Actress/stuntwoman Zoe Bell discusses her role in Game of Death, working with Wesley Snipes, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and more
Zoe Bell got her big acting break in Quentin Tarantino's half of Grindhouse, Death Proof, but she had originally impressed Quentin Tarantino much earlier than that. She portrayed the stunt double for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2, which lead to her role in Death Proof and a double-threat career as both a talented actress and stunt woman. Her latest acting performance is in the new action-adventure Game of Death, which just hit the shelves on Blu-ray and DVD on February 15. I recently had the chance to speak with this versatile actress over the phone about Game of Death, and here's what she had to say.
When I was watching the movie, I was getting kind of worried because I wasn't seeing you in any fight scenes, which was finally corrected. Were you lobbying for more fight scenes throughout the production?
Zoe Bell: Well, there was quite a lot of stuff that went down on this shoot. We basically ended up shooting the whole movie within a full week or two. Things were constantly changing, so it went from maybe I wasn't going to have any fights, to I was going to have three fights, two fights, just making it up as we go along. I kept going, 'How about we throw a fight in now? What about now?' So, when I finally did get to do the fight, I was like, 'Thank God.' I mean, you can't have me in a movie and not have me fight (Laughs).
Yeah, that would be pretty bad.
Zoe Bell: I mean, if it's a non-action movie, fine, but in an action movie? Come on.
I read that the director was changed at the last minute. It seems like it was rather chaotic but did it still run fairly smoothly?
Zoe Bell: We were blessed with a really awesome crew and a very flexible director in Giorgio Serafini, who came in at the end. By the time it got to the place where we were ready to shoot again, everyone was on board with what we had to work with. We all gathered ourselves and did what we could to make the best with what we had. All things considered, I think it went incredibly smoothly. It's always a shame when something gets so shifted around. There's so much more when you feel there's so much more we could have given it, but I think we're all pretty proud of how it turned out.
Can you talk about your initial reactions to the script and the character?
Zoe Bell: I just loved the fact that they came to me for this role, because I was excited about playing a bad guy and how to make the character bad instead of just generically evil. I was excited about getting to try and blow Wesley Snipes' head off. That's an exciting prospect. They came to me and I already knew about the project, because I knew a lot of the stunt people that were working on it, so I had already heard of it. Not only did I get to work with Wesley, but my buddies on the stunt team, so it was really exciting.
It sounds like the best of both worlds for you.
Zoe Bell: Yeah, absolutely. I'm fortunate if I can continue to shape my career the way its going at the moment, chasing the acting side and still being able to stay in the action world. I'm very fortunate.
You had worked with Simon Rhee, the stunt coordinator, before this, and I really enjoyed all the fights. Can you talk a bit about working with him and going through the fight choreography?
Zoe Bell: Yeah, Simon and I worked together on Lost, but we were both actors. I had known him for a long time and we ended up on the same episode, even though we didn't actually work together. We hung out though and I think I ate half his breakfast on the plane over. I was excited when he came on. He has a really specific fight style. He comes from the land of tae kwon do, which is where I started off. I think it was a great job for both of us. When you've known someone for a long time, there's like an unspoken language that happens. Because of the nature of the shoot, we were often under the gun and we didn't get that much time in advance to choreograph and learn it. It was a lot of fun. I just like that kind of camaraderie and teamwork. He knows what I'm capable of also. He would just throw things at me and would say, 'I need you to do this,' and if something didn't seem to work, I would say, 'Well, how about if we did this?' He would love it. We just got to bounce off each other a lot. It was really satisfying.
I watched the bonus features and it seemed that everybody really enjoyed shooting in Detroit. I read that the movie wasn't originally set there. Can you talk about the experience of shooting there and what that brought to the production?
Zoe Bell: I have shot in Detroit once, for Whip It!, so I have spent a little bit of time there, but I didn't spend as much time in downtown Detroit, which is where we shot this. It's definitely in the heart of Detroit. I really loved that city. There's something sort of derelict about it, but when you find the pockets of life, it's so vibrant and determined. The people are so amazing and there's music everywhere. It's sort of like that uncle at the wedding that everybody has an opinion about. Nobody speaks to him, but when you sit down and talk to him, he has the most fascinating stories. Detroit is that uncle. When I watched the movie, I think, visually, I don't even know how to describe it. I loved the big helicopter shots we had, the big overhead shots. The hospital is in the state of being broken down and repaired and a lot of Detroit has that feeling.
We're starting to see a lot more movies being shot there, mainly for the tax credits, but it has such a cool and unique look to it. When Vancouver was big, everybody could tell when something was shot in Vancouver and it's kind of the same thing with Detroit, but with a much grittier feel.
Zoe Bell: Gritty, yeah, exactly. It really does have that edgy, gritty feel. It's a really interesting place.
Zoe Bell: Obviously, I jumped at the chance to work with Wesley. That was one of the biggest draws. They said he was involved and I said, 'Yeah, I'll do it.' My manager said, 'Well, wait a minute. We might want to play hardball here.' I said, 'No, that's your job. You play hardball. I'm telling you I want to do it' (Laughs). That was really cool. One of the things I noticed with Wesley, he was doing very simple scene and his character is definitely in a very straightforward place, in terms of emotion. He's just got to get done what he's got to get done. In watching him, there really are just some people that the camera just loves, and it loves the guy. He just has this presence on screen. Robert Davi was just such a character. I really enjoyed him. There were a couple of moments, actually, where I felt taken under his wing. I'm the last person on the planet to be cocky about how experienced I am, and I try not to be pulling myself apart about it too. I'm fairly green, when it comes to experienced actors and I was very open to anything Robert had to say. It was quite educational. When you're around someone like that, who has so much experience under his belt, it's kind of cool, to hear his stories from back in the day. He's drinking whiskey and puffing on a cigar and I'm just sitting there like a little grasshopper, listening to the master talk, you know (Laughs). Gary Daniels and I got along well. He's British, I'm a Kiwi and we both come from an action-based background. He's just a total sweetheart. Obviously, we were working closely together on-screen. We spent a lot of time together and cracking each other up as much as possible.
I see you're acting in another movie called The Reapers. It sounds like a cool premise and you have a solid cast as well. Is there anything you can say about that or the character you play?
Zoe Bell: I'm really looking forward to that. Tracie Thoms is on that and I can't wait to work with her again. I really love the people that are involved. I shouldn't talk too much about it because, I don't have a huge part in it and, until I'm on the set, eating breakfast... you know what I mean? I'm really excited about that. I actually have another job on a movie called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which I'm excited about. That starts shooting in March. There are a couple of other things bubbling away. I just did a guest spot on CSI: Miami. Things are starting to come together. You know, when that natural momentum starts to build. I'd hate to jinx it, though, but I'm really excited.
Are you acting in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters or are you doing stunt work? Or a little bit of both?
Zoe Bell: Acting. This one is sort of an action cameo role, but it's going to be fun. I can't wait.
Is there anything you have lined up as far as stunt work that you can talk about?
Zoe Bell: No, nothing as far as stunt work, but stunt work tends to be less in advance. It's more like someone will call me up and say, 'Yo, are you available next month?" It's seldom something I know that far in advance.
Zoe Bell: Because it's really fun and bad-ass and I'm in it (Laughs).
Excellent. Thanks so much for your time, Zoe, and best of luck with Hansel and Gretel and anything else you have coming up.
Zoe Bell: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.