Julie Benz adds a female touch to Rambo. She plays a missionary who convinces Rambo to take her group into Burma. Then he has to rescue them from the corrupt militia in a violent, gory battle. Benz hopes women can look beyond the testosterone to enjoy the film along with their male friends.
Julie Benz Counts on Rambo
"I hope the social message behind it [appeals to them]," said Benz. "It’s an action movie first and foremost. That’s what it is. It’s an extremely violent action movie. The violence in no way compares to the atrocities that are going on in Burma. I would hope women would hear this and want to go see it just to see what is going on in Burma, to see the awareness. Plus there are a lot of hot guys in the movie. I mean, seriously. Have you seen Matthew Marsden? Mr. Stallone. I mean, come on. Eye candy, totally."
Stallone was Benz's director as well as costar, so being unfamiliar with the genre, she followed his lead. "I did let him direct me. I had been a huge fan if his as a filmmaker for a long time. I think the performances he gets out of his actors are so beautiful and natural and extremely nuanced. I was excited to work with him in that way. I said to him very early on, ‘Whatever it takes for you to get me to deliver that kind of performance, do it. Just don’t lie to me. If you tell me something is great when it sucks, I’ll know and I won’t trust you. Do whatever it takes.’ Let’s face it. Mr. Stallone is a huge presence on film and as Rambo especially. To be able to take that one and challenge that for me was a big challenge. We worked a lot on scenes to really find that strength and courage within me, to be able to stand opposite him without going, ‘Oh my God, you’re Sylvester Stallone.’ We all had that moment. I had to get over that very quickly, to be able to take him and challenge him. He’s a big guy to take on and challenge."
Coming from the set of Showtime's Dexter, the jungles of Thailand were a culture shock for the Hollywood actress. "First of all, on Dexter we shoot on Sunset Gower. I get to stroll out of my trailer and pad across the soundstage and onto the set and do my work. On Rambo it was like come out of my trailer that looks like a bomb shelter form 1963 that doesn’t necessarily have running water in it and have to take a ride on the back of a pickup truck to set. It just blew my mind that I didn’t tumble down the hill. I was walking on these little bamboo rods across mud. It was a whole balancing act just to get down there. It was completely different."
Rambo also forced Benz to find her character quickly. "When you’re working on a television series there’s a great marriage that occurs between the writers and the actors. They start writing for your rhythm and for what you’re bringing to the character. We still have to do the same amount of work and I don’t want to say that it becomes easier, but the character molds into you more. She’s just there. When you’re working on film, you only have three months and you have to bring this fully alive person to the screen and that has a history and back story and all of that. You don’t have the luxury of 12 episodes to discover her. You have to be there right from the start. I met with Sly in January and we left in February to go to Thailand. It’s not like I had months and months and months of thinking about the character and preparing. I was just kind of thrown in. I was one of the last ones hired."
That meant no prep time either. "As soon as they called me and asked me to take a meeting, I went to the gym. Just in case. I thought it was important having read the script and seeing all of the action scenes. I wasn’t necessarily involved in a lot of the fighting obviously, but I felt it was important for me to be in the best physically condition that I could possibly be in so I could handle the rigors of shooting in Thailand. I’m a runner so I just upped my running and my sprinting and did a lot of mountain running. You’ve got to do 10-12 takes and you’ve got to be in physical condition to do with without pulling a muscle or getting too winded. I thought it was important."