New Zealand stuntwoman Zoë Bell has been kicking butt since playing Lucy Lawless’ (Xena) stunt double on the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess. Her background includes gymnastics, martial arts and sports. Her career took off after playing actress Uma Thurman’s stunt double in both of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films.
Tarantino cast Bell as herself in the action-thriller Death Proof (2007), which was shown during the 22nd Annual Florida Film Festival. Seeing the movie on the big screen and feeling the adrenaline rush and anticipation was worth every penny I spent at the Enzian Theater. My husband Dan and I rented the movie years ago but watching it in the theater put us in the driver’s seat instead of the couch.
The movie features a psychopathic stuntman Mike who kills women with his death-proof stunt car. He meets his match when he comes across stuntwomen Bell and Kim and makeup artist Abernathy driving a muscle car during a movie-making break on the back roads of Lebanon, Tenn. Bell’s gripping performance while playing ships mast, a game where you ride on the hood of a car, during a car chase with stuntman Mike, keeps you on the edge of your seat. Bell is natural, funny and a badass throughout the movie.
A Q&A with the darling daredevil followed the film presentation, with Bell sharing that Tarantino provided her with acting training during the filming of the Kill Bill movies. He had also seen her in Double Dare (2004), a movie about stuntwomen, and felt she was a character that people enjoyed watching and wrote a role for her in Death Proof.
Bell’s role in Death Proof was such an honor from Tarantino. I asked Bell what it was like to play herself. Bell thought “Tarantino was complimentary but smart because I wasn’t a trained actor and didn’t know the difference or had any point of reference for acting myself or somebody else. The reality was he wrote the character based on me—it was my name, acting and career. But the words were his. Quentin writes dialog and that’s what he does. Quentin wouldn’t allow me to take acting classes and just wanted me to know my script. For the record, I have never rode on a hood of a car or killed a man before [Laughs].”
She also portrayed Eve, an assassin getting revenge on her former employers in the web series Angel of Death (2009) with former Xena star Lucy Lawless. TV show appearances include Lost, CSI: Miami, Gossip Girl and Hawaii Five-O.
Besides Death Proof, her big-screen films include Django Unchained, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and Oblivion. She produces and plays the lead character Sabrina in Raze, a horror, female-fighting flick about abducted women that are forced to fight to the death with their bare hands. The movie premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be out in theaters real soon.
Bell says Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was the most challenging role during her career. She plays a Tall Witch in the movie and had to undergo three hours of prosthetic makeup glued into her orifices, contacts, fake teeth and heavy clothing with a corset, hood, gloves tucked into her costume, horns on her shoulders and heeled boots.
Being a stuntwoman isn’t easy and Bell provided one person with some valuable advice. “You should be in peak, physical condition and keep training, so that you’re capable of whatever people are asking of you. It’s important to know what your limits are. If you push yourself too far and commit to jobs that are past your limit, then that’s when you disappoint people. Just work very hard to be the best.”