ZOE BELL on 'WHIP IT'
Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
September 29, 2009
Drew Barrymore makes her feature film directorial debut with Whip It, a fun, character-driven piece set in the world of roller derby, written by Shauna Cross, a former player who adapted the screenplay from her novel Derby Girl. The film follows the story of Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), a 17-year-old who spends time with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and little sister on the Texas pageantry circuit, but longs for something more. When she happens upon the world of roller derby, she discovers not only a passion and talent for the sport, but also a newfound voice, empowerment, and sense of belonging--all while rocking the derby moniker "Babe Ruthless."
The fantastic ensemble also includes Daniel Stern as Bliss' football fanatic father; Alia Shawkat as her friend and fellow waitress at an amusingly pork-themed diner; Juliette Lewis as rival derby girl Iron Maven; Kristen Wiig as cool maternal surrogate Maggie Mayhem; Jimmy Fallon as announcer "Hot Tub" Johnny Rocket; Andrew Wilson as derby coach Razor; singer Landon Pigg in his acting debut as Bliss' romantic interest Oliver; and Eve and Zoe Bell as teammates Rosa Sparks and Bloody Holly, respectively. Fans of real life players Iron Maiven and Krissy Krash, both of the LA Derby Dolls' Tough Cookies, will also spot the kickass duo in a cameo as "The Manson Sisters."
In this interview, Zoe Bell (Grindhouse, Angel of Death) talks about her experience of working on Whip It, as well as her continuing transition from stunt double to actress.
Win a copy of WHIP IT, new on Blu-ray and DVD!
MEDIA: So you had never been on skates before this movie?
ZOE: No, never.
But we heard you were doing stunts after just a couple of weeks...
Jumps, yeah. [laughs] I'm nervous, and it's new, and it's something that I feel pretty uncoordinated [doing] the first couple of times, which I kind of enjoyed, actually, strangely enough. But you're also equipped with really big pads, which, when you're stunt doubling for women in movies, [you usually don't have]--you know, women don't want their doubles wearing anything that makes them look bigger in any way, shape, or form. [laughs] And most of the time, the costumes can't hide it anyway. You're in a negligee or you're wearing undies or something where it's like, "Put a band-aid on your tailbone, you'll be fine." So for me, there was like an absolute joy at the abandon that I could just take on. And if I ate it, I ate it, and I was not going to get bruised up, relatively speaking. I really enjoyed the process.
Ultimately, you did take a few bruises while filming. Did you ever get seriously injured?
I rang my bell one time. One time. I mean, I got bruised and fell over a bunch, but there was one time that I took a big crack to the head.
Was it weird to have Drew playing one of the derby girls alongside you even while she was directing?
It didn't feel weird at all. Clearly she's comfortable being in front of the camera, and she appeared to be so comfortable behind the camera, and she knew what she wanted and what she was doing, that there really wasn't a sense of either of those things being out of place. She literally rolled between the two.
Hitting your marks while skating in the pack sequences seems like it could be quite difficult. How choreographed are those scenes?
It was pretty choreographed. It's like with any action, it's a bit of the same...I mean, add wheels. [laughs] So you would get it as choreographed as possible, and then just be open to the fact that you're going to have to be spontaneous, and the cameraman is going to have to be spontaneous, and we're going to have to maneuver around each other and it's going to be different every time. But at the same time, once we all started doing enough of it, you get a feeling for how you maneuver as a pack. And you can only be so choreographed at that point, because if you try and make everybody stop at exactly the same [point], it's never going to work, and so you lose the fluidity of it, you know? So it was definitely a matter of us just spending heaps of hours on the track together, which was awesome.
You've been making a career transition from stunt double to actress in the last few years, since Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. Have you always had your eye on acting?
No. I mean, I think there have definitely been moments where I'd played around with the idea because I'm just in that industry, and people would ask me, and I'd be like, "No, what are you talking about? You're crazy..." And then I'd have a moment where I'd be like, [considers the idea] "I'm pretty good at talking. If I could get paid to talk..." And then I'd be like, [dismisses the idea] "Oh, no..." And then, Quentin basically was like, "So, I've written a script..." "Oh, good." "I want you to read it." "Really, why?" "Because you're in it." "Oh, really? You've got like pages and pages...Dialogue? Really? Interesting. Okay." So it's very different, but there's a lot of similarities at the same time. Like I'm not coming to it green and fresh, and I know what it's like to be on set. Like I think about what it must be like to be an actress for the first time, if you've not spent a lot of time on set, and it's terrifying!
So being flipped around on the hood of a car in Death Proof was probably the easiest part of the whole thing for you?
Yeah. Literally, when he told me about it, he was like, "Here's the script." I read it and looked at him [with] a mixture of like, "I love you," "I hate you," "Are you mental?" and "Thank you." And then he told me about the chase sequence, and I was like, "All right, I'm in!"