What excited your team?
Bell: Sort of all of it. For example, obviously driving the cars of that day. Half the people I hired on my team to drive. Some of the driving was pretty basic with mostly sort of an awareness thing, actor safety, just keeping it so that the actors had freedom to not have to worry about the safety as much. But the guys and girls are all like, "These cars are sick." Even if they were slightly complicated to get working. We all loved rolling around looking gangster in those wagons dressed up. That was pretty cool. If you're honest, you get to be kids again for a minute, if we get to step outside of our professional selves.
Obviously the Bruce Lee situation. And that's an interesting one, because we want to be as respectful as possible. You also want to have the Quentin twist in there. You want to be honest to what we know of Bruce, what we don't know of Bruce, what I know of Quentin. We want Brad to feel really excited and confident about it. Fortunately working with Brad and Mike Moh, who played Bruce, we just had two people that were really engaged and interested, and Mike Moh is a martial artist unto himself and a complete Bruce Lee fan. So watching him nerd out about it was really exciting.
And then even something as basic: One of the gags that kind of came up during shooting was a balcony fall on one of the westerns. This guy gets shot at the top of the building and he smashes through the balcony and hits the floor. That's just so old school. And doing those things practical, rather than doing it either on a wire, or with some kind of CG, I knew it was really important. That's the kind of stuff that's a shout out to the old school. And if we're not going to do it old school, then he probably doesn't really want it in the movie.
I want to go back to the Bruce Lee scene. It's been one of the most debated scenes since the movie has come out, with people asking whether Cliff really beats Bruce. In the choreography, what is happening there? What were your objectives with that scene?
Bell: Obviously Bruce Lee is an icon and amongst most people in the stunt community of any age, there's an element of awe and wonder that surrounds this guy. As there is around Quentin, obviously. You've got Quentin as sort of the god character in the pulling together of the scene and then you've got Bruce Lee who is a god of sorts. And then you've got Cliff who's effectively sort of the hero, the unsung hero that no one really knows about. So there's just empathy on both sides. Rob Alzono is my site coordinator, and my co-coordinator and my right hand man, and just an absolute gem of a human, and a professional, and a total Bruce Lee nerd. We went back and forth. At the end of the day, whatever Quentin chooses to say in his films, that's his prerogative, it's his story. It's our job to authenticate it, or to bring it to life, or to make it as cool or as painful or as scary. We need to get both of these guys looking like they are fierce and badass. It was really fun because depending on what Quentin wanted to say, it depended on the mood. So we choreographed a bunch of different pieces, and styles and we worked a lot with Brad's stance, and how he would be in between the fight beats. If he is kind of guards down and that's how he gets him the first time. And then what is it that gets Bruce kind of on the back foot, because he is as talented and skilled as he is, and is it just that he's never been up against someone like Cliff? Is it that Cliff's hidden sort of weapon of mass destruction is just that he has literally had to defend himself for his life and killed people? So it's exploring all of those different avenues, and at the end of the day making sure that the choreography spoke to the individual characters, and what the interactions between them were emotionally. Then it's authentic regardless. Then it's on the audience to be like, "Screw you guys. Bruce Lee would never." Or "Screw you guys. I love that, because that's totally what I've always thought." And Quentin's not one to take history as it is, and stick to it all the time. But it was really fun for everyone involved in that whole process.
You appear at the end of that scene, as the wife of the stunt coordinator played by Kurt Russell. What was it like doing that cameo? My other question is: Obviously your character believes that Cliff has killed his wife, but did you have any conversations about whether or not that was actually true in the context of the film?
Bell: Well, I mean, I know, because I had conversations with Quentin about it early on, and I will not say, and I like that you're not meant to know. And I like that no one actually knows one way or the other, but it divides people. You know what I mean? And then as an audience member you're like, "But this guys so charming and he's kind of hot when he takes his shirt, and I dig him, and he's so relaxed. But did he kill his wife? Could he?" That's the whole point, you know? And I love how absolutely certain Janet is, she's just like, "I don't want to be near this guy." But just everything about it ties in perfectly.
It was spontaneous, that one. "Actually, you know what would work right here would be if his wife came in. Zoë, we need you to get in costume." I'm like, "What?" He's like, "We need you to get in costume. Have you got your cowboy hat?" And I was like, "Well, it's in the car." "Right, away you go." I was like "Okay." But it was sort of perfect. I had been basically selling Quentin on me playing Kurt Russell at one point, in some of the fight scenes that we had put down on DVD to sort of show him some of the ideas, I had stepped in as Kurt Russell, and I had done my best Kurt Russell. So by the time it came around I was like, "Oh yeah, let me in there. I want to do Kurt Russell." Maybe don't print it like I want to "do" Kurt Russell, because that's not what I mean.
It was an interesting thing to me because it was one of our big sequences, as a stunt coordinator it was one of my biggest sequences. So I was definitely in boss-woman mode. Which kind of probably helped with the whole Janet boss-woman mode. And there was just something really fun about, obviously I have a long working relationship with Kurt now, and Brad and I had been working together for a couple of months at that point with training and everything. And Mike as well, Mike Moh and myself. And that was quite possibly some of the most fun I've had as an actor. You know when people talk about surrounding yourself with people that are better than you, like, be the dumbest one in the room and all that? Being surrounded by those three actors, I just think you've got no choice but to bring whatever A game you've got and all of it. I think we all had a real blast that day. Quentin was laughing his ass off. That always makes me happy too.
Is that your cowboy hat?
Bell: That's my cowboy hat, yeah. And I got that cowboy hat because the cowboys basically picked it out for me when I was learning how to drive the six-horse team for Hateful Eight.