Q&A: Christian Pitre, “BOUNTY KILLER’s” Mary Death
In the violent future of BOUNTY KILLER (on Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday, October 29 from Arc Entertainment), the title assassins target the corporate fat cats who have ravaged the world, and one of the most popular of these weapon-toting celebrities is Mary Death. She’s played by Christian Pitre, making a striking impression in her first feature-film lead.
Directed by THE LAST LOVECRAFT’s Henry Saine, who also helmed a BOUNTY KILLER short film that helped the full-length version get off the ground (and created a tie-in comic as well), the movie also stars Matthew Marsden of RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION and TAMARA as Drifter, a bounty killer who starts out as Mary’s occasional partner and winds up becoming her target. The eclectic cast also includes TERMINATOR 3’s Kristanna Loken, Barak Hardley, Gary Busey, Beverly D’Angelo, Abraham Benrubi, Eve and REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA’s Alexa Vega. Following small roles in features and TV, Pitre was cast as Mary in the BOUNTY KILLER short, which led her to reprise the role on a much bigger scale—albeit not on a huge budget or schedule…
FANGORIA: How did you get involved with the BOUNTY KILLER crew?
CHRISTIAN PITRE: I auditioned for Mary Death in the short and ended up booking it, and as soon as I saw the sides, I knew this was a character I really wanted to play. And after meeting these guys and seeing their enthusiasm, I felt lucky to be working with them and getting to stay on for the feature.
FANG: Did they show you the comic book the film is based on?
PITRE: Well, the comic wasn’t done yet, actually. It was only completed after we were done shooting. Henry was kind of doubling up, finishing the graphic novel as we were making the film, which was insane. I don’t know when he was eating or sleeping; I’m pretty sure he did neither for quite a few months.
FANG: Did you model for the comic as well?
PITRE: I didn’t. Henry already had Mary Death drawn, though he ended up coloring in her hair. Her hair was white previous to when they met me, because Henry said he was lazy and didn’t feel like coloring it in! But once they met me, they were like, “Oh, Mary Death is a brunette; we were looking for a blonde!” But other than that, we’re pretty similar. I think Henry may have tweaked a couple of things to look a little bit more like me.
FANG: Did any of the other actors carry over from the short to the feature?
PITRE: Yes. Barak Hardley, who plays Drifter’s gun caddy and is the comic-relief sidekick, was in the short, and he also did THE LAST LOVECRAFT with Henry, so he’s been involved with those guys all along. They kind of put Barak through the wringer, though. They kept auditioning people and auditioning people for the feature, and we were saying, “Barak is your guy! You’re not going to find someone who can do this role better than him!” Eventually, they agreed, and people love him; he’s everyone’s favorite character in the movie. He’s my mom’s favorite character, and I’m her daughter, for crying out loud [laughs]!
FANG: Who played Drifter in the short, and what led to Matthew Marsden taking over the role in the feature?
PITRE: Drifter in the short was a guy named Branton Box, who did a great job and looks like the Drifter. The Drifter is sort of this nameless guy that you need a rugged, handsome, kind of Clint Eastwood-type guy to play. They were just looking for some names to put into the feature and help sell it, and they found Matthew. Drifter was initially supposed to be from Texas, and when Matthew came in and started reading, he was talking with an American accent. Finally, Henry was like, “Just try it with your British accent.” So he did, and there was one point when I quit talking and was just looking at him, smiling. So Henry said, “OK, that’s the reaction we want. We want women to be completely enamored by how charming you are.” So Drifter is British. Who knew?
Matthew did an awesome job, and I’m really lucky to have had him as a co-star. It was my first film, and he’s been through this a million times before and helped guide me, and let me know what to expect on a lot of things. He’s also trained in martial arts and tactical weaponry, so every day I felt like I was going to boot camp with Matthew as the drill sergeant. He’d be like, “Pick a gun up. Show me how you hold it. No, put it like this. Stand like that.” I was constantly getting direction from him, but it was great, and it comes across on screen as me looking like I know what I’m doing.
FANG: Any crazy Gary Busey stories from the shoot?
PITRE: Oh goodness, Busey! Well, Barak probably would have more crazy stories than me, because he actually got to work with him. Gary Busey beat him up in the movie, which is the proudest moment of Barak’s life. We were shooting so much that day, and Henry kept Henry saying, “Busey really wants to have a scene with Mary Death.” And I was like, “Well, there isn’t a scene with him, I’ve already left by that point.” But at one point when I was going to change costumes, Busey called me over and patted the chair beside him: “Mary Death! Come here!” I was like, “Oh gosh, OK, I don’t really have a lot of time,” and he was like, “Sit down.” So I did, and I heard all about his life, his accident and how he died twice and experienced things on the other side. And the more he was talking, the more I wished I had a little while to sit and discuss this with him, but we had to go shoot. So we didn’t have a lot of time together, but the time we did have was special. It stands out in my mind, for sure.
FANG: You mentioned that a lot of things were happening at once. Were there different units shooting different scenes at the same time?
PITRE: Oh, yes. There were days when we’d have three units shooting simultaneously. Henry would wait for one unit to yell, “Cut!” and the next unit would start and everyone had to still be quiet. We were just pumping it out as fast as we possibly could. When I watched the movie later, there were parts where I was like, “Wait, did we have a helicopter?” And they were like, “Yeah, remember the helicopter day.” “Where was I?” There were days where the boys said I had the stunt coordinator, so they were left on their own, like on Barak’s fight with Busey; I think Busey who was the one who actually choreographed that. That would be an interesting story to hear from him someday, I’m sure.
FANG: BOUNTY KILLER is a pretty action-packed film; did you have enough time and budget to film everything you wanted?
PITRE: We had zero time and zero budget. We had to shoot this thing in 18 days, which was crazy. Luckily, I had shot with Henry before on the short, so I knew how he worked, which was, you had no idea what was going on on the day. When Henry said, “Run over there and do this,” you just did it and trusted that he was a genius and had the whole thing in his head; he knew what he had and hadn’t shot, even if wasn’t going off of a list or anything like a schedule for the day. I sat down with one of my co-stars before we started the movie, and he said, “You’ve shot with Henry before, so just tell me, what do I need to know going in?” And I said, “All you need to know is that Henry knows what he’s doing. Whatever he says for you to do in that moment, just do it, and trust that later, it’s all going to be OK, even if it seems crazy and doesn’t make sense at that time.” That’s what we did for 18 days straight. I mean, there were days where there were 124 setups; it was nonstop. But fun! Nonstop fun.
FANG: There’s a lot of impressive action and stuntwork for the little time and budget you had.
PITRE: I know! Thank you for taking the budget and time into account. I keep telling people, “If you only knew how fast we were working and how little money Henry had, surely you’d appreciate what he’s capable of shooting in that amount of time and money.” Henry’s got plenty of other projects he’s ready to pump out and I’m really excited to see Hollywood meet him and see what he’s capable of on this budget. I hope they give him a chance. I can’t wait until money is not an issue and he gets to reach his full potential, because the ideas he has are just crazy, but awesome.
FANG: Did you have any martial arts or weapons experience when you took the role?
PITRE: Well, I grew up shooting guns, ’cause I’m a country girl from Tennessee, so that was something I was pretty comfortable with. I didn’t know tactically what I was supposed to do, but I learned that pretty easily. Martial arts was another story. I’d never done any sort of fighting; I’ve never even been in a fight [laughs]. So it was interesting that my character relies on martial arts, pretty much. She uses her gun some, and her knife and her spurs, but Matthew, who is a black belt in tae kwon do, never has to use any martial arts; he just uses weapons the whole time. That’s a genius casting job right there: “Let’s cast a girl who’s never done it and see if she can learn martial arts in four months”—which I did.
I trained with a guy named Alfred Kendrick, who helped me learn mixed martial arts as well as capoeira, which is a Brazilian jujitsu style. There were days when I’d just get so frustrated that I couldn’t get something down, and he’d just stop and say, “Christian, I just want you know that what you’re trying to do right now, I wouldn’t try to teach someone for the first four years they were learning. But you only have four months, so you’re learning it today.” I learned, and I pulled it off.
FANG: Were there any mishaps on set?
PITRE: Oh, of course! I mean, we were shooting in 18 days like crazy people, so there were all kinds of mishaps. I’d accidentally punch someone in the face, I had my own face slammed into an Airstream and busted my own eye with a rifle. We were constantly getting hurt, but we figured that while the adrenaline was going, we didn’t really feel it. We just kept running and running and shooting all day, and at the end of the day, we’d sit down and go over all of battle wounds and decide how we were going to cover them up for the next day. Luckily, no one was hurt too bad.
PITRE: Not really, because, for example, even though my gypsy bike didn’t have an engine—it was being pulled by a big pickup truck—I was still going 70 miles an hour. The transport guy, Bob Defonte, who was driving the truck, told me before we started, “If you want to go faster, give me a thumbs up, and if you want to go slower, give me a thumbs down.” Well, I wasn’t told that the gypsy bike was only tested at 30 miles per hour, so I was thumbs up all the way. Like, “Please, let’s go faster, faster, faster.” We wound up going 70 at least once, and the stunt coordinator was running after us, yelling, “Wait! You can’t go that fast! It was only tested at 30 miles per hour, and it could fall apart for all I know!”
Anyway, with things like that, I was still going 70 miles an hour, so it wasn’t hard to act like I was driving the bike on my own. With everything else, like the CGI backgrounds, the cities that were built later, I was still in the middle of the desert in crazy weather and sandstorms and everything else [laughs], so that gave it all a real, gritty feel on the day. It was fun; I like being on location and dealing with strange weather and such.
FANG: Were you a fan of this kind of movie before you took the part?
PITRE: No! I had never really watched these types of films, and I had never pictured myself in them, for sure. I always felt I’d be a dramatic actress. I never even thought about trying to throw a punch or look cool doing it, you know? But once they cast me in the short and I met with Henry and Randy [Archer], our stunt coordinator, Henry said, “Look, she’s never thrown a punch; just try to make her look cool before we shoot next week.” So we got together, and it turned out I picked it up pretty easily. I used to do show choir when I was growing up, so I learned choreographed dances and stuff, which is kind of what fighting is; it’s like a dance that you learn, and then on the day, you do it harder and make it look a little more bad-ass.
So I’m learning about these kinds of movies as I go, because people who are fans know all about them. There were things we didn’t even get to put in the movie that Henry wanted—inside jokes that his fan base would know. Stuff that made no sense to me, but Henry was like, “They’ll know what this is, they’ll think it’s funny.” There were a couple of those that ended up getting left out of the film because there was so much story to tell.
FANG: Maybe they’ll be in the sequel; the movie ends promising another installment. Has there been talk about a follow-up yet?
PITRE: Fingers crossed! Originally, they had written it as a trilogy. From beginning to end, they had this whole idea, and I know there’s a lot of story that didn’t get told. There’s an entire book of Mary and a tale of Drifter that follow these characters all the way up to the point where the movie starts, and there are a lot of other bounty killers—really cool ones that haven’t been introduced yet, just because there was so much to tell in such a short amount of time. There was a scene with Alexa Vega that told a little bit about Mary’s past, and even that had to be cut out because we were short on time, and they felt like we were confusing people enough with everything we had in there [laughs]. But we end with Mary having a whole new look, a whole new outfit and a whole new car that I sure would like to drive around in for a little while!