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Julie Benz of ‘Rambo’ Almost Gets Eaten by Bugs, Pigs, Sylvester Stallone

Courtesy of Lionsgate

Dexter fans are already well acquainted with actress Julie Benz, who stars as the long-suffering girlfriend to Michael C. Hall’s affable serial killer by night. (Buffy fans remember her as the bloodthirsty Darla.) This weekend she hits theaters as the sweet, blonde Christian missionary whose hostage crisis in the Burmese wilds inspires a rampage of righteous gore and mayhem courtesy of one John Rambo. Read on for her thoughts on filming Sylvester Stallone’s super-violent, action-packed return to form — really!

Were you a fan of the other Rambo movies? Be honest!
I think like a lot of girls my age I was familiar with the Rambo imagery but not necessarily the movies themselves. I’m a huge fan of the Rocky franchise, and once I was cast of course I watched Rambo 1 and 2. I was under strict orders not to watch Rambo 3. Sly just wasn’t very proud of that one.

What was he like to work with?
He really does try to put you at ease, and he’s the first one to make fun of himself, but you know there is still that element of, Oh my God, it’s Sylvester Stallone. I had a really hard time calling him Sly! As a director, he’s very tough, but he doesn’t demand anything out of you that he doesn’t deliver himself. His philosophy as a filmmaker is that what you’re doing is being captured for eternity, so you better give your best each moment so that two weeks or two years down the line you’re not looking back and saying, “Well, I drank too much the night before, and I guess I was sleeping off my hangover in that scene.” They can’t put a little pop-up on the screen, you know, “Excuse the actress today — she was having a bad day and that’s why this scene isn’t as good as it should be.”

You filmed in the middle of the jungle in Thailand. Were there just bugs and snakes all over the set?
Yes, there were. When I first arrived in Thailand, I brought all these natural remedies like lavender oil and citronella to keep bugs away, and by halfway through filming, I was totally doing the 100 percent DEET. That was really the only thing that worked. I didn’t wander off alone too much because when you’re shooting on location in the jungle, you just never knew what was going to be out there. One day an elephant crashed into our set! He got loose from one of the elephant camps so all of the sudden there was this giant elephant wreaking havoc on everything.

And that’s not to mention all the machine-gun fire and grenades and land mines…
It was extremely intense. I mean, you don’t get to rehearse a building exploding: It’s basically like, okay, you’re going to walk over there and do this and then when you get over here, the building behind you’s gonna explode. And if it goes right, this is what’s going to happen, but if it goes wrong, your hair could catch on fire. So you know, just protect your head like you normally would if a building exploded nearby…

There are also several scenes featuring giant, bloodthirsty pigs.
Those pigs were about 400 pounds each, and there were four of them. I was tied pretty tight into that pigpen by my neck and my hands, and my mouth was gagged. At one point while we were filming one of the pigs broke through the fence and actually came right at me. I was freaking out, and they were rushing in to try to get me out, and of course Sly is in the background yelling, “Keep the cameras rolling!” I was so panicked. Apparently if pigs think you smell good, they’ll just starting licking at you and trying to eat you! Thank God I smelled so disgusting and dirty that day. Normally I smell like cake.
—Sara Cardace

Julie Benz of ‘Rambo’ Almost Gets Eaten by Bugs, Pigs, Sylvester Stallone