It’s a good thing Josh C. Waller’s Raze isn’t the real deal because if the large majority of us were kidnapped, imprisoned and forced to fight to the death, odds are, Zoe Bell would kick all of our asses.
Bell made a name for herself as a top-notch stuntwoman, now with over 20 titles on her resume. However, Bell didn’t just impress Quentin Tarantino with her stunt work on Kill Bill and Kill Bill: Volume 2; she also inspired him to cast her as an actress in his 2007 release, Death Proof. Shortly after wowing audiences with her on-screen charisma and ability to dangle from the hood of a speeding Dodge Challenger for an extended period of time, Waller approached Bell to lead his film Raze as Sabrina, a woman who’s abducted and wakes up in a prison-like facility in which the female inmates must fight each other to the death until just one remains.
When Waller told Bell, “It’s female action and we’d be stupid to do it without you,” she was seriously interested, but what sold her more than anything was the opportunity to add yet another title to her name – producer.
While sitting down with Bell in New York City ahead of Raze’s theatrical release, we asked her why that opportunity was such a draw and she explained:
“You know, to be honest, it was because I had this idea for a TV show that I’d been sort of mulling around and sort of realizing that if I had this idea I was probably gonna have to develop it and create it and be involved and that I didn’t really know what that meant. You know, people would be like, so what does a producer actually do and what’s the difference between executive producer and associate producer and I was like, ‘I don’t know the answer to that. That’s why I need some practice!’ It was that and it was also knowing that as soon as I’m a producer on something, I have input, and I really like having input. [Laughs]”
Bell’s added input came in handy in many respects, but particularly when it came to casting. Not only does she know a wealth of talented female stunt performers, but she’s also worked with a number of strong actresses who’d be ideal fits for certain parts - including Tracie Thoms (in the role of Teresa). And, it turns out, Thoms wasn’t the only Death Proof alum Bell would get the chance to reunite with on this set – Bell just didn’t know it yet.
“I didn’t know. That was a surprise. Tracie and Josh organized that. Tracie, Josh and Rosario [Dawson] organized that without my knowing. I didn’t know until [Rosario] walked on set in her costume. I was like, ‘What? You guys!’ It was amazing.”
Dawson gets a vicious cameo and almost every single actress involved plows through some wicked fight choreography, but there’s one arena tactic that’s so sensible, it’s disturbing. The folks behind this operation want bareknuckle fights. No weapons, no frills, just carnal hand-to-hand combat, so all the ladies are fitted with plain white tank tops and grey sweatpants, and thrown into a cylindrical arena with stone walls and a dirt floor. Not much you can do with that, right? Well, just wait until you meet Dirt Mouth.
“That was a Zoe addition; I’m not gonna lie. That was one of those where we were playing around with the choreography of it and I was going through the choreography, and I was like, why wouldn’t I just [mimics pushing dirt] - and this is me being Sabrina - why wouldn’t she just [mimics pushing dirt], that’s all she’s got … So that fight, when it was choreographed, that character was originally called Dirt Mouth [laughs], all the way through it and then at the end with the credits we were like, ‘That’s just mean. You don’t want to be credited – these are all your credits - Raze, Dirt Mouth.”
She’s got no problem riding on the hood of a speeding car and suffocates an opponent with ease using dirt. Zoe Bell sounds pretty tough, right? Well, she is, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a Kryptonite.
When asked to divulge the one thing that she just can’t handle, Bell told us this:
“Praying mantises … And it’s self-inflicted. I freaked myself out about it one day, and I’ve never been bug-phobic. My brother would be like, ‘Ah! There’s a spider,’ and I’d be like, ‘[sighs],’ and I’d get rid of it, you know? Whatever! But I had a praying mantis on my finger one day and I was playing with it like I used to do and I noticed at one point he was staring at me, you know, like little beady eyes. You know what a praying mantis looks like, the eyes on the side of his head like a little alien. And I was like, every time I move my finger I noticed he was like [mimics the praying mantis’ eyes following her], and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s like he’s plotting my death… like he’s about to fly at my face and eat it!’ And I totally just got freaked out and I went to flick him off and he wouldn’t come off… I totally had this like freak out panic, silly, ridiculous, self-induced, mental, I flicked him and he hit the ground and by flicking him I’d broken one of his legs and then I felt terrible, and like instant remorse, and he was still staring at me and I way like, ‘Oh my god! He’s going back to his family to plot my imminent death and it’s just all gonna go wrong.’”
So now that you know rough and tough Zoe Bell can’t handle a little, beady-eyed praying mantis, why not watch her demolish a string of opponents in Raze?
You can catch our full chat with the pro stuntwoman-actress-producer in the video below and see Raze in full via IFC Midnight in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, January 10th after which it’ll expand to Seattle, Houston, Columbus, Phoenix, Kansas City, Santa Fe, and Denver.
And of course, keep an eye on Bell herself. Hopefully she will lock in The ExpendaBelles soon enough, but either way, she’s on the rise.
Check out the videos below for the full interview:
Raze opens in select theaters on January 10th.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.