Living through ‘Grindhouse’

Ryan Haidet

The actors discuss what it was like shooting the movie

A few months ago, a poster was released with a picture of a woman who had an automatic gun for a leg.

The buzz had begun.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are back with Grindhouse – the gritty double-feature providing a throwback to the exploitation films from the ’60s and ’70s.

Made up of two films, Death Proof and Planet Terror, the filming style of Grindhouse gave the actors an opportunity to be involved in something unique.

“It’s funny because, when I work on other films, there’s a person’s job as script supervisor/continuity,” said Tracie Thoms, starring in Tarantino’s Death Proof. “They make sure we pick up cups with the same hand, you put stuff back in the same place, your shirt is buttoned up three buttons. So, you know, everything matches. We didn’t really have that. It was like, ‘Continuity is for pussies. This is Grindhouse.'”

Thoms, also in The Devil Wears Prada, said the days were long, but worth it because of her love for horror and working with Tarantino.

Marley Shelton, whom some may remember as lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn from The Sandlot, stars in both films.

“They definitely have a very different way of working,” Shelton said of the two directors. “Robert is much more of a visualist and he is obviously extremely cutting edge in terms of his technology. He likes to create at the speed of thought, which is actually something he said to us before. The minute we would shoot a scene we would run back to the monitor and he would already be cutting it together and laying in music.

“Quentin is very old school,” Shelton said. “He prefers to shoot on film. He doesn’t even have a monitor. He stands next to the camera and watches the scenes with his naked eye and he’s a much more verbal person. … That was the beauty of this project – to have two totally different styles coming together and working together.”

Both of the films were shot entirely in Austin, Texas.

After seeing the films for the first time, Shelton said she “was utterly blown away. The audience seemed to be responding so well that it was just one of those situations where you abandon yourself and escape into these crazy worlds.”

These crazy worlds weren’t easy to create. Planet Terror star Freddy Rodriguez said it was very demanding.

“It was the most physically demanding character I’d ever played and that was quite new for me,” Rodriguez said. “In Grindhouse, the character is an action hero, a badass. I had months of training for it, with guns and knives, fight choreography and physical training.”

That training was necessary for filming the violent scenes.

“The violence is like surreal violence; it’s over-the-top,” he said. “It’s almost cartoony to an extent. When you watch this movie with a big crowd you’re going to be laughing your butt off. You’re not going to sit there and cover your eyes and say, ‘Oh man, this could actually happen.’ It’s funny. It’s just a fun ride to be a part of.”

Before the ride began, however, the stars were taken to Tarantino’s house to watch old grind-house movies to help inspire and give them a better understanding of the genre.

“We got to watch an interesting movie called Making County Line, which crosses so many genres and starts as one movie and ends as something else,” said Jordan Ladd, who stars in Death Proof. “Seeing that was really good preparation for this because it doesn’t follow all the traditional rules of making a film.”

Ladd is no stranger to horror, as she was exposed to a skin-eating disease in Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever and torturous horrors in the upcoming Hostel: Part II.

“I think the great roles right now for women are in these horror movies,” Ladd said.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, also starring in Death Proof, said she was thrilled to be working on a Tarantino movie because she is such a fan.

“I’m such a huge fan of the Kill Bill movies and the Bride in that is one of my all-time favorite characters in cinematic history for me,” Winstead said. “I’ve watched that film and I just want to be her.”

Vanessa Ferlito said she doesn’t think another Grindhouse could be done even though horror is huge right now.

“I think it would be like preposterous if a person tried to make another grind-house film,” Ferlito said. “Horror films are so big right now, and they make so much money and people are so intrigued by them even when they’re not that good.”

How will the automatic weapon for a leg fare with fans?

“It’s Grindhouse, man,” Rodriguez said. “Those things are unexplained. They just happen.”

Contact ALL correspondent Ryan Haidet at [email protected].