Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
Find out how here
Interview

RELATED INTERVIEWS
More Interviews

RELATED REVIEWS
Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
Empire Star Rating
More new cinemas releases
DVD & Blu-ray releases

Zoe Bell On Stunts, Prosthetics & Fantasy Action
The actress, stuntwoman and Hansel & Gretel star on her latest role

submit to reddit

Zoe Bell built her career as a stuntwoman on things like Xena: Warrior Princess before shifting into acting with Death Proof. She's recently cropped up briefly in small roles in Django Unchained and Oblivion, as well as taking on stunt duties in Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters as a "Tall Witch" who comes to a sticky end. We talked to her about the biggest stunts she's attempted, the shift into acting and whether she's up for the female Expendables...

Zoe Bell On Stunts, Prosthetics & Fantasy Action
Zoe Bell as Tall Witch in Hansel And Gretel

You're credited as 'Tall Witch' in Hansel and Gretel. Which one's that?
The tall one, don'tcha know! She's a bit less of a character after the editing than she was in the script, but it's that first action scene. I bust out of the window and then Jeremy [Renner] and I end up in a big chase and they end up hanging me from a tree!

That sort of fantasy character is unusual for you. Did it make a lot of difference to the sort of action you had to perform?
It was one of the most challenging things I've ever had to do, which is kind of saying something. The costume and the get-up for that character weighed something crazy like fifteen or twenty pounds, in about nine different layers, plus three hours of prosthetic make-up, full-eye contacts, gloves, nails... It was physically really challenging, which ends up being mentally challenging too. I'm used to being pretty nimble, so all that stuff nearly got in the way, but then I had a moment of realisation that - forgive me for sounding like an actress for a moment - I was this witch, and she moved to get around the best she could. It became a bit of a character choice that her bad vision and her disability are part of how she moves. That's also part of why she uses the broom all the time.

How do your projects find you these days? You're famous now for being a stuntperson, which is an unusual position.
Yeah, I'm kind of in this weird spot, uninhabited by most, which absolutely has advantages and disadvantages. There is a little market that seems to be available to me, action-wise. Now that I've become more of an actor people come to me from time to time [with acting roles] and I move from the stunt world to the acting world. But Hollywood seems to be a bit like you either do one or the other, so branching into acting has been a lot of little roles in big movies, and bigger roles in small movies. I'm mixing them up! I love being able to do both sides of it. The action side of it comes so naturally to me that bringing in an emotional performance to it too is kinda fun.

What was your first acting role? Is it actually Death Proof, where most of us first became aware of you?
Acting? It's certainly scarier than jumping off buildings.
Yes, it was Death Proof. I'd had a couple of lines on a TV show, but other than that Death Proof was definitely the first time I had to remember dialogue. Quentin and I had formed a pretty good working relationship on Kill Bill, and he would deal with me, putting in front of the camera as if I was one of the actors. He'd also seen the documentary about me and Jeannie Epper [Double Dare]. Me getting the job on Kill Bill and that whole experience became the third act of that documentary, and Quentin was a fan of it and decided he wanted to use me as a character in a movie. So then he wrote one and then told me about it!

Is acting a natural extension of your stunt work, or is it very different?
The toughest part for me was getting my head around the fact that I was in front of the camera, or rather than my face was now in front of the camera, and that that was now normal. My entire career had been about avoiding the camera seeing my face! But I was green enough to take it in my stride, and Quentin was like, "˜I don't want you taking any classes; I know what I want from you and I know I can get it.' I almost didn't appreciate how daunting it should have been. It was like jumping in at the deep end of a pool, but the water was warm and I had floaties on. Quentin surrounded me with women who were professional and talented and supportive, and he knew we'd all get along like a house on fire.

Had acting ever occurred to you, or were you happy in a purely stunt career up until then?
Well I'd considered it, but it was never something I'd planned or really realistically seen myself doing. I wasn't chafing at it. Now I'm in this place and I'm like, "Wow, maybe I should have started earlier!'. It's a ballsy thing to do. It's certainly scarier than jumping off buildings.

Have you got one eye on Gina Carano?
Haha! I'll tell you, when I heard about Haywire I was like, 'Oh you lucky... naughty word!' But she's an awesome girl and she worked so hard for that. It was nice to see those kind of fights: it was cool. I'd love to be the lead in another action movie. That'd be awesome. I did a little movie called Angel of Death. I was the lead in that, and there was another little one called Raze recently. They're super low-budget, which has its own challenges. Raze was my first go at producing. I've been in the industry since I was 17, and I've developed all this knowledge and experience that I didn't really realise until it was called on. I really enjoyed it.

There's talk of a 'female Expendables': are you up for that?
I'm certainly keeping an eye on how that one develops... I'm sure there are hundreds of women that would love to be in that movie. People have told me they think I'd be perfect for it, but if they're not the people actually making the film then it doesn't matter what they think.

You’re better placed for it than many though, surely?
Well, make sure you tell that to the people that are making it!

How did you get started in the stunt business? Xena was your first gig, right?
Pretty much. My first job was a pilot called Amazon High, but yeah, my first real job was doubling Lucy [Lawless]. I was a gymnast for lots of years when I was younger, and then when I gave up gymnastics I was physically bored, and martial arts sounded cool. I picked Taekwondo because it had lots of kicks in it, and then through martial arts I just fell in with lots of guys who were being paid to do what I loved to do.

What was the first really scary thing you remember having to do?
Every single fight scared the shit out of me when I was first starting. This is actually the opposite of your question, but the first time I remember being kind of comfortable was... I can't remember which episode it was, but I had to jump of a three storey building on some wires, and I was standing at the top of this building dressed as Xena going, 'God, this is what I DO! This is CRAZY!' It was about four months in, and I finally realised, 'Ah, I think I can do this.' [laughs].

What are the stand-out stunts you've performed, do you think?
There was another one on Xena that was a massive bunch of fights over a number of mud pits, and I'd broken my toe over the weekend, running upstairs to the toilet! So I had to do this whole week of really intricate fight stuff with a broken toe. I remember that! Obviously the chase sequence in Death Proof is unforgettable (see below). There was a high fall in Catwoman, which was about 22 storeys and I had to unravel and flip and do a bunch of stuff. That was the highest I'd ever done, so that was pretty exciting. I love doing fight stuff, so Kill Bill was pretty epic.

Have you ever been injured, other than breaking your toe going to the toilet?
Haha! I've broken my toes loads of times. But the only two injuries that really register are I fractured one of my vertebrae when I'd been on Xena for about a year. That was when I lost all my illusions of being invincible. But I was only about 19, so I was young and I mended quickly! And the second one was I bust my wrist and had to have surgery, and I was immobilised for about three or four months, and it took about a year of rehab: basically I couldn't perform for about a year. That was at the end of Kill Bill. That one definitely shook me up a bit because I didn't know what I could do if I couldn't keep doing this stuff I'd been doing since I was a kid.

We spotted you in Oblivion...
I played a character called Kara, but the storyline that involved me ended up not really being in the movie, so I'm not in it much! But to be honest, when I'm seventh on a cast list with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, I'm OK with that. I'm one of Morgan's underground renegades.

Do jobs like that just come to you, or do you have to audition?
Most of my jobs just come to me, but I'm battling really hard with my agents at the moment to be put into audition situations. It's like, the people who know of me already know of me, and the people who don't, don't at all. So I'm trying to get in a position where I'm considered to be an actor by everybody as well [as a stuntwoman]. That's the sort of challenging part. Auditioning is a whole different skill set altogether. It's under-pressure make-believe!

If you're also producing now do you have any thoughts that you might want to direct in the future?
Yeah, it's been suggested to me and I'd love to give it a go... I'd have to surround myself with very experienced people! It's never been something I've studied, but I've got some free time coming up at the end of May and I was thinking that maybe I'd like to do a couple of courses...

Interview by Owen Williams

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Making Of The Lost Pilot: An Oral History
The cast and crew look back at the epic season opener…

Empire's Gone Girl Review
Our official verdict on David Fincher's adaptation of the best-selling novel

The Future Of Film: The Streaming Services Will Be Major Studios
(Or how Hollywood will have to start worrying about Netflix)

The Empire Podcast #129: Liam Neeson Interview
Plus Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger and Jessica Brown Findlay drop by to talk The Riot Club

The Future Of Film: We'll Be Watching Films In Virtual Reality
Immerse cinema aims to become the must-have experience for the filmgoers of the future

The Future Of Film: Cinema Will Cross The Uncanny Valley
The future of VFX, from believable digital humans to underwater mocap

The Future Of Film: There Will Be Another Indie Golden Age
Independent producers are growing from micro-budgets to something a lot bigger

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)