Zoe Bell

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This is the story of a young kiwi who dreamed of making it in the movies. In the land of the long white cloud during the 70s and 80s, Hollywood must have seemed like another planet.

Thankfully Hollywood came calling in search of lower costs, and when Xena: Warrior Princess shot there during the late 1990s, gymnastics and martial arts expert Zoe Bell, now 34, found her platform to the big time. More TV followed, she caught the eye of a certain huge-chinned ex video store clerk, and the rest is history.

Now with serious clout of her own thanks to Tarantino's creative patronage, Bell is becoming a one-woman mogul, producing and starring in exploitation fight flick Raze, and with more passion projects on the way.

But for now big budget work is still paying the bills, and she spoke to Moviehole about her days wrangling witches in Tommy Wirkola's revisionist fantasy Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

What stage is Raze at?

We're hoping it'll be in theatres this year, we're in negotiations right now. All the post production is done and wrapped. It's like having my baby finally out there, not just the lines or stunts but the whole film. Putting it up in front of people and having open judgment, it's been an interesting experience.

Any particular challenges you came up against in Hansel and Gretel that you hadn't before?

What I was wearing in being a witch. I had the heaviest costume on the movie, it had about eight different layers. I had boots with heels on and clubs for fingernails so I couldn't cut up my own food.

There were three hours of props and makeup and the mask went over my ears. I couldn't touch anything properly because of the gloves, I couldn't hear anything properly because of the prosthetics. I couldn't see anything properly because of the contact lenses. Just fitting into my costume and prosthetics was exhausting.

But the reality is I dealt with it much better when I was in action. Once someone says 'action' I kind of went into full witch mode and started feeling it. It's when I'm sitting down between takes that I want to start ripping my face off.

Was it scary doing all that work feeling like you're encased in a bubble?

It wasn't as much scary as it was frustrating. I'm used to being quite agile but all my senses were dulled and I couldn't move very well. But once I got my head around it I realised that was just part of being a witch. She had poor eyesight and she struggled moving around on her feet. Once I figured that out, I could use it.

A lot of the scenes were exterior shots too, does it make it harder when you can't control the environment?

Absolutely. Most of my sequences happen in the forest, so I was running through trees and climbing up trees and diving under trees, and the costume had a lot of netting, so I'd end up at the end of a sequence with pieces of tree attached to me.

It is more about liking the stunt work or the movie itself that makes you sign on?

As an actor it's whether the action sounds cool and appealing. Or the friends – working with friends is a big one for me.

It made good money but didn't so well with critics – does that bother you?

I watched the movie, I really enjoyed it and we had such a good time doing it. You're always going to have people who are expecting something different to what it turns out to be. But if I'm going to get philosophical about it, the experience of the job is what my life consists of. My life is when I'm on set.

So the experience is cool, my life is cool and that's all that really matters. We all want our movies to be received well, but at the end of the day making a movie at all is a feat. I'm proud of everybody that completes a movie. I can say that now that I've completed my own – it's a big deal.

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