Interview with Zoë Bell

the stunt-coordinator of 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood'
Zoë Bell began a career as a stuntwoman in her late teens, doubling for Lucy Lawless in the cult television series Xena: Warrior Princess. After the series ended, Bell auditioned for Quentin Tarantino’s martial arts thriller (Kill Bill) and quickly became an important part of the director's repertory company.
When did you first hear about Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood? Did you know that Quentin was working on this project? Or did it come out of the blue?
I was aware of it. Being part of the Quentin family and universe, you kind of pick up on things through osmosis, but he had definitely reached out to me the end of 2017. He wanted to open a discussion about possible stunt coordinators, and then he popped the question – like, “If I was to consider using you as stunt coordinator for this film, would you be interested?” I gave him an emphatic yes. And then, as often happens in life and this business, I didn’t hear from him for a while. I applied for the DWW [Directing Workshop for Women] at the American Film Institute [AFI]. I was accepted and I’d just started the preliminary classes early 2018 when I got the official call. So I was in a bit of a high-class quandary, if you will: stuck between an amazing opportunity and an awesome one!  
When did you first see the script? Did you have to go to Quentin’s house to read it, like everyone else?
I left AFI that day and went to the production office, on Sunset. I had to leave my laptop and my phone and my little school backpack outside and shut myself inside a little room and read everything bar the finale, because that was being saved for a later time. I got to read it once and then had to walk away and pretend I’d taken it all in. See, this is the thing with Quentin’s films – they’re so multidimensional, and there’s just layer upon layer of information and inside things and references, that trying to absorb it all in one reading is almost impossible. [Laughs] You just feel a little bit ripped off. I’m like, “Damn, I want to read it like three or four more times. Like, now!”  
Did you know then that you’d also have a part in the movie?
In the past, it’s always been quite apparent which role he’s expecting me to be, or that he's written for me to be. There wasn’t an obvious role on this one, and it didn’t even occur to me to ask, because the conversation of whether I was going to be stunt coordinator or not was looming much larger in my mind. It wasn’t actually until I’d signed on, and we were in preproduction, that I walked up into his office and said, “Quentin, what about me being in the movie?” And he basically said, “Yeah, absolutely. Read through it and see if anything jumps out at you.” So I read the script again and there was one particular role that I thought could be kind of fun, if it was me, for the audience.” I pitched him on that idea and he loved it. Literally he was like, “That is actually amazing casting.” And then he said, “Unfortunately, as of yesterday, I think that scene’s been cut from the movie.”  
How would you describe the role that you ended up playing instead?
I play Kurt Russell’s character’s wife, Janet. Kurt plays Randy, the stunt coordinator [on the TVshow Lancer, which Rick Dalton is guest-appearing in], so there’s a nice little meta-moment there, where I’m the stunt coordinator of the movie in real life in 2018 and I play the stuntcoordinator’s wife in 1969.  
What were the first discussions that you had with Quentin about the stunt-work?
The first and foremost thing was going through the script and looking over all the scenes that are obviously action sequences – fights, fire-burns, and so on – and then looking at other, less obvious things. Like, there’s a lot of driving, and there’s a lot of driving involving actors. Some of it’s just cruising, and some of it involves driving at speed on freeways. A lot of that becomes the technical side of it, which Quentin’s not involved with. My conversations with Quentin are the same as any head of department should be, and that’s basically, “Tell me your vision. And then let me go sit with my team, figure out how I think I could best do that, then talk with production and figure out logistics - finances, scheduling, resources, etc.” So it’s sort of a constant puzzle-piece working.
(7 pictures)

Film premieres

Wreck-It Ralph

American, animation, 92 min., 2012
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