latest.
Her big-screen break came in 2003, when Quentin Tarantino bought Bell onto Kill Bill to double for Uma Thurman. Befriending the director lead to her first talking role as a self-named lead character in Death Proof, Tarantino's half of Grindhouse and a film paying particular homage to the stunt community.
RT caught up with Bell in Edinburgh to find out more about her role and her experience as a bona-fide Tarantino character.
What was it like to have Quentin say, "Come and be in my movie"?
Zoe Bell: Shocking. Shocking good, but shocking. At first I thought he wanted me to play a little cameo role and I was kind-of excited. Just even to work with Quentin again, I was like, "Yay! Be on set with Quentin again, that'll be fun! And he's playing a little bit of homage to the stunt community, and that's cool." I was thinking I could get to do some cool action - that'd be choice - you know. But when he brought me the script I realised I was quite mistaken and that, in fact, there was a bunch of line learning I was going to have to do, not to mention dialogue delivery. I went from just being incredulous, like, "What were you thinking? Are you mental?" Because the truth was, I could have been terrible. For all I knew, I could have been really bad at it. Of course the second part after that, I was pretty touched. Not that he was doing it as a favour to me by any means, but it was a bit of an honour, really, not just that he wanted me to star in the movie but that he wanted me as a character in the movie. That's cool; it means that I'm like a cool Quentin Tarantino character!
You're a walking Tarantino creation, that's unique!
ZB: Yeah, I know! And it took me a little while to get my head around that to be honest with you. And I think oftentimes I forget that Quentin is Quentin Tarantino, you know. I was definitely nervous about letting him down. More than just embarrassing myself in front of the masses, which occurred to me a little bit later, I was like, "God, I don't want to be the person to fuck up a Tarantino movie." I didn't want to be anything less than what Tarantino's standard is and I didn't know if I had that.
He basically turned to me and was like, "Zoe, I'm Quentin Tarantino. I don't make bad decisions and you're my decision, so get over it." Umm... Fair call. What are you going to do, fight Quentin Tarantino on moviemaking?
Had you ever delivered dialogue before?
ZB: No. Well, I did two lines on a TV show called Cleopatra 2525 really badly with an American accent; it was terrible! [laughs] I was maybe 20 or something.
To go from that to not only delivering dialogue, but delivering dialogue as a lead character, and then delivering Quentin Tarantino dialogue as a lead character... That's got to fuck you up a bit!
ZB: I know! It's like modern-day Shakespeare!
When you're in Quentin's hands and you've got three brilliant actresses with you, does that settle the nerves on set?
ZB: Definitely. I did so much line-reading with the girls beforehand that I just didn't even think about my words when the camera was rolling, you know, I didn't have to. And just being around Quentin again was so easy and normal for me because it had been that way before. As a team I felt really supported from all angles. And not just from a, "You can do it! High Five!" type stuff, but they just expected no less of me. There wasn't that sense of, "Oh, I reckon you'll be OK at it. Don't worry, you'll be fine." It was more, "Well come on, let's do it. Let's act. Let's go!" And I respond well to that. My, "Oh, fuck, OK," instinct takes over!
And we had so much fun. It sounds really clichéd to say that but we had so much fun on and off that set. The whole crew was incredible.
And presumably you got to do all your own stunts.
ZB: Yes. Absolutely! That was like a stipulation! I never had to convince Quentin, he said, "That's part of the reason I'm casting you. I want that." I think there was a while there where it looked a little dodgy as to whether insurance companies would allow that to happen. I don't think anyone told either me or Quentin about it in detail because there would have been uproar.
As far as I was concerned there was going no other way, and who knows about the future but as far as I'm concerned I would always like to do my own stunts because I love doing them. I think what's so brilliant about having an actor who does her own stunts, or a stuntwoman who does her own acting - depending on which way you want to look at it - is there's a genuineness to it that when you're watching it there's a gut reaction, a sense of reality. It's beyond just being aware there's a stunt double in the scene.
Plus, not to mention, one of the things that was so exciting to me was having that stunt sequence not be limited by the fact that you had to shoot around my face. You could shoot at whatever angle looked the fucking coolest. I think that's priceless.