Certain Thursday mornings deviate from the norm, and such was the case last week when we hit the set of action/horror flick Raze to interview blood-spattered and dirt-smudged stars Zoe Bell and Rachel Nichols and director Josh C. Waller following a morning of scripted mayhem. Click through to watch an extensive video clip with the trio and for more info from the director of the film currently shooting in Los Angeles.
Scripted by executive producer Louis Iacoviello and producer Kenny Gage (with additional producer credits going to Robert Beaucage, Andrew Pagana, Bill Ceresia, Zoë Bell and director Waller), the feature was in its sixth day of shooting when we caught up with the director and his cast, who, while taking a break from filming a particularly brutal hand-to-hand combat scene (Bell and Nichols were truly going for it), gave us the lowdown on the flick.
“We are shooting Raze as a feature that may have been cut up into webisodes,” filmmaker Waller told us on the darkly lit soundstage just opposite the stone-walled arena set, where his stars only moments ago had been duking it out, “but all of that is changing now with the buzz and the hype that is kind of happening, which wasn’t really anticipated. But everyone loves Rachel and Zoe, and with the two of them it’s created this.”
As for the narrative of Raze, “I know a lot of people are describing it as ‘Hostel meets Fight Club’,” offered the director, “but I would describe it more as ‘Taken meets Fight Club meets Eyes Wide Shut’, the latter in that there is an underground aristocracy (at its core). I wanted to try to track something that was a little bit closer to the gladiator days, as if this is something that has been happening since ancient Rome, whereas we think that the days of the gladiators have stopped, when in reality they just went underground, and it has continued all of these years.”
Commenting on the set design and how it complements the narrative, “That’s why the arena is built a little like a gladiator pit, although instead of there being box seats where say Ceaser would have been, they are in box seats (where people could) watch on multiple feeds. The Taken aspect is that in Raze there are beautiful women from all over who are abducted specifically to fight. It’s about women who are forced to fight and they don’t know who by, and all they know is that they have to fight or they die. It’s just that simple. So for both Zoe and Rachel, trying to figure out that balance of rage and also pure fear is a fine line. It’s about the forbidden.”
On the challenges inherent to the shoot, “We are probably doing one of the most ambitious fights for women that I have ever seen,” Waller reflected, “and we are doing this scene in three days. Normally this type of fight would take a week to two weeks so we are pulling off twenty-five to thirty shots a day.”
In attempting to replicate the realism of combat in an era when UFC and the impact of actual flesh upon flesh is readily available to audiences with a thirst for it, “That’s part of the great thing about having Zoe,” said Waller. “She was the first actress that we brought on, and you know that’s why you bring her to this type of a production. I mean, it’s the same reason Quentin (Tarantino) wrote the role for her in Deathproof, because why would I get someone else when I could get the actual woman to do the stunts? She’s also an incredible actress so it’s really great to see her use her stunt abilities and then bring in this newfound excitement she has for acting, and she takes it incredibly seriously. We’ve known each other for years, and she’s really bringing it here. There’s a lot of emotion to the role.”
As for the scripted violence, “I’m not personally a fan of torture porn,” stated Waller. “With Raze we have to really connect people to these characters and to their emotions in order for us to empathize with the violence that they themselves have to inflict on the other characters. There’s no ‘black and white’ per se, just innocent women having to kill other innocent women, so when we do show the violence and the gore, it should be impactful. Mario Torres is providing the effects, and I can’t say enough about the guy. He’s really gone above and beyond on a budget that is close to nothing.”
Have a look at the video interview from the set below, which includes Bell riffing on the project and her involvement as a producer, Nichols’ happiness at the news that her film P2 has since its release become required Christmas viewing for genre fans, what attracted Nichols to her role in Raze and her approach to the physicality required, Waller’s thoughts in regard to a potential franchise, and much, much more.
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