author, producer and screenwriter Zoë
Lund recently passed away in Paris of heart
failure. Additional details can be found
Hell's web site. The following interview
was conducted by ER contributor Josh Long
and originally ran in ER #37. It is also
being published in an upcoming book on Zoë's
Zoë Lund burst upon
the film scene forcefully in 1981, starring
in noted cult director Abel Ferrara's
MS.45. Playing a physically and mentally
raped mute, she becomes the harbinger
of death, a .45 caliber pistol her weapon
of choice. Only 17 at the time, Zoë
presented a harshly realistic and powerful
performance evoking not only the
power of an independent woman, but also
the ability of the individual to access
and act upon their surroundings.
Her decision to do the film
was only natural. At a young age, Lund
was an accomplished composer/musician;
but the power of celluloid took a firmer
grasp. "I could write a concerto
with 17 violins that could be very powerful,
but film works on a more visceral level
where I can go into the collective audience
and make sure my point gets across."
years since MS.45 have been good to Zoë.
Not wanting to become part of what she
calls "Abel's stable" she marked
her own career path and has not stopped
since. She has acted in many European
and American films including Temistocles
Lopez' EXQUISITE CORPSES and Larry Cohen's
SPECIAL EFFECTS. She has published several
novels (including Curfew: USA), a pilot
for ABC called "Crackdown,"
and an upcoming short story collection.
Zoë has also toured the college lecture
circuit answering questions and talking
about her work. Her new film which
she wrote and co-stars in is Abel
Zoë Lund is inspirational.
I expected to talk to a harsh New Yorker
basking in the same underbelly she writes
for and acts in on screen. Ultimately,
I found a powerful yet introspective 29
year-old with a wealth of accomplishments,
a potent philosophy concerning life, and
a desire to talk. Here's what she had
BAD LIEUTENANT is a fine
achievement. Being the writer, you obviously
have a firm grasp on the film's main theme
of religious redemption. Did you experience
the same enlightenment?
I never went through a similar
experience within the religious context.
Although, any sort of knowledge regarding
religion is a personal journey quite resembling
any sort of quest for truth.
Well, let's go to the
other side of the spectrum. Is BAD LIEUTENANT
the most personal film you've acted in?
Yes. What I was trying to
say is that I never lost my religion.
I have always had a certain increasing
awareness of religion, but have never
put myself in the shoes of the Lieutenant.
I do believe that the Gospel is the ultimate
story. What is amazing about the book
is that over the millennia, the gospel
has become so refined to the point where
the Christ story does present a very refined
and highly charged model for the search
for truth. We can use the book as a basis
for our own path to spirituality and grace.
Why did you have the
search for redemption flow through a "corrupt"
policeman, as opposed to a mill worker
or letter carrier?
In some way his corruption
is entirely irrelevant, and in other ways
its really important. To the irrelevancy,
in no way did I want it implied that were
he not corrupt that he would have been
okay. That whole attitude of the film
him being corrupt I think
allows him to be closer to humility. And
in his own strange way, perhaps what a
policeman ought to be. For example, there
are communities, especially here in New
York, that have been totally corrupted
by police bureaucracy. On the other hand,
even after their death, officers who were
corrupt are remembered in their community
even though they did drugs and
hung out with whores. They know their
surroundings, and if someone was getting
mugged...goddamnit, that cop would be
there! That type of corruption seems to
be preferred, whereas here in the Lower
East Side, dozens and dozens of cops stand
about waiting to bust busses of junkies
who just want to get their fix and go
home. At the same time, a murder could
happen two blocks away. Out of their own
cowardice and misplaced sense of duty,
they will stay on the corner and stalk
So, everything is not
what it seems.
Yes, sometimes when people
are corrupt they are in touch with their
own humanity and will know their community
better, be closer to their community,
and will know the priorities of the community
better. If someone has a more humane sense
of justice and the priorities of justice,
I think that person could be judged corrupt.
Corruption does not make the Lieutenant
a sinner. I always like to point out that
Christ himself hung out with whores and
tax collectors. He turned water to wine...indeed,
if he were here right now he might turn
water to drugs, or something equivalent.
Some reviewers and viewers
of the film did not like it because they
seemed scared by the themes you present.
The only thing a person
has to remember is that film is a wide-reaching
medium...not every film will make it fun
for the viewer. A conscious attempt was
made to make it as difficult as possible
for the viewer to escape. The use of real
time is an example.
Being an independent
film, was there a conscious attempt to
stray away from the easy-selling realm
The only thing I can say
is that the film was what it was to be,
and that's all. I had a great deal of
control and, unlike my billing, wrote
What about your character,
Zoë, who in the film is the Lieutenant's
There was alot of rewriting
done on the set. Two other characters
were cut, and my character modulated and
took on more and more. A lot of things
had to be changed and improvised. The
vampire speech which is crucial
to the Lieutenant was written two
minutes before it was shot. I memorized
it and did it in one take. The speech
is important because she is acute in knowing
the journey the Lieutenant makes. She
shoots him up, sends him off, knowing
of his passion, she lets him go.
The film is truly an
emotional ride. Are you concerned about
it possibly pushing audiences away?
I think the idea of carnal
love versus hieratic love are issues we
all deal with and are very strong throughout
the film. In the beginning, the Lieutenant
is pursuing carnal love, and at the end
finally experiences the greater of the
two, the hieratic. In terms of the viewers,
if you leave halfway through, fine, you
shouldn't be there anyway. At the Rotterdam
Film Festival I had to tell the audiences
not to leave until the end, because its
like reading the gospel up to Gethsemane
[ED. NOTE: the garden where Jesus is betrayed
by Judas Iscariot and handed over to the
Romans] and then you shut the book. If
you buy a ticket for the ride, you might
as well see it through to the end.
Without giving away too
much of the end, there is a sign in camera
view that states "IT ALL HAPPENS
HERE." I though it only proper to
end the film with that sign in view.
That wonderful sign also
echoes the gospel, "IT ALL HAPPENS
HERE," and it truly does. The city
gave us the sign for the shoot which,
by the way, was shot with a hidden camera.
The reaction of that scene is that of
everyday New Yorker.
In your feature debut,
MS.45, you worked with a male screenwriter
(Ferrara collaborator Nicholas St. John)
and a male director. Yet, the film is
obviously pro-woman, detailing the power
every woman possesses. Did you have a
lot of input manifesting the character?
Yes. In the beginning stages
of the film, the only material that existed
was vague descriptions of several scenes.
Being that my face is on camera, without
dialogue, for something like 98% of the
time, I was involved very much. As to
the film being pro-woman, I go beyond
that by saying that the film is as much
pro-woman as it is pro-garment worker,
Being very accomplished
in several genres of entertainment do
you have any advice to any readers out
there who are aspiring?
I tell everyone that Hollywood
is a small part of the country and America
is a small part of the world. I encourage
people to travel the world, visit film
festivals. The theatre of the world is
immense and the preoccupations that hamper
American film product are less on other
continents. Another thing a writer must
do...the writer must get the point across.
As Ibsen once said, "You have to
say something seven times before the audience
gets it." You must never bore the
audience, I am adamant about that rule.
You must make things entertaining and
have a joy about your work. Audiences
want a character they can travel with,
make love to. They want to join the character's
odyssey and have that odyssey become part
of them once they leave the theater. BAD
LIEUTENANT works because we deal with
the most powerful questions ever asked
by mankind while still being down and
dirty, raunchy and funny, and a little
crazy thrown in.
What can we look for
from Zoë Lund in the future?
Well, I have a novel
called 490, which is interesting. What
the 490 stands for is from a quotation
that deals with Jesus stating that he
should forgive his neighbor not seven
times, but as much as seven times seventy.
The whole question deals with how much.
How much to give? Jesus meant a zillion,
but he said seven times seventy, and that
equals 490. The number is a concrete cipher,
a beautiful metaphor that takes the most
inevitable, metaphysical and makes it
concrete, because indeed it always is.
That is the lesson of 490. Ultimately,
I ask the question: if that be 490, what
is the passion of 489 and what of 491?