[IMG:L]They’re the sexy roadhouse sirens whose girls’ night out catches the eye of the enigmatic Stuntman Mike, and Grindhouse gal pals Sydney Poitier, Jordan Ladd and Vanessa Ferlito tell Hollywood.com how they grabbed the attention of Death Proof director Quentin Tarantino, and how their legendary helmer channeled his feminine side.
Hollywood.com: So you get the call saying that you are going to be in Quentin Tarantino’s part of this double feature. What’s the reaction, and is the answer an immediate yes?
Jordan Ladd: I am still pinching myself. I feel like this is some lucid dream I am having, and I will really wake up and this never happened? Of course I couldn't believe I was on his radar at all and was called in to read, to audition for it. It was a long process from the first time I went in to the second time to the point that I got the job. I bit my nails down to the quick. Even auditioning for him is a real pleasure, he reads with you, he played both girls. He is a wonderful actor so it made that process a really good time.
Sydney Poitier: He put on all the female voices and all the mannerisms of all the girls. The casting director who normally reads with you just sat there and watched the show. I was like “This is awesome!” We did it for like 45 minutes, it went really, really well and then I didn't hear anything. We heard it was good, I was the first choice for the part and then we didn't hear anything for a few weeks, so I was just literally freaking out. Then I got a call to fly to Austin, Texas and I did it again for him and Robert just in an office, I spent the day in Texas. It went great, we went out to dinner that night and he was like “So do you think Julia would do this?” And I said “Well, IF I get the part…” and he said “You'll get the part.” It’s like “Okay,” and I'm freaking out in my head, and then I get home and then three more weeks go by and we haven't heard anything. I am thinking “Man, what happened? I lost the part. What is going on?” Finally I got the call. At that point I had almost let it go and I finally got the call and my manager said “You got the offer.” And I said “Are you f*cking kidding me?” and he was like “No, you got the offer.” And I ran into my backyard and I started jumping up and down screaming. It was just the best.
Vanessa Ferlito: He actually called me and told me that he wrote the part for me. I had crazy anxiety about it because I was like “At any moment he is going to pull the rug – There is no way!” I had to wait months in order for him to cast the rest of it so I didn't think, not that I would ever doubt Quentin Tarantino but it was like “Are you kidding me? Are you sure?” every time he would call. He would send me the script and I was like “Are you really sure you want me to do this?” But then we started shooting it was like “Wow.” But what really makes it crazy for all of us is when you start to hear what big actresses were fighting for the rest of the roles.
[IMG:R]HW: What was the vibe like on the Death Proof set?
JL: He is really big on authenticity and so the jukebox really worked. The extras were real and he directed them individually: “'Now, you are this guy and you have moved here from out of town.” And you think it would be unnecessary, but you literally could put a camera on any single extra in the bar and play the scene with the dialogue over it and see a story. Everybody was the real deal. The dirt was real.
VF: It is just so fun for him. You know how most girls in Hollywood meet tons of directors and they are thinking “If I am his friend, he'll put me in something.” Quentin will meet girls in Austin – Roller Derby girls – and he will put them all in his movie.
JL: Because they are authentically Austin.
VF: Because he loves his movie and it's not that serious. You don't have to get casting directors for everything. “It's my movie, it's my painting.” That is what makes him so unique. That is why his movies are so different and a breath of fresh air – he just doesn't care.
HW: Did you meet some total characters on set?
JL: This is a great story about Quentin, the old guy about 68 – I don’t know if you can see him, but I know he sits at the bar next to Kurt [Russell] a real old character. I introduced myself I said “Hi, are you an actor?” and he said “I'm Red Man. I'm doing some extra work on this.” I asked how he got involved and he said '”I met Mr. Tarantino at Joe's Coffee House. I sell my gospel CD I started making two years ago. Quentin was a real big producer, I was told.” He didn't even know he was a director. He goes [to Quentin] “Well, if you need an old character like me, you give old Red Man a call. And he did.” Red Man was right next to Kurt and he couldn't have been more real. He is a man of his word, that Quentin.
HW: Is there a real “Jungle Julia” that inspired Sydney’s character?
SP: Yeah, there is a friend of his in Austin named Jungle Julia. I never met her but she is supposedly very similar to the character. Really Amazonian and kind of very self-possessed and bitchy and cool, she goes to all the local bars. Has a little following but I don't know if she is a DJ, actually.
[IMG:L]HW: You guys were so convincingly bonded as a girl group in this. Was that the case off-screen, too?
VF: Right away. We were arguing right away, friends right away.
JL: Like sisters. We literally like had a sisterhood thing going. I think that Quentin cast women that were innately similar. We are all friends and all rooted in the same--
VF: And different.
JL: We are all extremely different.
VF: Different worlds. Obviously.
JL: Brooklyn, Hollywood. She goes “I am from the streets of Brooklyn, Jordie. I am going to tell you how it is.” And I go “Well, I'm from the streets of Beverly Hills and I'll tell you how it is…here.” [Laughs] Remember that was my sass back to you? She was protecting me saying "You don't know how it is – you don't talk to people like that, and they might f*ck with you. I am from Brooklyn – I know." Well, I'm from the streets of Beverly Hills and it's a little different there.
VF: We had a rehearsal period of two weeks, so by the time we were ready to shoot we knew each other. We lived in the same hotel. It’s like college.
JL: Both Sydney and Vanessa rubbed off on me, just as women in life. I find myself not taking as much sh*t because of you.
HW: Sydney, Quentin is well-known as one of the premiere cinematic foot fetishists and your feet are the focus of this particular movie's opening shot. Were you aware of that while filming was going on, or did you hear about it later?
SP: Oh no, I knew. [Laughs] I knew the minute I read the script and it opened on Jungle Julia's feet. I had already heard that he really enjoys women's feet, so when I went in for my audition I made sure I had a really great pedicure and the first thing I did was I kicked off my flip flops and I plopped them up on the table right in front of him and his eyes went whoop! and I just kicked into my audition. I think that is part of what helped me land the role. I moisturized my feet a whole lot before I went to Texas, and while I was there I knew they were going to end up in a lot of the shots.
HW: Fetishes aside, nobody seems to write women who sound as real as Quentin’s – what do you think his secret is?
VF: He loves women. You have to really love women in order to really just have a respect for women and love them. No man – I don't care what kind of man it is, how feminine he is – they never could understand what we go through as far as physically and mentally. There is no way, no man could ever tell me he knows what I go through on a monthly basis or when I am ready to carry a child…[But Quentin] listens to everything that comes out of your mouth. When you think “Oh my God, I just said something—do you think he heard?” Well, yes, he heard it. Forget it, it is gone and it will probably go in his next movie. He probably thinks it is fabulous that you screwed up, because he is not perfect and he is perfect to us. He is listening to the girl at the bar sitting over there who looks like a psycho. He is like “Wow, she is cool, she's interesting, and I can use that.” He is so passionate about what he does so that means he is passionate about every aspect of life because he is painting a canvas every time he makes a movie.
JL: And he makes us powerful women he doesn't only want a woman to be emotional or sexual. He likes the whole package: when we are ugly and mean, feisty and fighting back…He embraces all of it. The sensitivity, the friendships, the nurturing…I think he likes giggling, but he also likes the “F*ck you” out of girls. He likes everything that encompasses a full person and a full woman.
VF: He loves us for everything, not just for being the girl friend or best friend.
SP: I think it is a reflection of how he sees women. I think he sees them as really powerful and I think somewhere in his mind the woman always wins. The woman is the powerhouse and he writes them really organically and really multifaceted and really complicated and really interesting. So it is just a gift that he has. I think he is that way with all of his characters. I think he does his women the same justice as he does his men. I think it took a lot more work for him, before he wrote this script, to really hang out with his women posse. He has a posse of women that he just hangs with and he listens to every word they say and he listens to what they watch. He watches what they watch, he is a huge fan of The Tyra Banks Show because his lady friends watched it and now he watches it. He just gets into their brain, so that when he starts to write the dialogue it is coming out entirely naturally. I don't know other men who can do it, but he did it.
HW: Jordan, given your family history with your mom Cheryl being one of Charlie’s Angels, it must have been tempting to have you be one of the film’s ass-kicking women.
JL: I feel like I kick ass in my own way, verbally, in this movie. I am feeling it on the inside. I mean God, any part in this movie – a walk on, a line, if he wanted me to be the clapboard girl – it would have been my pleasure, to be quite honest with you. I just learned so much. It was like going to movie school when you work with him. I became a better actress and a better person because of these girls and him. I have become more of a cinephile, thank God, and I appreciate movies. That is the other thing, once you work with him and see movies with him you see what is great about movies. You don't see what is wrong with them, you see what works. Even if it is three minutes or five minutes here, that is what you walk away with. And it makes you excited about movies.
HW: Sydney, people in Hollywood today really, really look up to your dad, Sidney Poitier. Do you sometimes have to switch your perception of him, between “Dad” and how other people see him and think about him?
SP: Not really, because honestly he is that way as a dad, too. The way that people see him is sort of how he just is. He is actually even more of that. He is just really graceful, he's elegant, he's kind, and he kind of exists on a different plane. He's got six daughters and we all just look at him sometimes and are like “You are so cute I could die.” You just take it – I can't handle how much I love my dad. No, I feel the same way everybody else feels about him – if not 100 times more so.