Stuntwoman-turned-action-star Zoe Bell (Death Proof) headlines this sly subversion of the women-in-prison genre. When Sabrina is mysteriously abducted, she finds herself in an underground lair, forced to do battle with other innocents for the amusement of unseen spectators. Each of these reluctant warriors has something to lose, but only one will remain when the game is done. Violent and relentless, ‘Raze‘ takes its video game aesthetic to the deepest and darkest places, rarely surfacing for air.
After showcasing her amazing physicality and tough-as-nails persona in films and television, Tarantino muse Zoe Bell finally has a film to call her own, filled with bloodshed and mayhem of the highest order. With a cast of who’s-who genre favorites, including Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) and a rare performance sans prosthetics from Guillermo Del Toro mainstay Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), Raze announces its extreme intentions from the very first frame. Director Josh Waller has created a terrifying world of savagery in which nothing is what it seems.
We caught up with Director Josh Waller, as well as Zoe Bell, Rebecca Marshall, Tracie Thoms and Doug Jones in anticipation of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival premier of ‘Raze‘. The film Also plays on Monday, April 22, 2013 and Friday, April 26 at New York City’s Clearview Chelsea Cinemas.
But Tickets for ‘RAZE’ at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival – HERE
Josh, how were you introduced to this film?
Josh Waller: I was introduced to the project through Kenny Cage (producer) who had written a short film called ‘Raze‘. I though there was something to it so I called him immediately and started brainstorming. I have no interest in doing an exploitation film. I know there is a market for them but they are not what I am looking to do. One of the first ways to make it serious is to make the the fights be as real as possible as well as having the emotional arcs of the characters. The first person we called was Zoe. It was a no-brainer. As soon as she came on board we called Rachel Nichols and it fell together organically. We were not going to even do a feature at first. We thought about taking the “Angel of Death” example and making webisodes and edit them into a feature. We started getting some heat…
Heat, in a good way?
(laughs) In a good way! With Zoe and Rachel on board we started fielding e mails from international distributors.
You mention you did not want to make something categorized as an exploitation film, but is there a genre that you feel the film falls into?
Zoe Bell: If you are a fight fan it is a fight film; if you are a horror fan it is a horror film…
Josh: Some people are going to categorize it an exploitation movie because it has women fighting but that is stupid. Personally, I call it an action film. To me a good action film has elements of comedy, drama, and more. One of the best action films is ‘Die Hard‘. There are tons of laughs, even from the villains; the moments where it is bloody it is very bloody.
Zoe: I find myself saying it is a genre movie and people say “what kind of genre?” But it is simply a genre movie. It fits anywhere.
Tracie Thoms: Action-Horror
From an acting point of view, did anyone draw from past performances for their roles in the film?
Rebecca Marshall: Not me. I play a sociopath and I have never played a role like this before. I remember reading the script and wondering why did they want me in this film.
So what drew you to the script?
Rebecca: It was a huge challenge. My goal was to have people love to hate her. After I read the script my first thought was “how do I not judge this person?”
Obviously the roles are very physical, how did you prepare for them prior to production?
Zoe: Beer and McDonalds (laughs)
Was there extended fight training?
Tracie: Everyone has a different set of skills. I was a boxer so I trained with straight fisticuffs. Others knew Muay Thai, so we could work on some things together and some things separately. The choreography was important so we could train to that in the time that we had.
Zoe: We wanted to get the actors fighting each other working together. It is like dancing. If you do not have much experience dancing you would want an experienced dance partner and this is the same with fighting.
Josh: Also so you don’t focus on the choreography. You want it to be second nature. The fighting is an extension of what you are going through emotionally so the goal is to connect opponents and actors.
Zoe, you come from the world of stunts and now are transitioning into leading actress territory. How do you find this transition?
Zoe: Now I am excited about but that was not always the case. Tracie was there during ‘Death Proof‘ and saw how nervous I was when I actually had to speak.
I remember ‘Death Proof’ being very dialogue heavy…
Zoe: Plus it is Tarantino words so that shit is precise. You can’t just bumble through it or else he will tell you that is not how he wrote it. Going back to ‘Raze‘, I think the difficult part for me was emoting. As a stunt person I was always performing so that part came very naturally but I was always used to the camera behind me. I had to learn how to open up my face so years of instinct was being tested constantly.
The other instinct I ad to break was being vulnerable on set. Anything feminine, sexual, scared, angry or hurting was never on set. That all happened at home.
How does the preparation for stunts compare with acting preparation?
Zoe: The one way they compare is they are both important. I still have a stigma where I see myself as a newcomer and Quentin told me to not to take acting classes. I did a lot of practical preparation ‘Death Proof‘ the only way I knew how, so that was the only thing that gave me comfort on set. With ‘Raze‘ I was the opposite of the rest of the cast. The fight stuff i had down while others worked very hard on that aspect. I found myself using the action to access my emotions.
Similarly for you Doug, you are prominent in films but in some different capacities than traditional acting. How did you find the transition from being behind heavy makeup and prosthetics to it now being just you in front of the camera?
Doug Jones: I am known for being creatures under masks and now there is nothing separating my face from the camera so there is a new kind of fear that comes with that. In ‘Raze‘ I even shaved my head so you are seeing all of me. That is also why I wanted to do the film, since it was a challenge. This was such a bizarre character. I mean Sherilyn Fenn and I play a married couple who abduct women and make them fight to the bloody death so there has to be some crazy that comes with that.
Going back, you mention the multi-dimensionality that successful films have. You had mentioned humor, drama and action but what are some of the underlying themes that make ‘Raze’? Were there any specific messages you wanted to put out with the film?
Josh: Redemption. It is funny because when i hear Doug speak about the goals of his character and showing the true power of the woman. For me my goal was similar (except for making them kill each other). It was trying to show that it is time for women in film to share the same space as men. ‘Haywire’ is a good example of this but it still needs to happen faster.
– Interview conducted & transcribed on site by Steve Rickinson