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The Grateful Eight

Zoë Bell on filming with Quentin Tarantino and loving every moment

The characters in The Hateful Eight, the latest movie from Quentin Tarantino, mostly live up to the film’s title. Except for Six-Horse Judy. The gregarious cowgirl, played by Tarantino favorite Zoë Bell, might be one of the only characters in the film who isn’t hell-bent on bloodshed. Here, Bell—who’ll also star in the upcoming film Camino—explains the appeal of a brutal movie and reveals how she brought a tear to her director’s eye. 

This wasn’t your first Tarantino movie, but people might not have known it was you in some previous roles. 

When I was 23, I worked on both of the Kill Bill movies. I was Uma’s stunt double for those movies, and that’s where my working relationship with Quentin first started. Fortunately for me, it has continued. I didn’t know there was going to be a role for me in The Hateful Eight before reading the script. 

What made you want to play Judy?

Mostly because it’s Quentin, and I love working with him for all those obvious reasons. This particular character, Six-Horse Judy, was appealing and exciting because she is sort out of the realm most people perceive me to be capable of. She has a few stunts that I had to learn, which were challenging, but she is not a bad ass. She’s not tough. She’s incredibly sweet and sort of bubbly.

Yeah, but she’s still driving a six-horse caravan up a snowy mountain.

I think it was in October of last year that we started to train for the six-horse thing. We wanted to be as authentic as possible.

How do you even begin getting to the point where you can do that?

You do it in stages.  Psychologically there are several hurdles that are pretty overwhelming, but we started off with one horse and then we moved up two horses and then four and then six. And then we went to Colorado in the snow and the cold. Then, you just hoped by the first day of the shoot that you were confident enough that you didn’t kill anybody.

And you didn’t? At least off-screen?

No causalities. No one killed anybody. And no horses were harmed in the making of this film.

To keep things authentic, you guys filmed on an actual snowy mountain. Was that as fun as it sounds?

Well, there’s a group of us characters that kind of come into the film [at a different point in time] when the weather is fantastic, the sky is blue and everything is warm. So, most of my time on set was fairly idealistic. It was not nearly as challenging as a lot of the stories I heard when those other actors were on set with the blizzard and the horrible weather in the plummeting cold.

It’s not giving anything away to say there are some pretty sensational deaths in this film. How do those scenes come together?

They use professionals for that very reason. [Stunt supervisor] Jeff Dashnaw is a professional, and he and Quentin have worked together many times before. It always helps to have sort of strong communication, and the reality is Quentin has kind of choreographed all of this stuff so far in advance. I feel like some is choreographed before he has even written the first draft.

I’m imagining lunch breaks populated entirely by actors covered in fake blood.

You are often sitting at lunch covered in blood. Peopled do what they can to try to make you as comfortable as possible, but it’s not always the cleanest—especially when it’s cold. Quentin had the temperature so low, so you can see the actors’ breath. Being in those kinds of temperatures when you are covered in blood is pretty miserable.

What’s your fondest memory from your time making this film? 

I have to say it’s when I made Quentin cry. Normally that would be my worst memory, I would imagine, but I made him cry because he was so touched by Six-Horse Judy that he got a bit misty-eyed. That rocked my world.

That’s got to be a milestone!

Yeah, normally saying I made Quentin Tarantino cry is not something I would consider a landmark, but I was just very proud. I think I may have even got a bit misty-eyed myself.