Now that Rick Jacobson's cleavage-laden bubblegum-cult film Bitch Slap
has landed in the larger American film markets, it seems like the right time to post up a conversation I had with one of the leading ladies a short while after Toronto International Film Festival (Bitch Slap premiered in the Midnight Madness programme). Forthright and charming, Julia Voth is about as far from her character, the demure vixen Trixie as one could imagine (although a subtle bit of nervousness only adds to her appeal).
Onward.Kurt Halfyard How did [Director] Rick Jacobson envision Trixie to you? How much was the script and how far could you go off script with the character.
Julia Voth: Rick said, "Do what your guts tells you to do. Outside of the script, nothing was over the top. Go as far as you you want." It was so awesome to have that kind of trust and confidence placed in you from these guys who worked on this script for a couple years and they loved every one of these characters so to have them say, "You're Trixie, just do it." was kind of overwhelming. Kind of nerve-wracking. What If I totally fuck it up? But the trust was there and it was really amazing. Trixie comes from a few different places. A model I used to know in Tokyo who was smart and beautiful and didn't really know it. She was really young and getting all these amazing jobs and was unaware of her own luck and success. And there was a lot of Betty Boop in there who I loved as a kid. I liked her little cute moves and her dark hair. Everyone has a desire to act a certain way that society won't let you get away with. Trixie was my chance to fulfill something like that and totally get away with it.KH: You mentioned working in Tokyo, but you come from small town Canada. Were you active in any film or theatre in Saskatoon.
JV: Not really. I always wanted to get involved in school theatre, but I was always modeling and working and always gone. I didn't really get a chance to be a part of that. I grew up in a small town called Hepburn which is 30 miles north of Saskatoon. Wheat, Barley, Oats, Grain. Total farm girl. It was a really big transition, but when you are 14 you do not realize how big of a transition it is until you say, Wow, I did that really young, that was kind of crazy. My mother traveled with me until I was 17 and she was always with me when I was gone two months, three months. My family totally supported me and it was a great gift to have as a young woman. If Bitch Slap ever plays in Saskatoon it will totally sell out just from my family.
JV: Some of my family when they heard the name of the movie were concerned, (laughs, "you're not doing Porn are you Julia?") my dad's side of the family are Mennonites, and my mom's side of the family is more rockin' hillbilly (laughs). But a lot of people in my family who I thought might not get the film, but they have been so supportive anyway. My grandfather is 101, and I don't think I'll be letting him see the film. My dad was as the screening at TIFF, and my two brothers have seen it. But it is more like "Fuck Yea, everyone come see my movie." But my mother will be the proudest mother ever if Bitch Slap shows up in Saskatoon.KH: Speaking of The Toronto International Film Festival, you guys landed at the Midnight slot, the Midnight Madness Crowd is pretty well known for its vocal response to films shown in the program. How was your TIFF experience with Bitch Slap?
JV: I was blown away by all the fans and their response. The film has had mixed reviews and that is expected, because not everyone is going to like the genre or get the joke, but it is nice to see all the time and effort be reacted to. We were at Cannes earlier in the year, but it was more of a sales pitch. But this time it was more about seeing the film find its fans. There was a lot of energy and love in the room at that screening.KH: There was long lead time between the first marketing materials (my initial reaction to the first trailer was "Holy shit, someone is doing a modern update of Faster Pussy Cat Kill! Kill!") until the point when it finally debuted. How do you think the audience reaction was to the movie.
JV: The anticipation was certainly there. People having been waiting for a while for this film and I was concerned because we kept saying "it's going to be out, it's going to be out" as our job as actors was over, while post-production began. But I was shocked by how long people were willing to wait. Good things take time? [laughs] After we got into the Midnight Madness program, people started really getting excited, and fans of that genre are pretty loyal. So thanks for waiting! We are just a small little movie with a few people doing it as a labour of love.KH: Modeling is your background from a young age. Did you have any history with genre movies? Were you aware of directors such as Russ Meyer?
JV: Not really. The house I grew up in it was Disney, not Russ Meyer. We were quite conservative. So when I got the role, I made sure I watched a lot of this stuff, but I didn't want to go too far, so we could make this our own. I didn't want to copy Russ Meyer, but yea, there is something about being a strong and powerful woman, sexy, and out there. standing up for yourself. In terms of exploitation film, It is hard to exploit if the strength is in here. I always thought that in Bitch Slap it is the men that are exploited and beaten up. I didn't know much beforehand, but in prepping for Trixie, I watched a few and became a fan of the genre.KH: So on set, you had the most demur role of the three roles. The other two get to go way over the top for the rest of the movie. How was the dynamic on set between the three leading ladies?
JV: It is funny because we all sort of took on some sort of roles of our character. On weekends and the evenings we were more of ourselves, but on set I was the quiet one. I kept to myself and was sweet and innocent and naive. [laughs] It was my first movie, so why not channel that into this particular character.
KH: So is there more fight choreography and girls kicking ass in your future?
JV: I definitely want to take roles that push me further. More dramatic and comedy is not easy, but a lot of fun when you get it right. Sure I'd like to evolve and open myself up to do raw dramatic roles and have access to all those emotion, but it is something you keep working at, like a muscle. But the excitement and adrenaline of being on set in an action film is so much fun. I've been promised in Bitch Slap 2 (although we don't have any actual details of the second or the third one) more fight scenes and more ass kicking. Any opportunity, I'm going to take it and have fun. But I also want to take on roles unlike something I've never done.KH: On the physical side, which was more challenging, the fight choreography or the repetitive shots of leering camerawork? When you saw the film on screen what was your reaction (vs. When you were actually shooting).
JV: When we were shooting I didn't really notice it. Well, obviously when Rick said, and now we are going to take a close-up of your face (and I know what that means, [laughs]) but you are so into what you are doing, that you really don't think about it. But watching it I don't really mind it. We are not taking ourselves too seriously here. And one day I'm going to be 80 years old and I suppose I can pop this in for my grand kids and say, "That's what grandma used to look like!" [laughs] If you get the joke, you get the joke. I'm totally fine with it. I know what kind of movie we were making. It's a respectful exploitation film. And besides, the wardrobe was pretty amazing, all the push-up bras and padding, we were totally natural, Victoria's Secret at her best.KH: There is a whole technology there, like golf clubs or bicycles.
JV: Or the push-up Bra.KH: The movie was shot half way between green screen and on location. How was shooting in the Mojave Desert?
JV: I was used to being on location doing modeling work, but usually the locations they take you modeling are really nice locations, not the locations where you get up and its is freezing cold. I am wearing this little gold dress with a parka on over to keep warm. It would get nice for about 2 hours. Then 40 miles per hour winds and are hair is going all over and there is glycerin and fake blood and real blood and you are trying to do your scene, and you can't actually see them from sand it your eyes. It was ridiculous, but somehow the Red Camera and Rick made us look great and missed all the sand in our teeth! It was still great, because I could work in that. I could prove I was stronger. Much like Trixie's character herself, she is stronger than you think. You just push through the sandstorm and do it. And when you are involved in project where everyone believes in what they are doing, you'll do anything. Sure I'll stand out in sandstorm. I was so happy to be on set, and after a while you simply get used to it. We were finding sand in places for weeks after that. I think there is still sand in my ears (please don't write that, it is so not glamorous!) Like Minae Noji who plays Kinki actually had spider go up her underwear at one point. It is kind of funny, I can start checking things off my list now: Work on Green Screen - Check, Work in the elements - Check. Fight Scenes - Check. Lesbian Love Scene - Check. Four Inch heels in the Desert - Check. Besides if Rick's wife, Rachel, who was very pregnant (about to pop any second) could work on set (and doing everything!) and not complaining, if I did I'd look like such an asshole! If they said we have to do two more weeks in blistering hot sandstorms, I'd have said, "lets do it."KH: Visually, the movie aims to modernize the collage of exploitation films explicitly referenced in the opening credits (a dangerous thing to do), with all of its green-screen work and back-and-forth narrative.
JV: When we first started shooting people were comparing this to Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, but really Bitch Slap is took that and did went the other way, did everything 100x bigger. It is taking what Russ Meyer did and using the technology that exists now. Bitch Slap is the furthest thing from looking grainy or cheap. It was a small project, but it looks really expensive. But more important the willingness to just fucking go for it was there.