Film Reviews

Raze's Zoe Bell on the Hard, Satisfying Work of Ass-Kicking

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Usually, what happens with women that aren’t comfortable with fighting is they’re afraid of getting hurt, or hurting someone. All it usually takes to get them going is to make them feel safe, and make them feel like they look cool while doing it. And once they get a little more comfortable, they’re gung ho! [laughs]

What’s the most comfortable set you’ve worked on?

That’s a rough one, man. I’m pretty comfortable on any set where I have something to do. This may sound conceited, but the more predominant the role, the more comfortable I am on set. Early on, I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t know if I was doing it right, or in the right spot . . . it wasn’t my workspace at that point. But now, if I’m doing background stunts, I’m comfortable doing whatever the stunts are, or doubling people. It’s all relative. So based on that, the set of Raze was horrific in some ways. [laughs] It was difficult, and demanding, putting in so many hours on set. I think I wasn’t that comfortable being both the producer and the lead.

Other than that — Quentin. I was on the set of [Django Unchained] the other year, just for a couple of days. And it was like walking into a family reunion. I literally breathed a bit easier when I was in costume, and on set.

What was doubling Sharon Stone on Catwoman like?

I was happier than a pig in shit. We got along very well. It was the first time I worked with someone that had a taste of diva status. It felt like I was working with a real movie star. I didn’t see her be nasty or cruel to anyone, but she carried weight walking around places. And I was very aware of that. I was very fortunate in that she dug me as much as she did. [laughs]

At the end of Double Dare, you say that you’ve grown more comfortable working in Hollywood. But after making Death Proof, you’ve said that you think of yourself as a stuntwoman who also does talky stuff, too. Has working in front of the camera as an actress that also does her own stunts behind the scenes become normal?

It’s so funny, just hearing you say that, I thought, “Maybe I should never say anything on-record ever again.” [both laugh] Clearly things change. Someone showed me a quote the other day where I said, “I’ve become more comfortable with Hollywood, but I’ll never feel at home.” And I thought, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I’ve been living that for ten years now!” And in the last two or three years, I feel more like an actress that does her own stunts than a stuntwoman that also does acting. It’s a fundamental shift that happened that’s comfortable now, but it took some shifting around in my skin to get here. Yeah, I’m enjoying acting now.

There’s that bit in Death Proof where you, after beating up Stuntman Mike’s car, have this big grin on your face. You looked really comfortable then!

That’s a testament to being on a Tarantino set. But it’s also having Quentin be both the director and the writer of my character as well; he knows me. I had no formal training, or experience. All I knew was I had one conversation with Quentin where I said, “I’m putting it all in your hands, because I don’t know what I’m doing.” And he said, “I know you have what I need, and I know how to get.” So I said, “Great, do what you like.”

But you can only go along like that for so long until you do the next acting role, and you’re working with someone who is not such an actor’s director, or just expects you to turn up, and doesn’t want to coach you through it. That was a really lucky and comfortable place for me to be. Because as reluctant as I was — because I was shitting my pants about facing the camera for the first time in my life — I can’t imagine a more supportive place to do it.

Is stunt coordination the next big thing for you?

No. I love it, but I’m definitely more on the acting track. After Raze, I’ve got a couple more ideas I’d like to produce. I’ve always loved the collaborative side of filmmaking, and there’s a lot of things I can do in the acting side of things in terms of the creating of action sequences, and coming up with ways of doing things with a stunt coordinator. I’ve discovered that creating characters involves working with writers and directors on characters’ backstories: who the person your character is, and who she might end up being. And then the producing part of it is just creating stuff, and telling stories. It’s hard work, and there’s so many people out there trying to do the same thing that think it’s just hanging out in a Jacuzzi, saying, “I’m going to create stuff! Watch me be a producer!” But I really enjoy the process.

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Simon Abrams is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group. VMG publications include Denver Westword, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Dallas Observer, Houston Press and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.