For those of us who have seen Death Proof, Zoe Bell is more than a known commodity, she’s a frakkin superstar. As a film fan I love it when a movie can not only whisk me away to the universe they have created, but just as thrilling is when they can do something so amazing I can’t help but ask “How the hell did they do that?” More often than not, the answer exists due to the hard work of the stunt men and women who risk life and limb so the “stars” of the film don’t have to. But in the case of Zoe Bell, its not so much a matter of how she does it, but rather that she does it so much better than anyone else.
For the uninitiated Zoe Bell was initially known for being Lucy Lawless’ stunt double for Xena: Warrior Princess during its television run. Fresh off the success and acclaim for being able to pull off such difficult and athletic stunts on a weekly basis, Zoe set her sights on the US where she hoped to break in the film business.
Double Dare is the story of two women, trapped in a world dominated by men, as they risk their lives trying to prove that anything boys can do they can do better. And you know what? They damn well can.
Helping her on this journey was Jeannie Epper, a woman who’s family was a veritable Hollywood institution when it came to stunt work. Her family had been doing stunt work since the beginnings of Hollywood and Jeannie had gone on to become a rather acclaimed stunt actor in her own right. While best known as Linda Carter’s stunt double for the television series The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, her decades of hard work and dedication had made her one of the most respected stunt performers in Hollywood. But stunt work is a young person’s game, and for all the barriers Jeannie had broken down as a performer, she was struggling to become a stunt coordinator, a job her years of experience seemed to be tailor made for her.
And thus this likely pairing was formed, a New Zealander on the way up, being mentored by someone struggling to stay relevant. And it is Jeannie’s constant efforts to genuinely help Zoe break into Hollywood that provide a layer of kindness and selflessness rarely seen in such a cutthroat town.
But while the humanitarian aspect and general Girl Power sentiment are a fascinating complimentary element to Double Dare, it is the window into behind the scenes production that is both fascinating and incredibly revealing. Its obvious these people love the art of film making as they risk their lives and limbs to help make them a reality, and in turn the actors, directors and everyone else above the line has nothing but gratitude for their tireless efforts.
But beyond that, Double Dare opens wide the window into what these people, and specifically women, must do to make these scenes come to life. Intensive training, hours of work, bruises, breaks, pulls and a surprising lack of protective gear, all so the stunt performers can match closely with their on-screen counterparts . It is a dangerous, daring and dynamic line of work and these women clearly love it. Apparently none more than Zoe, whose face positively beams with excitement as every new and more complicated stunt is presented to her.
As fascinating a character as Jeannie is, the true star of the film is Zoe, and what is most fascinating is that everyone knows it but her. As stunt performers marvel at her skills Zoe constantly and effortlessly moves through each scene like the happiest kid in the World’s Biggest candy store. Zoe is so comfortable and relaxed that she continually forgets that there is a camera following her, resulting in numerous candid moments that she is truly as fun loving as she already appears to be.
Now those of you who know Zoe Bell also know that she was eventually cast as Uma Thurman’s stunt double for both of the Kill Bill films, and easily the greatest moments in Double Dare are directly tied to Zoe’s tryouts for the role.
You see Zoe was a virtual unknown in Hollywood when she arrived from New Zealand, and it was Jeannie that not only recognized her talent but had Zoe invited to a workout where she knew multiple talent evaluators would be in attendance. And sure enough, Zoe killed. She caught the eye of the stunt co-coordinator for Kill Bill, Keith Adams, who in turn invited her to a tryout for the film in front of Quentin Tarantino and legendary martial arts adviser Master Woo-ping Yuen.
It is at the tryout that Double Dare turns into a truly magical film. As Zoe continues to impress those in attendance, the camera catches Master Woo-ping and Quentin Tarantino quickly noticing that someone special was suddenly in their midst. And slowly but surely, Quentin starts to display that shit-eating grin that he has become synonymous with, it quickly becomes clear that he is positively enamored with Zoe. So when he pounces on a chance to introduce himself, during a quick break in her workout, you soon realize that in that brief moment in time, Quentin is the fan privileged enough to meet a star for the first time. And through all of that, Zoe is still unaware, and certainly unsure, that she has made an impression. That is, until; she receives the phone call that will change her life forever.
And it is in those moments or role-reversal, trepidation and unadulterated joy that Double Dare provides you, the viewer, a chance to watch a genuinely nice person, who has worked their whole life for this one shining moment, really and truly grab hold of their dreams. And right then, Double Dare shines almost as brightly as Zoe Bell’s infectious smile.