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Home arrow Entertainment arrow Dark Gallery arrow A FEW MOMENTS WITH SPICY SISTER, JASI COTTON LANIER
Written by Written by Mike Watt   
Jan 26, 2005 at 02:00 AM
Jasi Cotton Lanier's resume reads like a laundry list: actress, model, comic-book pin-up icon, and stuntwoman. She got her start in the film industry by being tricked into it. Director and classmate Paul Talbot (Campfire Tales) was shooting his first movie, Freakshow, and asked Jasi (who was working behind the scenes as a PA) to stand in for another actress. Or so she thought. Suddenly, she found herself in a small but integral role in the anthology film's first segment. From there she went on to appear and co-star in such productions as Vampire Callgirls, Hellblock 13, Titanic 2000 and Mike Legge's Stumped.
She calls Stumped her "turning point". Up until that time, she was known under a different name, "Roxanne Michaels". After Stumped, she made certain decisions about where she wanted her career to be. Dissatisfied with being fanboy eye-candy, she changed her name and refocused her attention on the rough-and-tumble world of stunt work, studying hard at the Kim Kahana Stunt Academy in Florida. Since then, her film work has been a bit meatier and (by her own admission) a lot more fun, co-starring in one of Ron Bonk's "Red Files" episodes ("1717 Evergreen Terrace", available on the Strawberry Estates DVD), working three times with Amy Lynn Best on The Resurrection Game, Were-Grrl and the upcoming Sub Rosa release Severe Injuries, and appearing (and singing and dancing) in the highly entertaining indie love-letter Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots.

She was also the model for game-geek wet dream Lara Croft in Joe Jusko's upcoming fully-painted Tomb Raider Special comic book coming out soon from Top Cow, has done stunts for Nickolodeon and Toe-Tag Pictures, and is a convention fan-favorite. Most recently, she joined fellow Severe Injuries actresses Ryli Morgan, Lilith Stabs, Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys and Ryli Morgan to take part in Best's documentary, The Spicy Sisters Slumber Party, which is an in-depth discussion of women's roles in independent film.

Dark Gallery had the opportunity to catch up with Jasi for a few minutes and extracted this interview from her.

DARK GALLERY: What is your opinion of the current roles of women in mainstream film?

JASI COTTON LANIER: I think it is getting better as far as being more innovative and having stronger roles for women. I am still frustrated for the lack of stunts/action roles. You see a few key examples but often they are the exception. There will still be a hundred male thugs in any given male action film.

DG: Do you think there is more or less opportunity for women in b-movies?


JCL: I think it is about the same but the roles are often more interesting. You can play a witch, bitch, cheerleader, gang leader, devil's girlfriend, pregnant redneck, scientist, etc.

DG: Do you think this has led to a lot of fierce competition between actresses?

JCL: At times I have seen actresses exhibit catty behavior. Unfortunate. I just try to ignore it. I can only show directors/producers what I have to offer to their project. I just don't want to be involved with politics between talent or directors.

DG: What is your opinion of Mike Legge's darkly-funny Stumped?

JCL: I think that was my turning-point role. All [the directors] could see me for was eye-candy. At the same time, I don't fault the directors who said that. Because at the time I had blonde hair and big boobs and a dark tan and I just strutted around like I was eye-candy. I had no acting training. Then I did Stumped and some off-broadway theater and for the first time I got to do something "real". I realized "Holy shit, I can actually do something besides be cute in a bikini! I can act!" (laughs) And I felt so much better about myself. Being eye-candy is fun, but you're limited, and it doesn't last. My biggest fear, after going to these comic book conventions, was turning into a 40-year-old B-queen, or pin-up girl, selling prints of myself. That really scared me.

[Stumped was] the first time… I'd only been studying acting for a couple of months, and I met with my acting teacher, who coached me through the role. It was the first role where I really had to act, and I proved that I could. I think the world of Ron; I love him to death. He really believes in the potential of everyone he works with. He's just a wonderful person. Despite the fact that he works with non-existent budgets - he can still get amazing reviews, and do a film for almost nothing. Mike Legge is just as impressive, as an actor and a director. He's on the same wavelength as Ron. He's not making schlock cinema, like 99% of the movies shot on video - most of those are unwatchable at best. Guys are watching those for either lots of blood, or naked women, or naked women covered in lots of blood. These guys actually work on good stories. The last shoot was so Tales from the Crypt! It was so much fun. I was laughing all the way through it, going "This should be on HBO! This is too good to get lost on video!"

DG: What got you interested in stunt work?

JCL: I'd always been a tomboy, but I never really considered any of that as being part of a career. But I was reading about all these stunt women, like Anita Ward. and Julie Michaels and Sophia Crawford and Dana Hee. I was just thinking, what strong, sexy women. They can do anything, you know? These were like beautiful women and they could kick ass, too! I just thought that was the was the most awesome thing in the world. The sexiest thing. So when I got a part in (the as-yet unreleased) Heaven and Hell, this martial arts film I shot in Connecticut, I was around these guys who were just amazing martial artists. I started training for the film, and once in it, having to fall repeatedly in skimpy outfits on marble floors, rehearsing again and again until you're weak - I could not wait to do it again!

DG: Do you think male audiences are likely to respond to this?

JCL: I think guys like to see strong women. I really get upset at these schlock-meisters who think that all women can be is nude, or a victim, or a nude victim. I'm not against nudity, but their stuff is nude without cause, rather than nude within context. But the idea of the nude victim - I got offered this role in a new movie, but the only roles they had open were "Nude Victim", and I'm like "ooh, what an original concept for a horror movie. No thanks." I just think there's so much more. I can't be a victim - unless it's a really great role like Jodie Foster in The Accused. I just can't just take any victim role in these pieces of crap. I'm very outspoken against it - and if I were to take something like that just for the money, that'd make me a big-ass hypocrite! I think those roles - those guys are just so full of shit. I'm not saying that women always have to be the ass-kickers, but there's interesting characters that you always see in movies, and they're always male roles. Even if they're supporting. And women don't get the good character roles. Basically, it seems like there's maybe five roles for women and that's it.

DG: How did you take to the stunt training?

JCL: I'll tell you, training for that martial arts movie is nothing compared to having to do these stunts [in class], having to fall repeatedly, get up, fall again, roll, doing the high-falls, the mini-trams and the jerk-harness. That camp was one of the best experiences for me. I felt like a kid again. "Don't play with fire!" Well, stunt people play with fire. "Don't jump off of that!" "Don't run!" But I get to play again, it's so much fun. I feel like I'm doing everything my mom told me not to do when I was a kid. And being such a tomboy underneath that - after the years of being that busty vixen, I feel like I'm finally doing something I really love. I'm so psyched. I cannot wait! I can't wait to be set on fire! What greater way to prove myself, and show what you can do than to do your own stunts? I've gone back twice since then and always had a blast, worked my ass off!

DG: What has inspired you to produce your own films?

JCL: The inspiration for the Stuntbabe Project comes from a hole in the market. I decided if I wanted more stunts for women and an all female stunt team video that I would have to do it myself. You know, women are always bitching about the lack of good roles, well write your damn role! Produce and direct it yourself! If you're not in a position of power, you can't just sit around and bitch. Get in a position of power and do it yourself. I feel like I can do this myself.

Stumped, is featured on the Gut Pile DVD. Severe Injuries will be released through Sub Rosa later this year.


Jasi Cotton Lanier has her own web-space at www.stuntbabe.com

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