Grindhouse Junket Interview

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Did you always know you were going to be in both Planet Terror and Death Proof? “No. I auditioned for Quentin’s twice. I had to go back twice, while I was shooting Planet Terror, so no, I did not. It was not a foregone conclusion.”

Were you hinting to Quentin that he should put you in his movie too when he came to visit the Planet Terror set? “No, God no. Never. No, no, no, no, no. I think it was just the same old-fashioned way of somebody making an appointment for you and going in. But also, Quentin likes me and my acting, so to speak. I would never presume to go up to anybody and say anything like that. In fact, I made a huge point to never talk about it. He wasn’t even doing auditions or anything like that, then. I think he was still finishing the script.”

He’s a fanatic about his scripts, I understand. Every word is agonized over. “Yes. He has a very specific cadence, obviously. As long as you can get that, I think you’re sailing away, and you’re just fine.”

Since you left Charmed, you’ve done The Black Dahlia, some other stuff. Were you trying to move in a different direction with this? “It’s kind of just the way it’s happened. It certainly miss everybody on it [Charmed]. It’s very funny because Quentin is a huge fan of the show.”

So was it just time to leave? “Well, my contract was done, and yes, it was time. I was over, I didn’t want to re-up. I was on for five [years] and the girls were on for eight, and the only reason I was on for five was because I re-signed for three more years, after I was on for two. I was told I’d be there for about a year.”

Charmed had a lot of volatility, was there a big difference between doing a zombie movie with all these men? “It’s a tisket-a-tasket. When you’re with guys, you’re like ‘enough with the freakin’ testosterone. God, take it down a level.’ Especially actors. Aaagghh. Sorry you have to transcribe ‘aaagghh.'”

Was working with Holly and Alyssa easy? “Everything has its challenges, and they were really close when I went in, but my job isn’t to go in and be friends with people, my job is to actually work. We definitely became friends, but not sisterly, no. People say ‘do you hang out after work?’ Duh, I just worked fourteen hours a day. Do you hang out with people you work with after fourteen hour days? I think not. I go hang out with my dogs, and occasionally see my friends. But Holly just e-mailed yesterday and I told her she needs to come and visit me with her new baby. And last week I had a problem with my computer so I wrote Alyssa ‘Do you ever have this problem on your Mac?’ ‘No.’ Okay! So no, just kind of general exchanges.”

What was it like working with Kurt Russell? “It was great. And what was interesting, actually, was that almost the way it’s been cut, I have two different roles in Death Proof. Because Quentin wrote a 130-page script, which is really about two hours. So he had to truncate it, condense it for this. But once it’s on DVD .. and the international release is a lot longer.”

We get the back story about the boyfriend? “There’s big, big scenes about that, before I even get into the bar. And then I have a lot more stuff with Kurt, which actually develops his character a lot more. He and I were primarily together the whole time. That was pretty much all of our scenes. In the bar, other than his stuff out on the porch, it was all he and I. So that will be seen a lot more. But as it is, it’s interesting because right now I’m playing the girl who is like ‘don’t go in the woods, you dumbass, you’ll get killed by the guy with the axe.’ Now I’m playing ‘don’t go in the car, you dumbass…’ But if you see the longer version of it, you’ll kind of understand why I’m getting in the car. Currently, you’re like ‘what is she doing? What an idiot?’ She’s the girl you’re gonna yell at, basically.'”

How did you do all the leg stuff? “Calisthenics. [laughter] No. I had a really heavy gray cast and it had kind of like a ball bearing. Cause if you wanted a table leg or a rifle or a machine gun, you’d have to get a little nub to rest on, so that was the ball bearing and my toes were pointed in the air, and I thought maybe my achilles tendon was going to snap. And the other side was a four-inch high heel boot. Gray cast with LED lights.”

How did you walk like that? “Very awkwardly. How did I run like that? How did I jump like that, how did I roll like that? Yeah. I figured it out.”

Talk about the flying. Were you on a crane? “That was fun. I love flying. I was on wires, I wasn’t on a crane, but it was funny because I had to run to get up enough speed to be flown over the wall. And of course I had the four-inch heel.”

Do you see this role as a big break? “I don’t really think ahead that much. All I really hope is that drag queens have my leg on next Halloween. If that happens, I’ll be happy.”

So what’s up next for you? “I’m going to do a movie called Black Oasis, which is very ironic, strange, it’s this B-movie actress called Susan Cabot. She was Wasp Woman, in these Roger Corman movies, which Quentin’s seen every single one of. It’s written and going to be directed by the guy who did Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Stephan Elliot.

Black Oasis is the Susan Cabot story? Did she end up an alcoholic or something? “Susan Cabot story. She ended up being killed by her son, with nunchucks. An ignominious death for sure. I get to be in drag, because she dies in her early 50s, but she starts going crazier and crazier, just piling on the make-up. Then she starts getting kind of crazier, and she goes into time and thinks she’s Wasp Woman and all these other things, so I’ll be acting in all these other movies. It’s fantastical.”

Where did this story originate from? “I think just her life story, probably an article. I don’t know where the actual source material…”

Is it going to be serious? Weird? Both? “Probably both, I guess. I mean, it sounds very serious. It’s quite tragic actually, this poor little thing.”

When do you start shooting? “I hope to start in the next three or four months. It’s really great. The woman who is producing it, Hilary Shor, she just did Children of Men. So we’re hoping to start. She was about 4’10, Susan Cabot, so I’m not sure how .. I’m not super-tall, but that’s certainly a lot smaller. She would wear 8′ platforms, like going around with these high heels everywhere. Just such a sad life. She was sure she’d be an A-list actress if she was only taller. She was obsessed with that fact. She was engaged to King Hussein, then he found out her real name was Harriet Shapiro, she was Jewish, so he broke up with her. She got pregnant, and all her hopes and dreams pinned on the boy. She had a boy, and she was like ‘he’s going to be tall, and da da da, and .. . he was born with dwarfism. So then she put him through all these experimental treatments, shots and hormones, trying to make him taller. He got to be like 5’2, but it was really just a bizarre relationship with them. She had all the Wasp Woman and other props, like in her house. The house was like, crazy. And he became obsessed with Bruce Lee, hence the nunchucks. It was his way of getting masculine, because he never looked masculine. Because of all the hormones, he looked kind of feminine.”

Source: Cinematical

Filed in 'Black Oasis' 'Grindhouse' Articles Written by Riikka Pennanen

Riikka Pennanen co-founded in February 2007. She is responsible for the site's online content and social media presence. In addition to being a kick ass webmistress, she's also a film historian, a journalist, a code geek and a bona fide globetrotter. Chances are you'll never have seen Riikka without lipstick on.

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