You won't recognise New Zealander Zoe Bell, but you will have seen her work if you've watched Kill Bill: she's Uma Thurman's stunt double in both films. She's subsequently doubled for Sharon Stone in the Halle Berry-starrer Catwoman. Here, though, she reflects on the challenges of learning martial arts and working with Quentin Tarantino.
The Bride is an accomplished martial artist. How much training did you have to do?
We did about six weeks training in China, but it was quite confusing because I was initially hired as the 'fall over' double - the person who hits the ground and smashes into things - so I was never properly trained by the fight team until we started shooting and they realised that I would make a good body double. I basically did a lot of my training on set. It was pretty scary!
It must have been pretty intense...
I'd done all the wirework before when I was working on Xena: Warrior Princess, so it was second nature to me. The hard part was stylistically making the change. When I worked on Xena I had to concentrate on fighting like Lucy Lawless. In Kill Bill I not only had to stop fighting like Lucy, after three years of copying her moves, but start fighting like a Wu Shu martial artist. I'd never done Wu Shu before so mentally it was a massive challenge.
What was it like working with the Chinese fight choreographers?
Just watching them was amazing: their techniques and their styles and the way they go about things. These fighters were basically born doing Wu Shu. It's definitely their specific style. I don't know how good they'd be in a bar fight though...
Well, I'm pretty sure they could kick some ass, but because they've been trained to fight in that particular style for so long, to fight with no style would be really hard for them. It's a little like having a really good dancer trying to dance off-beat - it's really hard for them.
What was your most dangerous moment on set?
I was injured at the end of Kill Bill. I hit the ground, instead of hitting the mat, pretty hard and busted my ribs and had to have surgery. I was being blown out of a trailer in a harness and actually landed on my coordinator instead - who broke my fall a little! My arm smacked into the ground and obliterated one of the ligaments.
What's Quentin Tarantino really like?
He's great. He's exactly like he comes across in interviews. He's driven, artistic and imaginative, and a little bit nuts. You know, actors always ask their directors what their motivation is in this scene or that scene, so I've always had this joke where I ask the director what my motivation is too. As a stunt person your motivation is usually to fall over a bench or something. But Quentin came over at one point and said "So your motivation in this scene is...", and I just cracked up laughing. But he was being really serious: "You're The Bride as well as Uma, you need to know what her motivation is." It was the first time I've ever taken any of that stuff seriously.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 is out now to own and rent on DVD.