Jordan Ladd and Vanessa Ferlito play two close friends who catch the interest of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a crazed killer with a hot muscle car, in the action-packed thriller Death Proof. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Death Proof is one half of the Grindhouse movie. The other half of Grindhouse - Planet Terror - was contributed by Tarantino's friend and fellow maverick filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.
Did Quentin Tarantino give you a grindhouse education?
Jordan Ladd – “He did a screening at his house of Macon County Line and about an hour and a half of trailers, the original trailers, which were so fantastic in those days because they showed real scenes. You really got a sense of what movies were like.”
How did that shape your performance?
Vanessa Ferlito – “For me it was sort of like, ‘Oh, those kind of movies. I get it now.’ But I still didn’t really get it. When I read a script I see the script and then whatever the director wants to paint on his canvas. But I had no idea about the whole grin house era.”
Jordan Ladd – “I think he showed us Macon County Line in particular because it takes so many story turns. And also the two actors - I think they’re brothers – had this very natural style of acting. He said, ‘That’s what I like about this is that these guys are so comfortable with one another.’ I don’t know if that’s typical of grind house movies. I don’t think it was, but they gave these great performances.”
How much was improvised?
Vanessa Ferlito – “We had a two week rehearsal period but it doesn’t matter. As well as you know the dialogue you’re still like, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.’ But not only that, Tarantino’s the first director I ever worked with that you know the camera’s here and his face is right here. He’s right here (next to the camera). I was like, ‘Oh my god. Wow, that’s so weird.’ Like I was having a nervous breakdown. He wants to be in it. He’s one of the girls. It’s like not a game. It’s true.”
Did you worry at all about the different takes and the lack of continuity or was that part of the direction Tarantino gave you – to change things up?
Jordan Ladd – “The cool thing we got to do which was interesting for me like after having worked on so much low budget stuff where you get one or two takes: ‘This is going to be a oner with everybody in it so don’t screw up.’ We got to do those scenes 65 times. We’d start from the beginning and go all the way to the end, every time, on all of those. It felt like gibberish and it’d go through so many incarnations. It’d start one way and get better and better, and then worse and worse and worse. It’d get stale and then it’d get reborn again. It was a luxury to get to do the scene beginning to end all the time.”
Why do you think Quentin’s able to write such strong female characters?
Vanessa Ferlito – “He’s an empath. He really is. He wants to know the details of how you feel about the guy you’re seeing and why it’s not working. I don’t know the capacity about how far a man can understand a woman, but he tries his best to get in the mind of women. There’s no way…what we go through and what we’re capable of doing as far as physically and stuff, but he’s so perceptive. He listens to every word and everything you say. He wrote the role for me because this was something I was rambling about with a guy. He just listens and then two years later he’s like, ‘Remember that story…’ I’m like, ‘Who? Which one?’ He just pays attention. When you think he’s not, he knows and listens. He doesn’t miss anything.”
Do you trust Quentin to keep you looking sexy and also make you a badass?
Jordan Ladd – “We felt sexy because these girls felt sexy whether they looked it or not, you know? That was what it was about.”
Vanessa Ferlito – “We weren’t really worried about that at the time.”
Jordan, you’ve also got Eli Roth’s Hostel Part II coming out soon. Does that focus on a group of women?
Jordan Ladd – “It’s women and I didn’t actually… Eli sent me my pages and said, ‘I don’t want you to read the script. I just only want you to know your character.’ You know, he’s one of my closest friends and I think he wants to surprise me. But really, truth be told, you know that’s where all the great roles are now for women is in these movies. And unfortunately they’re movies where terrible things happen to young ladies.”
So in your pages was there awful stuff or sexy stuff?
Jordan Ladd - (Laughing) “Sexy stuff’s never awful. But in Eli Roth’s movies maybe they are. I don’t want to give it away but some awful stuff might happen, yeah.”
How do you feel about sex and violence in films?
Vanessa Ferlito – “It’s real. I live it. I watch the news every single day. It’s just real. What else is there to write about? I know people want to escape it because it’s on the news every day, but let’s keep it real. We’re totally intrigued by it. As much as I hate violence and I hate to see women get beat up in a bar and then it’s not on the front page of the paper the next day – you know what I’m talking about I’m sure – I’m still intrigued and I have to watch it every time it plays on one.”