If you asked Mary Death about job satisfaction, she would likely rate her chosen profession a 10 out of 10. In the 2013 Sci-Fi/action-adventure feature film Bounty Killer, she is a futuristic badass with an ax to grind – professionally speaking, of course- when it comes to those she is responsible for hunting down and eliminating. This femme fatale has it all, including brains, beauty, brawn and fame, so it comes as no surprise why actress Christian Pitre set her sights on playing the character.
“My audition process was three years ago,” recalls Pitre. “They [the film’s creators/producers] had already taken this project through a number of different levels. It had been an animated short, and now they were turning it into a live-action shot in the hopes of eventually making a feature. So they began to search for someone to play Mary.
“I saw the casting call on a site called Actors Access, which is where actors can go to submit themselves for parts. It was a pretty fun role to read for. There was some action involved and my husband helped me get ready. In the [audition] sides it stated that Mary whips out a knife, which I actually did during the audition. I guess I was the only one who did that, so maybe that stuck out in their heads,” she jokes. “I’ve since learned that some casting directors think that actors are a bit crazy and that you might not want to whip out a real knife, at least not without telling them beforehand that you’re planning to do
“Fortunately, these guys aren’t by the book as far as the way they do things. I think they appreciated that about me as well and ended up booking me as Mary. We did the short and they kept me on to shoot the feature, which I am extremely grateful for, so here we are.”
Bounty Killer is set 20 years after big corporations took over the world’s governments. Putting power and profits ahead of human beings resulted in a global war that destroyed civilization as we know it. A new ruling body called The Council of Nine has taken over the running of the world, and as part of its agenda, it issued death warrants for white collar criminals associated with the offending former corporations. The council has hired two of the highest ranking “celebrity” bounty killers, Mary Death (Pitre) and her partner Drifter(Matthew Marsden), to dole out justice to a particular group of offenders. In Mary’s eyes, getting the job done right is another step towards making the world a better place.
“Mary was raised not as a bounty killer but as someone much more savage than that,” explains Pitre. “Growing up, she decided that she really wanted to be a part of setting the world right. It’s important to Mary to help get things back to the way they used to be and the way that she remembers it. So she’s doing this for those reasons. Obviously the icing on the cake is that this woman is the most famous bounty killer in the world. This is bounty killer land we’re introducing you to and where the world’s top killer is the most famous, loved and adored person you’d ever want to meet.
“The thing is that yes, Mary is a badass, but she’s not a bad person. She just kills the bad guys. Throughout the movie, you see that while she puts on this tough exterior, she has a soft heart and a vulnerability that makes her a likeable as well as relatable person, which is pretty cool. I think with a lot of superhero-type characters, it helps if they have that relatable side where an audience member can picture themselves as Mary.
“My character has a love affair with the other lead in the story, Drifter, who’s the man with no name. He trained Mary and taught her everything she knows. They have a very interesting relationship. It was fun bringing that to life, and the funny thing is, we didn’t notice as much when it was on paper as we did when we started shooting the movie, just how much of a love story that this is and that it became. Once everything starts flowing together, you start to see why it is they’re both doing this job and what keeps Mary and Drifter tagging along after each other.”
Wardrobe, hair and make-up all played a significant role in helping Pitre get into the Mary mindset. “There was a scene in the film that ended up being cut out just because we had so much going on and that shows where the idea for her costume came from,” says the actress. “What you don’t know about this movie is that there are books behind the storyline. There’s A Book of Mary and A Tale of Drifter that were written all the way up to the point that our story begins. As actors, that was great because anything and everything that you wanted to know about Mary and Drifter was put into these books for us.
“When Mary was a child, her family was involved in the corporate wars and she lived through that. At one point, she was on a plane that was going to crash, and the airline stewardess that was also onboard was talking to her and telling her that it would all be OK. Naturally, it was a very traumatic event in her life and something that has stuck with her, so when Mary got older and decided she was going to become a bounty killer, she did a tribute of sorts to this woman when making her costume. So you’ve got this 60s/70s stewardess-type outfit and then the racing stripes and other elements that come from Mary’s time living with the gypsies when she was growing up. So she more or less mixed everything that she knew and definitely took inspiration from the airline stewardess who she looked up to so much.
“I’ll never forget the day that Mary’s costume was finally ready. We were doing a photo shoot for Mary’s past fame pictures and all the photos of her on the magazine covers. I put the outfit on for the first time, and the hair and make-up was done for the first time, too. I walked out of the room and watched as the writers, Colin Ebeling [producer], Henry Saine[director/producer] and Jason Donson, just stopped and looked at me. After years and years of only seeing an animated version of this woman, here she was standing there in front of them in real life. I walked into the kitchen to get a slice of pizza and I head Colin say to Henry, ‘Oh, wow. Mary Death is standing in your kitchen eating pizza.’
“Their faces were so amazing and I loved that I got to be a part of that moment for them when they got to see their character come to life. Also, you can ask anyone on-set that when I’m in hair, make-up and wardrobe, there’s a different person that comes out of me. So I played Mary for them all the time, and I think I started that because of their excitement when they initially saw me dressed as her. I kind of just kept that up all throughout filming the short and even the feature. When I was Mary, I was Mary for them, and then when I was me, I was me. As soon as I got into that costume and then the hair and make-up, it just made me feel and behave a certain way, you know? I’m sure a lot of people would probably feel the same way, too, once they put on garters, thigh-highs, go-go boots and spurs,” notes Pitre with a chuckle.
Early on in Bounty Killer, Mary meets up with an adoring group of fans as well as the press and tells them, “I never pull out before the big kill.” Being able to talk the talk is one thing, but the actress then had to prove herself more than once when it came time for Mary to go into action.
“There were obvious physical challenges with this role because I had never done any stunts or martial arts before,” she says. “The hardest one was Mary’s signature kill – a spinning back-kick with spurs on her boots. Apparently this kick takes most people, including martial artists, years to learn how to do it the right way. That was a move I really struggled with, and it was disheartening only because, again, it’s supposed to be the character’s signature move. Also, I’m 5’7”, and the very first person I do this to in the film is 6’8” and Mary is slicing his neck. So not only did I have to do a kick, but I had to do it over six feet up in the air. It was crazy, but luckily I had my stunt coordinator there with me and Henry with his directing tricks that he pulled to make me look cool.
“The physical stuff aside, one of the toughest scenes in the entire movie comes towards the end with me and Barak Hardley [Jack LeMans] in the gypsy camp,” continues Pitre. “It’s supposed to be this pinnacle of emotion with Mary where she kind of reaches a breaking point that you haven’t really seen her at yet. That day we were filming in the desert inside of a tent, so it was like a million degrees anyway, but it felt like two million degrees in this tent. We were using a RED camera, and when those things get too hot, they just shut down. So I’d get all worked up and ready to do this scene and then suddenly the camera would stop working.
“We’re sweating like crazy and I’m crying and trying to stay in the moment because it was such an important scene. I knew Barak was nervous about it because he’s very much a comedic actor. So in the scenes where his character had to be serious, Barak got nervous as well, so I was nervous for the both of us. It was a little bit frustrating that day with the camera shutting down, but we ended up getting it done and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. I love the connection between Mary and Jack. Barak is so sweet and vulnerable in that scene and it makes me love his character even more.”
What was it like for Pitre to work with the rest of the Bounty Killer cast? “Amazing,” enthuses the actress. “We had Gary Busey [Van Sterling] with us, and usually peoples’ first question is, ‘What was it like to work with Gary Busey?’ He was a trip, but in a good way. Working with Gary Busey is exactly what you’d think it would be like. Your expectations are definitely met and then even superseded. We never knew what was going to happen next or what was going to be said next, but it was an adventure, that’s for sure, and we had a ball.
“Working with Beverly D’Angelo [Lucille] was for me a dream come true. She’s so sweet and such a wonderful actress, and as a person, I’ve become very good friends with her through this. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. From Beverly to Kristanna Loken[Catherine] to Abraham Benrubi [Jimbo], they’re all real pros. They come in, do such an incredible job, and are a pleasure to hang out with. I can imagine that for some actors it might be weird to step into our little clique. We’ve been at this for so long and have become a very tightknit family, but, for example, my costar Matthew Marsden came in just as we were getting ready to start shooting the feature and he immediately fit right in. We all grew closer and closer as we did this, and now I don’t think there are any boundaries for any of us because we are family. All the lines have been blurred as far as what we’re allowed to joke about or whatever. We all just put it out there and had a good time. We were like the little engine that could, and we did.”
Born in Houma, Louisiana, the actress was just three-and-a-half years old when she moved with her family to Cleveland, Tennessee. Although she began modeling as a child, Pitre wanted to pursue other creative career options as she got older. “Ever since I was six or seven years old I had this idea that I was going to come out here to live in Los Angeles and make movies,” says Pitre. “I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt, so we didn’t have many theatres or other forms of entertainment. I tried, however, to do as much acting as I could in church musicals and similar types of productions in order to just learn how to hone this craft as much as I could with what I had.”
In 2004, Pitre made her professional debut playing the lead in Playing Clandestine. “It was kind of a stroke of luck or perhaps God was putting the pieces together, but I was in Nashville when I ran into a well-known actor and we began dating,” she says. “He was working on a movie at the time, so I met the producer and the director, Yogi and Shannon Christian, through him. They knew I was interesting in acting and said to me, ‘Read the script and pick out a little role you want to audition for. Then you can just be on-set and see how it all works.’
“I read the script and asked them, ‘Could I audition for the lead?’ They said, ‘OK, but didn’t you say you had never really done this before.’ I said, ‘No I haven’t, but I think I can.’ So I auditioned and booked the lead. After that I just began trying out for every independent film and music video that was shooting in Nashville and got as much experience as I could there. My future husband and I were costars on two different films in the same year, and once we ended up together, we moved out to Los Angeles five years ago to pursue more work.”
Boys of Summerville, A Father’s Rights and Crazy, Stupid, Love are among the actress’ other film credits, while on TV, she has guest-starred on such series as CSI: Miami and Adopted. Looking to the near future, Pitre is considering a couple of other projects with roles just as challenging as Mary Death in Bounty Killer. “The offers coming my way at the moment are for strong female leads in the action/adventure genre, which I’m completely fine with,” she says. “I haven’t really decided yet what I’m going to do next, but whatever it is, I know I’ll have fun doing it.”
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