Grindhouse introduces audiences to Zoe Bell, who you’ve seen before but didn’t know it. A professional stuntwoman, doubling for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Bell makes her official on screen debut in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
Zoe Bell Does Stunts (and Acting!) for Planet Terror
“It was a really fortunate first time,” said Bell. “I mean, the girls that surrounded me like Tracie, Mary, Rosario, and Quentin of course made it all an experience that’s not someone’s normal first experience. I’m a little bit scared of the next time in case the director’s really mean to me. But no, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed being on both sides of the character and merge the two. I could set stuff up the way that’s best for me to do the action, which sounds like most people think like that, but I could set it up which way would make things look best. It was nice to have ownership of the whole thing.”
Bell plays stuntwoman Zoe Bell, on a break from production, who runs afoul of road killer Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). He attacks precisely at the moment when Bell is doing a daredevil stunt, hanging onto the hood of a car by belt straps attached to the windows.
“I had a harness so I was safetyed to the car, but there was no CGI and no stunt double. There was a dummy for one really wide shot. I wanted to be in it but they were like, ‘Zoe, go home. Take a nap.’ I think it was one of the 360s.”
Though she’s a pro, this stunt was a new one for Bell. “To be honest I’d never ridden on the bonnet of a car before. Training-wise, we had a couple of weeks of training where we were working on it while Planet Terror was still shooting. I worked on that as a stunt woman. I was around and about for a long time. But that was more about us tasting the perimeters of if we could make it look real with me on the bonnet without it looking like I was strapped to it, and how far out we could get me and all that kind of stuff. The chase sequence sort of became what it was as we were shooting it. Suddenly there was so much more freedom where you could shoot. There were moments when Tracie was driving and I was on the bonnet and you could shoot it so there’s two faces. You don’t have to shoot around me face seeing some woman. So suddenly you could put the camera wherever it looked best for the shot, as opposed to fighting around me as a double.”
In her pantheon of movie stunts, Death Proof will definitely rank high on Bell’s resume. “Exhilaration it definitely ranked. Pain? There were moments but I’ve definitely been in more painful situations. It was exciting. I mean for me it ranked really high in the fact that I was acting in a Tarantino movie on top of it all. But also the combination of being a stunt person and the face was really a big deal for me to be able to be on both sides like that. In terms of the work, I’d never ridden on a car before but you know that happens to me in my work a lot. ‘Can you do this?’ ‘Well, I haven’t done it before.’ ‘Do you think you can?’ ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a shot.’ There’s not much you can do to practice being strapped to the front of a car except for being strapped to the front of a car. I’m like, ‘Well, we’ll make sh*t up as we go along and see what happens.’”
Grindhouse opens to theatres on April 6th.
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