By: Sean Crose
Stuntwoman turned stunt-coordinator turned movie star Zoe Bell is perhaps most famous for her memorable roles in Quentin Tarantino films such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Kill Bill, Death Proof, and others. She has more in common with Tarantino than a body of work, however. For, like the famous director, Bell is a world class conversationalist. When I told the New Zealand native that I would keep our interview as short and painless as possible she kiddingly replied that she couldn’t promise the same because she likes to talk so much. And she certainly has a lot to say about her new film, Haymaker, which is written and directed by Nick Sasso.
Bell claims that, right off the bat, she felt Sasso was on to something with his story about a former fighter who connects with a trans pop star in danger. “My first memory is Skyping with Nick,” she says, adding that Sasso is just the type of person she likes to work with. “It sounds like they actually believe in their story,” she says of such individuals. Loving the fact that Sasso’s project was a classic “retired fighter redemption story” that was also progressive without being overbearing, Bell dove into the work.
“Once I was involved,” she says, “I was as involved as he would let me be.” Although she had been a part of productions as big as Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, Bell connected strongly with Sasso as he pursued his dream on a modest budget. “We kind of formed a really tight working relationship,” she says. This proved invaluable for the film, as the movie contains realistic fight scenes. Sasso, who has a strong fighting background and also stars in the film, openly credits Bell for stepping in and saving the actors from themselves during the filming of one fight scene in particular.
“If something happens to either of you guys,” she says, “not only will you guys get hurt, your production is also compromised.” Sasso wisely let Bell do her thing. “Street fighting and screen fighting are opposite,” Bell tells me, making it clear that in a screen fight, the actor is “trying to miss” without letting the audience in on that fact. “I basically set it up and structured it so we could be flexible,” she says. According to Bell, openness as a director is a strong suit of Sasso’s.
“There’s so much more freedom when there’s vision boundaries like that,” she tells me. “If I throw out an idea, he (Sasso) knows instinctively if it doesn’t fit. He’s really lovely to watch on set.” Not a bad compliment for a first time writer/director from one of the most respected individuals in the industry. “He was great,” Bell says. “My favorite way to work is collaboratively.”
Haymaker will be available in theaters, VOD and Digital on Friday, Jan. 29.