An instant cult classic is about to erupt onto the silver screen. You my dear readers, will be some of the first to bear witness to it’s cat-fighting, hair-pulling, go-go dancing, pile-driving, thrill-a-minute power and fury. What is this film of which I speak? It goes by the name ‘Bitch Slap’ and it will soon be kicking ass and taking names all across the pop culture landscape. The film is best described as a post-modern, thinking man’s throwback to the B Movie/Exploitation films of the 1950s – 70s as well as a loving, sly parody of same. ‘Bitch Slap’ mixes hot girls, fast cars, big guns, nasty tongues, outrageous action and jaw-dropping eye candy and there ain’t nothing wrong with that! One of the films lovely leading ladies, America Olivo, recently sat down with Icon Vs. Icon‘s Jason Price to discuss her past, her role and experiences on the set of the soon to be cult classic, and what lies in store for this rising star!
Prepare to be Bitch Slapped…
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Hidden Hills, California, just a few miles North West of Los Angeles.
When did you decide to pursue a career in film?
I grew up singing and acting simultaneously in community theatre. My mother was an actor and my father was a singer. So I had exposure to both worlds. I loved musical theatre growing up and ended up getting my degree in Opera theatre from Juilliard. So, I always had my feet in both worlds. I was signed with a band called Soluna to Dreamworks Records and after an album and few singles, that turned into a sitcom deal with UPN and Paramount. In 2004, Soluna was developed into a pilot for Paramount with Grammnet, Kelsey Grammer’s company, and dePasse Entertainment. It was then, in front of a live studio audience on my own sitcom with my girls in Soluna that I was invited to take a break from music and join the world of theatre again!
For those not yet familiar with ‘Bitch Slap,’ what can you tell us about it?
Bitch Slap is a loving homage to the exploitation films of the sixties and seventies. It is every adventurous girl’s dream movie to experience. When else do women get to drive muscle cars and motorcycles, fire enormous weapons, and have seven minute fight scenes while still looking sexy? This film pays homage to the exploitation films, giving everything an exploitation film gives an audience, and then some. It has a great plot, hilarious and clever dialogue with rich characters who are much deeper than they initially appear. The film makers were also aware of the kind of film they are making as were we, so the exploitation is done with a wink to the audience.
How did you first get involved with ‘Bitch Slap’ and what was your initial reaction to the script?
I didn’t get the script through my agent, but when I first saw the title and realized I’d been asked to meet the Producers and Director in the valley, I was slightly concerned that my career had gone to porn. [laughs] Rick Jacobson, the director, called me after seeing me in his friend’s film, asking if I’d be interested in coming in for Bitch Slap. He and the producers were having a difficult time casting Camero and by pure luck, Rick had screened his friend’s movie, “Circle,” just days before they had to lock the Bitch Slap cast. In ‘Circle,’ I played a feisty South Beach raised Cuban/American princess which couldn’t be farther away from the essence of Camero. However, in that character, Rick saw the seed that became Camero. In that initial phone conversation with Rick, he told me he’d email me the script and asked if I would meet him after I read the first twenty pages. He tried to explain Bitch Slap over the phone, but then gave up and said to read it, and if I got it, great, and to meet him at Brian Peck’s house in an hour. He said if I didn’t get it, then to dismiss the invitation and ignore the fact that he’d ever called. Well, I read those first 20 pages, hopped in the car, and couldn’t get to the meeting place fast enough. I met Brian Peck, Rick Jacobson, and Eric Grundeman that day and I’ve been a part of the Bitch Slap family ever since.
The film pays homage to classic B-Movies and the exploitation era. How familiar where you with the genres when you started out?
My mother did a bit of this genre in her short lived acting career in the 60s and 70s. So, I was familiar with this genre through her work. I’m a fan of anything my mother does, so yes. I am now more a fan of making this genre of film than watching it.
Discover any good films while researching your parts?
Yes, I was introduced to Russ Meyer through this, so that was a gift!
What can you tell me about your character in the film?
Camero is a street fighting, drug running, orphaned, foul mouthed, man hating, feral creature, but is a loyal and honest friend to anyone who dares get close.
Each of you leading ladies play very different roles. What steps did you take to prepare for the roles you would be playing both mentally and physically?
I fell in love with Camero the minute I read the script and enjoyed having her in my skin. She’s like my ball busting best friend who can kick anyone’s ass who does me or my friends wrong. I was drawn to Camero since she touched on a part of me I knew existed, but hadn’t explored. I knew that by playing her, I would be challenged to be tougher and more physical than I’d ever been. She taught me that I am physically and emotionally capable of a lot more than I thought. I learned that I am MUCH stronger than I ever thought, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I also learned that playing a villain is much more fun than playing the hero :)
How long did you shoot for?
We shot for a few weeks on green screen doing the flashbacks, and a few more weeks out in the desert.
What has it like to shoot in those extreme conditions?
Strangely, the most difficult time in the shoot for me, was not due to the scorpions, heat, nor dust storms in the desert, it was the water fight scene. There is something about being hosed down by water of ANY temperature while you’re acclimated to the heat of the desert that feels like Chinese water torture. So, IF there is a Bitch Slap 2, I REALLY hope the water scene doesn’t make a reprise. I also found that Camero was hard to shake off of me. I had to go through a bit of Camero debriefing to snap me out of feeling like I could say and do anything I wanted at any time no matter the consequence or the company. I was a bit of a crass bitch the weeks following the shoot.
There is no shortage of action in the film. Rick Jacobson has said that the film contains the self-proclaimed “Greatest Chick Fight In Cinema.” What can you tell us about that and what was it like working with Zoe Bell?
Working with Rick Jacobson was inspiring! As painful as the shoot was at times, with the heat and the schedule and the physicality, there was no one that was suffering more than Rick. He was on his feet the whole shoot with the heaviest piece of equipment on his shoulder, insisting on contorting his body in any way to get the shot he wanted. Through welts, blood, and blisters on his shoulder from both filming AND directing the film, he stayed calm and pleasant to work with. Also, we were in the UGLIEST of conditions with dirt and wind and sweat all around and he was still able to make every shot beautiful regardless of the challenges of our environment. He is a true alchemist, turning everything he films to gold. I felt comfortable that no matter how horrible the conditions got in the desert, that I was in great hands. He has a beautiful way of making everyone feel great on set and inspiring great work from everyone rather than forcing it. Such a pleasure!
Eric Grundeman is the hardest working human being I know. He is inspiring to watch work, when we see him! He’s always running around the city doing a million things. I receive emails from him at 3am and again at 5am, so I have NO idea when he sleeps. My hat is off to Eric, Rick, and Brian Peck for following through with the Bitch Slap dream. To do a Bitch Slap level movie on their own with no studio holding their hand through this experience is a feat not many dare attempt in Hollywood. It wasn’t because they didn’t have interested studios offering assistance either, but because they had a vision they wanted to see through to the end without the restrictions the many cooks in the kitchen can bring on a set. They stuck to their guns and made this fabulous creation from start to finish ON THEIR OWN with no one breathing on their necks telling them who to cast, what to rewrite and what the demographic wants. This is a true original creation made by artists. It’s so rare to be a part of something that is fresh, new, truly original, and completely untainted.
What can you tell us about the stunts in the film?
Stunts? Holy cow. I nailed myself with just about every weapon I picked up. I was one lumpy, bruised, cut up, and pissed off Camero by the end of that film. There is more real blood, sweat, and dirt in that movie than fake, I promise you that. I enjoyed filming the fight scenes the most. Anytime I got to work with Zoe and Sabine (Varnes) with stunts was a real treat. I learned so much from them and became so much stronger through watching and studying them.
The flashbacks were fun since they were so stylized and allowed us a lot of room to be bigger than life. We worked a lot on green screen, which meant a lot of work with imaginary yo-yos and motorcycle stunts that would be impossible to manage in real life. It was like being an animated character in a cartoon world. It was a blast!
Like any good action film, ‘Bitch Slap’ has a love scene. What can you tell us about that and was it a difficult scene to shoot?
Love scenes are difficult, they’re fun!
What do you think separates ‘Bitch Slap’ from recent exploitation films like ‘Grindhouse’?
Bitch Slap is Grindhouse gone wild.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
The biggest challenge for me was just working in the elements. I found sand in places I didn’t know it could go! Definitely wasn’t glamorous, and by the end we looked like we just crawled out of a pigpen. But when I see the film, it’s gritty but still so beautiful… that is brilliant film making!
We had an amazing cast. Everyone was amazing and deserves to be recognized. Ron Melendez (who plays Dept. Fuchs) and I have a very tender scene at one point in the film, which is one of my favorite scenes. William Gregory Lee plays “Hot Wire” and he was amazing. I was almost afraid to go up to him on set cause he was so into it. And his sidekick “Kinki,” played by Minae Noji, is absolutely hilarious. They made an amazing team!
With so many strong women and larger than life characters in the film, which is your favorite?
Oh, everyone was spectacular, but I think Kinki is my favorite. Minae did a fabulous job!
It seems all of you developed a pretty tight bond from working on this film and you’re very supportive of each other. What has that been like?
Lucy (Lawless) and Renee (O’Connor) were hilarious! I loved seeing them in such a different role from what they’re used to. They are brilliant comedians. Lucy helped me with some of the comedic beats of that scene. It’s always a pleasure to learn from great actors. The same goes for working with Michael (Hurst). It was like a master class everyday on set with him.
The great thing about this film is that it features such a strong female cast. Who were some of the actresses that have inspired you over the years?
I love that Angelina Jolie is taking men’s action roles away from them. Hee hee!
You all have been able to soak in your fair share of comic cons and horror conventions in the last few months, in promoting the film. What has that experience and how have fans been reacting to the trailer for ‘Bitch Slap’?
I do a lot of conventions and the hype around Bitch Slap is SOOO fun to watch.
Doing so many conventions, I would imagine that you sign quite a few posters. Do you have a catch phrase that you like to use when signing?
I write “Camero says, “Hands up, and pants down.” It’s not from the film, however. There are buttons with the greatest catch phrases already on them. I had to think of something different.
I hear that there was a lot of great documentary-style, behind the scenes footage shot during the making of the movie. What can you tell us about that?
I can’t wait to see what Daniel Cieplinski did with the Behind the Scenes film. I hear it’s an epic film in itself!
I understand that you were able to put your vocal talents to work in the film. How did that come about?
Yes, I noticed that the stripper scene when reading script called for a slutty version of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” With my degree in Opera Theatre from Juilliard, there’s nothing more exciting than the opportunity to funk out a classical song. So, one night after filming, my friend, Kyle Mac, and I knocked it out in 6 hours in the studio. Eric Grundeman also took to a song that my friend John Baxter wrote and I performed, called “Summer.” That appears over the beach scene.
Have you been able to see the film in a completed state yet? If so, what did you think of the finished product?
Yes, I was able to attend a screening of the two hour directors cut just a few weeks ago. It was brilliant! It took me back to the feelings I had making the film. I was achy and exhausted by the end of watching it!
Plans for a theatrical release? When can we look forward to seeing the film on the big screen?
We are going to Cannes in a few weeks to present the film and we will hear shortly after our presentation what the plans are for its release.
Any word if we might see you preserved in action figure form?
One of my life’s goals is to have an action figure modeled after a character I play! That would be brilliant! I hope Camero makes the collectibles!
What upcoming projects can we look for you in?
I just finished a film called Neighbor to be released in 2010. I have a cameo in Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen. I did a webisode series called Peas in a Pod. I’m producing a pilot about a celebrity chef and event coordinator called “Amanda Marr’s Los Angeles,” and I’m releasing my first single as a soloist called “Deja Vu.” Also, I’m on the cover the June Playboy and there are 6 pages inside talking about Bitch Slap, so check that out if you’re interested! I can also be seen traveling around doing the genre conventions appearing with the Friday the 13th cast. Oh, and I’m getting married in Lake Como, Italy on July 5th to my fiance, Christian Campbell. That’s about it for right now.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on a career in the film industry?
Advice for the film industry? Well, my mother did not want me to be in the industry, but was supportive of any career path I chose. She knew how difficult it was for her and how challenging the life is. So, when I was young and felt ill, begging to miss school, she’d constantly challenge my commitment to the arts by saying, “Well, if you had a show to go to, you wouldn’t be able to be sick. The show must go on. So, if you don’t go to school, I’m assuming you don’t have what it takes to be a performer!” It’s that die hard, “Show must go on” attitude that gets me through tough days on set in the business to this day. I thank her for that.
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“If you only plan on seeing one film this year that is chock-full of crazy characters, bodacious babes and more action than you can shake a stick at, make it this one!” – Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon
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Don’t forget to check out the Official Website for Bitch Slap at www.bitchslapmovie.com!