Guest post from Helen – thanks!
What hoyden wouldn’t thrill to the scene in Kill Bill 1 where Beatrix Kiddo, fighting off a hundred or so gangsters, flies through the air with impossible-looking jumps and flips. But the body in the yellow leathers in that scene isn’t Uma Thurman, but a New Zealand stuntwoman called Zoe Bell. And for hoydens who love Xena, she’s the body in the leather lingerie.
I’m not an action movie person. In general, I find fight scenes a yawn. It’s not as if there’s ever much doubt who’s going to win. The good guys are going to bloody well win, aren’t they. How, then, to explain my love for the movies of Quentin Tarantino? Well, I’m won over by action movies that send themselves up mercilessly and where the actors are allowed to have a sense of humour. (See also John Woo.) Also, really weird shit, and no, Sword and Sorcery weird shit doesn’t count in my book. Too easy to fake with special effects. I mean, weird like a murderous little Japanese schoolgirl assassin swinging a kind of medieval flail. So, I loved Kill Bill 1 & 2, and pounced on the DVD of Death Proof as soon as it appeared in my local emporium. (what do you mean, cinema? what are you, mad?)
I’m not going to drop any spoilers, but the film is divided roughly into two sections – two related stories – and so halfway through we are introduced to some new characters. They’re chatting. And being somewhat slow on the uptake, it took me a minute or two to really believe that there was an actual kiwi woman, just talking naturally in her kiwi accent, not attempting to talk like an american… My head asplode. This never happens. Really, it never happens. I know this is really a post about Zoe Bell, but can I just reiterate that I love Quentin Tarantino? Apart from the Crocodile Dundee shite, what American director lets an Australian or a New Zealander speak in their natural voice and assume that the audience will be adult enough to allow for this strange, non-Californian diction? Like, among a cosmopolitan band of movie employees, which is what the fictional group are supposed to be, there might just be an antipodean? Wow.
So that made me sit up and ask just who this wonderful Kiwi was – especially once I’d finished watching the movie.
Zoe Bell is not, primarily, an actor, but plays herself in the movie. (As advertised – not a spoiler.) Somehow, the fact that she speaks with her own voice and plays herself made me identify with her more and set me more on the edge of my seat with the things that happen to her in the movie. Which are scary, naturally. Note that Tarantino’s trying to replicate the old-school stunts of the 1970s in Death Proof – so reliance on effects is minimal.
My curiosity was piqued, so I went to the interviews on the bonus disc. Zoe Bell does the serious physical work in Kill Bill 1 and 2 – and she’s also an earthy, hilarious petrol-head who loves a risque joke and a fast car. Tarantino was so impressed by Zoe herself, as well as her stunts, he wrote a part for her into his latest movie, as herself. Here’s the interview: it shows the huge respect Tarantino has for Bell and the story of their collaboration is fascinating. (Don’t you love the yeeha moment of Zoe, hanging out of the white Dodge Challenger, waving her shotgun as another fabulous hoyden, Tracie Thoms (Kim) spins the vehicle around to give chase?)
As a flabby, cowardly bookworm, I am truly in awe of Bell and what she does – and her terrific persona. I look forward to seeing what she does next, especially if Tarantino’s involved.