Zoe Bell’s toughest stunt yet: ‘Angel of Death’

March 01, 2009 | 11:13 p.m.

On Crackle.com’s new show, Zoë Bell, karate-chopping stand-in for the stars, takes a scary leap into acting. Greg Braxton interviewed the stuntwoman-turned-leading-lady

6a00d8341c630a53ef01127917168728a 2 Zoe Bells toughest stunt yet: Angel of Death

As a stuntwoman, Zoë Bell knows about being photographed from awkward or distant angles that obscure her face. But with the Crackle.com online series "Angel of Death," she had to get used to her close-up.

Playing Eve, the ruthless assassin at the center of the series, required the New Zealand native to display both action and acting chops — and at times, she found it easier to brawl than bawl.

"I had to get over that fear of showing emotion," said Bell. "Doing the butt-kicking stuff was no problem. But crying? That’s scary!"

The 30-year-old Bell, who has doubled for Lucy Lawless ("Xena: Warrior Princess"), Uma Thurman ("Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2") and Sharon Stone ("Catwoman"), is the star of "Angel of Death," launching today  on the Crackle video network, which is backed by Sony Pictures Entertainment. With "Angel of Death," Bell joins a small club of actresses who are credible in action roles. Though others like Thurman, Jennifer Garner, Michelle Yeoh and Milla Jovovich have all played action heroines, none of them performed all of her own stunts. But in "Angel of Death," Bell does everything herself.

"It’s a little bit daunting," she said, chomping down on French fries at a Hollywood diner. "I’m not used to carrying all the weight. I was very comfortable being where I was in the industry. As far as acting, I really had no clue."

But thanks to Quentin Tarantino, she felt ready to take the plunge. The writer-director cast her in "Death Proof,"  his half of “Grindhouse." In the film, Bell plays "Zoë Bell," a fun-loving stuntwoman terrorized by a psychotic stuntman (Kurt Russell).

In much of "Death Proof," Bell displays a natural charm and ease, bantering and teasing her costars, including Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. But it’s her harrowing stunt work that received the most attention. At one point, Bell is spread-eagle on the hood of a speeding car and barely hangs on.

But "Angel of Death" demanded far more range.

"Eve is not me by any means," she said. "But I really owed it to everyone and the crew to take it seriously. I did a lot of work on the part in my trailer — I had never had a trailer before!"

For scenes where she had to be more emotional, Bell said, she would think about ex-boyfriends or sad times with family: "Once I figured out how to make that work, and I got past my fear, then everything seemed to click."

Members of the creative team behind "Angel of Death" said they had been a little  concerned about choosing an inexperienced actress as their lead.

"I certainly expected challenges," said Paul Etheredge, who directed the project. "But I was so surprised and pleased by her. She had mapped her character out, had written a back story, everything. I was stunned that she thought it out so completely."

Added executive producer Ed Brubaker, who developed "Angel of Death": "Everybody might have been a little nervous in the beginning, but now the risk is whether we will be able to afford her next time. She is that good."

Bell is back to doing stunts — this time in Tarantino’s upcoming "Inglorious Basterds." But she clearly has caught the acting bug:  She will appear as a roller-derby player in this summer’s "Whip It," starring Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore, and she has several other films in the works.

"I don’t want to be put in any box," she said. "I want to do everything."

— Greg Braxton



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Photo: Bell and “Angel of Death” executive producer Ed Brubaker get close on the show’s set. Credit: Joel Warren / Crackle.com

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One Response to Zoe Bell’s toughest stunt yet: ‘Angel of Death’

  1. Dean Seeley says:

    Mr Braxton:
    Just a quick comment. While you are correct that Michelle Yeoh has not done ALL her own stunts, she has done about 90 percent and has never shied away from doing the tough ones (which is what she is well known for). I call her the female Jackie Chan. The other women you mention – Jennifer Garner and Milla Jovovich – are actresses and do not do their own stunts, period. To them, it is a novelty to do a fall or something along those lines. Michelle Yeoh has literally jumped the Great Wall of China on a motorcycle, done many falls off of high walls and jumped off an overpass (for which she nearly broke her neck). Yeoh built her reputation by doing her own fights and stunts and built up her acting skills along the way. She is an extremely good actress.
    Sorry, but your comment set me off. You guessed right: I'm a Michelle Yeoh fan, hehehe!

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