Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell talks Taika, Tarantino and saving ugly animals

When she's not stunt-doubling for Thor: Ragnarok or starring in Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Kiwi stunt legend Zoe Bell is saving the world's ugliest creatures.

The Waiheke native is a big Hollywood name these days, and she's bringing her star power to the Wilderness Society's bold new #SaveUgly campaign.

The cause champions the lesser known, less cute creatures that are vital to our ecosystems, but often under-appreciated.

Bell's contribution saw her direct a short musical film to educate the masses, featuring Hollywood starlet Rosario Dawson dressed up as an ugly moth.

"The concept was fresh, funny and in support of an important cause," Bell says of her motivation to get involved with the project.

"Not to mention the opportunity to work with Rosario, as a director. Win, win, win!"

And how on earth did she manage to convince one of Tinseltown's most beautiful women to dance around dressed as a repulsive insect? 

"It took zero convincing - in fact I think it was part of the appeal," Bell says.

"Ro is a massive advocate for the environment and loves a good excuse to roll around in the dirt and get ridiculous!

"That's why we love each other."

Bell managed to rope in a raft of other celebrities voices to bring the cast of creepy crawlies to life too, including Cate Blanchett, who features as a turtle singing about whale excrement. 

Not exactly the role of a lifetime.

Maybe Blanchett owed her stunt double a favour after their stint together as Hela in Taika Waititi's Thor ?

"Cate doesn't owe me whale shit for Ragnarok! I'd do it all again, in a heartbeat," says Bell.

"I guess when it's a great idea, for a great cause and you are reaching out to great people... it's all about #SaveUgly."

The Kiwi dare-devil's stunt skills saw her go from Xena: Warrior Princess to Kill Bill, where she fast became a favourite of director Quentin Tarantino.

In fact, she's currently in LA, working on his latest movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. On set, she says she's surrounded by "a brilliant and inspired group of pros" including Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

Tarantino is infamous for his insistence on authenticity in his films, a pursuit which has at times seen some moments border on life-threatening.

Uma Thurman was in a serious car accident while filming Kill Bill and Leonardo DiCaprio slashed his hand during Django Unchained. The director even insisted on choking Diane Kruger himself on the set of Inglorious Basterds.

So, has he ever asked for too much?

"What kind of director doesn't?" she says. "It's part of a the job to dream big. Everything about this business manages to surprise and push me constantly."

How does her fellow Kiwi-turned-Hollywood-big-shot Taika Waititi compare to Tarantino as a director?

"As much as they are both one of a kind, I can think of a couple of similarities: music on set, a sharp wit, brilliant mind and a contagious love of the movie-making process."

And while we wait for Bell's next big screen appearance, she says we should occupy ourselves by taking an interest in the planet's less attractive animals.

"Get curious, investigate. Find out interesting facts. We should care, because we are all small pieces of the big picture," she says of the creatures featured in the #SaveUgly campaign.

"What hurts them hurts us."

And if you're wondering whether Bell still sometimes has moments of feeling like a wide-eyed Kiwi girl in Hollywood, wonder no more.

"You mean like Skyping with Cate Blanchett in my living room, directing her as a grass-headed turtle? Nah."


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