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An interview with Marley Shelton

From The Quentin Tarantino Archives

Part of our ongoing Grind House coverage, check out:

A Conversation with Marley Shelton

By Sebastian Haselbeck, March 26, Beverly Hills, CA.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and space constraints. Pieces might have been omitted from the actual conversation, and the sentences altered for readability. Special thanks to our editor Irfaan for transcription.

Marley Shelton stars as Dakota Block in Grindhouse, in both Planet Terror and also in Death Proof (albeit in a cameo) to be exact. We sat down with the actress to discuss the film.

Tarantino.info (QTA): You’ve worked with Robert before in that great opening sequence of Sin City. Are you going back to Sin City, working with characters, or working with Robert again?

Marley Shelton: There’s been rumors and whisperings about it, but not to my knowledge. I know there’s been talks about doing a prequel. I don’t think it’ll be Sin City 2, but uhm, I heard like Bruce Willis wanted to do the prequel – it’d have to be obviously since I die in that opening sequence. But I would love to explore that character and like why, how she got to that point.

QTA: Yeah. They released that clip a few months before the movie came out, I thought “wow, new look” you know, the film noir thing…

Planetterror2.jpg

M.S: Yes…

QTA: That’s great.

M.S: I know, I was just all so honored to be a part of the inception of that project, it’s really cool.

QTA: So how does it feel to be part of the McGraw family?

(both laugh)

M.S: You’re asking good questions, uhm, it's also yet again an honor. It also means you know, perhaps I'll get some more cameos in Robert and Quentin movies 'cos you know Earl McGraw is in all of their films…

QTA: … Whenever they have a Sheriff…

M.S: … it’s Earl McGraw, now it’s Dakota McGraw. Yeah, I’ll just write myself into all their films (laughs)

QTA: You ever really do more prequels to Planet Terror, you in Mexico or whatever (laughs)

M.S: Yeah, that’d have to be a prequel once again because Planet Terror is pretty much the end of the world as we know it.

'QTA: Rodriguez mentioned that he shot an alternate take on, uh, your son getting killed.

M.S.: Yes.

QTA: Is that the same take that you mentioned that you were carrying the corpse around?

M.S.: No. Uhm, no. We never shot that version. He re-wrote the script before, you know, before we shot it. So I was never carrying the corpse, but the alternate version is where Tony lives. So my son lives and…

PT 07.jpg

'QTA: … Yeah…

M.S: … So that kind of created a challenge for me as an actor because I had to completely change the spine of my arc and where I was coming from emotionally. And Robert’s so casual about it, he’s just like “Ok, now we’re just going to do it as if he lives”, you know, so I felt a little bit schizophrenic.

QTA: (laughs) So did you like practice, because at one point you do like twirl the gun through the errr dark thing, did you have to practice a lot or did Robert trick around…

M.S: (laughs) It was a combination, I did, I was, it was actually the scene of the movie I was most nervous about, because I’m like “oh my gosh I’m in a Robert Rodriguez movie, I gotta look cool” and you know, gun-twirling is like, it’s so Texas and everyone, all the crew members were like “alright sweetie, this is how you’re gonna do it” and they were all giving me their 2 cents of advice, and I would go home to the hotel room and practice fastidiously, ermm, and it’s one of those things that you either nail on the, the first (snaps fingers) the time or it takes you like 50 times to do it. And, errr, finally, finally the day came and I was really, really nervous and I got lucky and I got it on the first take and I was so relieved. And then of course Robert has a way of making everyone look cooler than they really are, and he sped up the film and made it look Supercool.

QTA: Just what El Wray

Planetterror7still.jpg

M.S: … Exact-, oh my gosh, now that’s the best – love it!

QTA: It seems - when you twirl the gun, as in the trailer where they say "one hot mama" - you know, that actually for the most part of the film you’re being intimidated by your husband and kind of have to fight your way out of that. So did you feel like you go through a development and at some point you’re the tough chick and then you’re gonna kick some ass while before you were the character who has to prove herself or something like that?

M.S: Yeah, that’s what’s so great, is that I, you know, I think I have a nice evolution, I get pretty victimized and then, uh, towards the end I get to get revenge and I regain my strength and end up very triumphant. And if you look at most of the female characters that Robert and Quentin write, they’re pretty strong, strong women and I think that’s why women are appreciating this movie more than you would think. You know, awww it’s such a guy movie, zombies and, but I think women are really responding to this, the strength in the female characters.

QTA: Yeah, Michael Biehn was, just a few minutes ago, he was so amazed by, he was so surprised by how women liked the movie so much…

M.S: … Yeah…

QTA: … And he said that he found it amazing that it’s not gonna be like boyfriends dragging their girlfriends to a gory movie…

M.S: … Yeah…

QTA: … It might be the other way around.

M.S: I knowww. I heard in one of the screenings that there was a standing ovation at the end of Quentin’s, uh, when after the girls you know, kick some ass, uh, and it was a standing ovation of women in the audience so…

QTA: … Oh, didn’t see that, but the audience went wild...

M.S: … getting all sorts of different reactions, yeah.

Pt3l.jpg

QTA: So when you tell people you’re gonna be in this movie, did people ask you “what’s a grind house, what is that”?

M.S: Yes, it comes up aaaall the time, and it’s, I’m sure you’ve heard it about 200 times (chuckles) today, but uh, but yeah I think it’s very intriguing to people. I think the older audiences will understand the references and get the, the you know, the homage that we’re paying, but I think that younger audience who aren’t familiar with grind house movies and exploitation films, I think they will still just enjoy this wild ride for what it is.

QTA: Yeah, and the references are quickly Googled.

M.S: (laughs) Yeah exactly (laughs) Information age!

QTA: Yeah.

M.S: (laughs)

QTA: It’s amazing how much they put into those movies, I mean they made you watch a couple of films but there’s probably so much more in it.

M.S: Oh yeah and it’s fun. It’s one of those movies you wanna see over and over again because each time you watch it you pick up on a different reference or you know, everyone sees something different.

QTA: Yeah, because these movies are made for fun, there’s no, there doesn’t have to be any logic or mutual elements…

M.S: … no…

QTA: … it’s just they put everything in it…

M.S: … that’s right…

QTA: … that’s fun…

M.S: … there’s no rules and because of that it’s extremely liberating for the filmmakers and for us as actors ‘cos you can just get away with anything and try anything and you don’t have to adhere to any rules of standard filmmaking

QTA: Did you contribute a lot to your character?

M.S: As much as I could, absolutely. Robert’s very collaborative and he allowed us to change lines here and there, if we didn’t like something or we’d come up with ideas and he was very, very interested in our thoughts and ideas.

QTA: Did you have any scenes filmed (with) Fergie at all?

M.S: The only scene is the big reveal of her, you know, when she’s wheeled into the hospital on the gurney and the big reveal of her… demise (laughs) but yeah we were at, that’s the closest we get to each other is when I, my shock and horror at her being, you know, torn apart by zombies.

QTA: Awesome, crazy stuff.

M.S: (laughs)

QTA: I’m still digesting the movie.

M.S: It’s funny I know, but my makeup artist hasn’t seen it, and he’s heard like everyone talking about it like this whole weekend and he’s like “alright, I have to see this movie , I’m so confused” you know.

QTA: The make-up was great - and the zombie effects…

M.S: … oh, wasn’t that great, yeah.

QTA: (chuckles) OK well, it was nice talking to you. Have a nice day.

M.S: Nice talking to you and take care, you too.