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What was the appeal in taking on a role in action movie Death Race: Inferno?

Getting to work with Luke [Goss] and Danny [Trejo] again, and the fact that the film was shooting in South Africa, too.

It was nice to work at home for a change, because I am usually flying around so much. It felt like more of a reunion seeing everyone again [after working on its prequel], so there was just no question about whether I was going to do it. 

Did you find the stunt work easier this time around?

We did a female fight scene in the film and the stunt training for that was very intense. In the training I clipped one of the stunt girls really hard in the face with a roundhouse kick.

It takes time to get these moves right. I was really scared I was going to do it again on set so I had extra pressure to get it right.

We shot that scene for four hours and the girl kept on saying, “Please don’t kick me in the face!”

Did you have any close calls in the racing scenes?

The cars were all built in South Africa and because we were racing on dunes it was pretty unpredictable.

All the cars had larger wheels, but I was a little nervous because I didn’t know if Luke had any experience of racing on sand.

But I spoke to some of the stunt guys and they said it was fine, and when we were on the track it was clear I was in good hands. 

How much fun was it racing around the desert?It was great fun.

It felt a little like Mad Max, the styling of it, with all the guns and the racing and everyone going crazy.

And the director Roel [Reiné] was blasting cars off the edge of a cliff into a quarry on the first four days we were shooting, so we started with a bang, literally. 

Luke Goss has a reputation for being the nicest guy in showbiz – is this true?

It is – I can say absolutely that he is a total gentleman. In the second film, Death Race 2, we had these love scenes and he made me feel so comfortable.

I’d had another love scene in another movie before but I would rather work with Luke if I had to do anything like that again. He was a pro, and he has been doing that his whole life.

Danny Trejo always plays really scary guys, but what is he like really?

He is a softie. Danny and I have got to know each other very well over the past few years and I have had a lot of fun with him in Los Angeles.

On set, he kept saying to Roel, “If you want to know anything about the ins and outs of being in prison and what it’s really like then speak to me, as I know it all.” 

One of your first acting roles was in South African alternate reality series Charlie Jade...Yeah, that was a long time ago, but I love sci-fi.

My father introduced me to my very first sci-fi, [James Cameron’s] The Abyss, and ever since then I have been addicted to it. 

When did you decide to be an actress?

I wanted to be an actress since I was six years old, and I told my family back then that was what I wanted to be. That was my ambition in life.

I got into modelling first when I was in high school and over time I started doing commercials.

Then one day when I was in Paris someone said I should audition for this film. I had no idea what it was, but I found out later on it was [Oliver Stone’s] Alexander.

I had no experience and no acting training and I didn’t know anything about being in a film or being on set, but I had the guts to go and put myself on tape.

I didn’t get the role but at that moment I realised that was what I was going to do with my career. 


What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far about the movies and showbiz?

To remember it’s only a job. Danny Trejo said that to me, “It doesn’t matter how famous you get, how many people see your movies or tell you you’re amazing, this is just a job.” You have to keep your feet on the ground. 

Which actress do you most admire?

Meryl Streep. She is just an incredible actress in absolutely everything she has been in. 

What would be your dream role to play in a movie?

I would love to be cast in a psychological thriller in the future.

I find myself now looking for scripts that are in that genre, that have strong characters but are perhaps a little darker and with more depth. I would love to do something like that soon.

 

Death Race: Inferno is out February 4 on DVD and Blu-ray through Universal Pictures UK


Talkback


Chatroom: South African actress and model Tanit Phoenix on desert car racing, beating up stunt artists, and the nicest men in movies
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