How does a seasoned gymnast-martial-artist-stuntwoman on an international scale become an action icon? All it takes is a director like Josh C. Waller to mould the incredible physical skill of Zoë Bell with her emotional intensity.
Raze is an action horror with the tagline “Fight or Die!” The film has a touch of Orwell, through a violent Big Brother reality show, that may recall ‘The Hunger Games,’ but is set in a prison scenario, where several women fight each other to death to save their loved ones, and their will be only one winner. It all begins when a young woman is abducted by an elite, secret society and wakes to find herself in the company of fifty other women who are, just like her, forced to fight for their lives in this unimaginable hell. Bold and bloody B-movie, ‘Raze’ takes the aesthetic of its video game inspirer to the deepest and darkest places.
The flick tries to focus on the delicate theme of female exploitation through a paradoxical pulp-splatter story, that could have very well been done by Quentin Tarantino. No wonder the New Zealand born protagonist, Zoë Bell, is Tarantino’s preferred stunt woman. She was used to double Uma Thurman in ‘Kill Bill’ and in 2007’s movie ‘Death Proof,’ Quentin created a role that allowed Bell to play herself, showcasing her instinctive acting talents alongside her great action skills.
During her career Zoë quickly became one of the most sought after stunt performers in Hollywood. And now, the thrill-packed new movie ‘Raze’ gives Bell her biggest role to date, with a rare flair for acting and action.
The gifted Zoë Bell tells us all about the making of ‘Raze’ in this Exclusive Interview:
Usually other actors face the physical training as a major challenge, in your case, considering your training as a stunt, was it a greater challenge to tackle the emotional part of acting?
That’s very much what was happening to me, and it was very clear juxtaposition between the other actresses who were brilliant performers and less experienced than I in the physical dynamics. We were all dedicated in the preparation; they were concentrating on the training, working with James Young who was our stunt-coordinator, whereas I was just as devoted in building emotionally my character, Sabrina. Creating her arc, her background. I walked onto that set very prepared.
Did you provide advice to the other actresses on how to stage fight?
It was a very supportive environment, I like to coach and mentor, because for a long-time when I worked as a double, part of my job was to make the actors feel comfortable enough to own the action side of it as well. And it’s really satisfying when I see them enjoying it and getting the hang of it. And this was reciprocated for my performance, and having them around.
How did the project come about? You also produced it…
Josh Waller and I have known each other for a longtime, we’ve been friends for years, Kenny Gage and the other producers (Andy Pagana, Allene Quincy, Rachel Nichols) had had the original idea, for a short film, which was also called ‘Raze,’ and my name came up to be involved as a producer as well as perform a cameo at the end of the short. In that occasion I loved the idea of producing, which I had never done before, even though I’ve been working in this industry since I was 17. I agreed and whilst we were shooting the short, the momentum of turning it into a feature started then, and within two months later we had a full length feature script. And my character Sabrina, now had her own story, it was a very organic process.
Could ‘Raze’ be somehow a metaphor to female exploitation, which is a topic that is getting increasing attention from the film-industry?
I personally didn’t walk into this movie thinking I would like to make a statement, even though I love debate and discussion. But what I think was important to all of us producers, at the beginning, was that we wanted the element of truth to be present. The key here is that to trigger women to fight so violently we needed to elicit the protection element, whereas usually men fight to dominate. In the end we made a film that doesn’t get done a lot, we wanted real fight and real emotions, and the outcome was shocking to people. Just the fact that this film has made people ask questions like yours, is a statement in itself about the role of women in society.
Since you worked so much with Quentin Tarantino, and ‘Raze’ is very much in his style, has he seen it yet?
No, but I’m dying for him to see it!
Will you continue producing?
Yes, I really enjoy being involved in the production process, collaborating, I love to be an audience member with a voice, therefore be able to have my say in the directorial choices of the story. On set I really enjoyed being responsible to a crew, I liked the problem-solving, bringing people together, making things happen and work.
Whereas for acting, will you try also a different genre?
Comedy is what I have my eyes set on, for the moment. And I’m open to anything, the more acting I do, the more fascinated I am of delving into the art of it. The confidence comes in excitement.