Kiwi stuntwoman-turned-Hollywood actress Zoe Bell has proved she can roll with the punches in Tinseltown. She was Uma Thurman’s double in Kill Bill, performed a 67m free fall from a skyscraper on Catwoman, and now has a rare inside scoop on what Tom Cruise is really like after working with him on the new sci- blockbuster - Oblivion.
But even though she’ll tumble from midair without hesitation and happily rub shoulders with a superstar, it’s learning how to express her emotions that has been the biggest challenge.
But when Zoe meets with the Weekly, she’s a chatterbox – happy to talk about everything from the steak and cheese pie she bought at the petrol station, to her future hopes of having babies, and her barefoot childhood on Waiheke Island.
It’s a far cry from the next big thing on her to-do list, when she’ll get glammed up for the premiere of Oblivion and walk next to Tom on the red carpet. Zoe says working with him
was a breeze, but at times he left her lost for words in the wake of his star power.
“He’s Tom Cruise – I’ve never met anyone like him,” says Zoe. When asked about rumour that the actor takes his star status too seriously, Zoe is quick to dispel those myths.
“He has a [star] presence, but he is just a professional. It wasn’t like no-one was allowed to talk to him or look at him in the eye – none of that s*. “He’s totally accessible. I’d be like ‘Hey Tom,’ and he’d say ‘Hey Zoe, do you want a cup of tea?’ And I’d say to him ‘Nah it’s all good.’”
Being so open hasn’t always been easy. The star – whose stunt career began at the age of 17 as Lucy Lawless’ body double in Xena: Warrior Princess – spent her whole life acting like one of the boys.
Now, the 34-year-old is finally embracing her feminine and maternal side. Part of that change within
her has come from the shift into acting work, which has required her to address emotions. “I was saying to my mum last year, if I don’t do any more acting ever again, it’s been the best therapy session ever,” says Zoe, bursting into husky laughter.
“Moving into acting has been about me coming to terms with my maternal and sexual side.”
Although she moved to LA in 2002, Zoe still walks, talks and laughs like a rough and ready
New Zealander, her sentences riddled with “bros”, “ehs” and swear words.
Her toned and enviable figure is the result of the hard physical work she puts into action-packed
supporting roles in films such as Django Unchained, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and indie flick Raze, which she starred in and also produced.
The blonde beauty has a gentle presence you may not expect. Over the years, stunts have left her battered, bruised, sprained and broken. A fractured vertebrae almost ended her career on the set of Xena and a wrist injury on Kill Bill put her out of action for more than a year.
It can be an extremely painful line of work, but Zoe developed a coping mechanism for the hurt by never complaining, acting upbeat and making other people feel good on set. By hiding her discomfort, she blocked out her feelings, and over time Zoe has come to realise there is a romantic
and loving side to her.
“Obviously I don’t need a man, but it’s really nice to have someone to look after and who will look after you and share your life with,” Zoe says of her boyfriend of three years Mark, who works in food exports.
“And that doesn’t make you weaker or lamer – we’re partners in crime, that’s what I reckon.” Zoe says people struggle to disassociate her from tough girl roles – men often say they wouldn’t want to date a girl like her because she would be able to beat them up. It’s something she sounds very irritating.
“I’ve had enough people ask me if men find me intimidating that I’ve started to think they must do,” she says.
Zoe lives with Mark in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, and while it never feels quite like her Kiwi
homeland, she’s put down roots.
She’d like to become a mum one day, but is conscious that her action-packed career does
not lend itself to motherhood and Hollywood is not a town where she’d like to raise kids.
“This is assuming I have kids – if I was to have them, I’d love to have them in New Zealand
and enjoy barbecues on the beach. That sort of thing.”
Photoshoot location courtesy of Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour www.sofitel-auckland.com
Oblivion opens in theatres nationwide on April 11.**