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She just couldn’t say no to ‘Rambo’

Special to The Times

Julie Benz was at the Four Seasons in “a very chi-chi room” for the “Rambo” press junket; in the new Sylvester Stallone film she plays a captured missionary in Burma. She costars as the girlfriend of a very troubled guy on “Dexter” and played the vampire Darla on “Buffy” and “Angel.”

So what inspired you to sign on for this arty biopic of French poet Jean Rimbaud?

[Laughs]

Oooh-kay. That’s not even a good joke. Hey, so, I’ve read various accounts of the set, but it sounds intense!

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We were on location in the jungles of Thailand, battling extreme heat and bugs larger than birds. Dangerous locations. It was a tough movie to shoot.

There are body parts everywhere in that movie!

Yes.

It’s bloody -- and it’s a bloody part of the world.

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What I think Sly did as a director is he wanted to place the movie in something that’s really going on in the world: the longest civil war in the world, the most underreported war in the world. And also a lot of the violence you see in the movie is nothing compared to the atrocities going on in Burma. It’s more violent than what he’s doing. But it is an action movie, it is entertaining, a roller-coaster ride. But there’s a great social message to it too.

That was really thoughtful.

When you look at the “Rambo” franchise, all the [movies] operate on a deeper level than they appear to be on the surface. It’s an onion! You see all these issues that come up. You see that in “First Blood,” that movie especially. But in our movie, first it’s an action movie, then you have the situation in Burma, and underneath that you have: Is it right to have missionaries go in? Who’s responsible at the end of the day? There is no clear hero.

There’s a lot of blood in your work.

A lot of blood and a lot of dangerous men.

That’s weird.

You know, everyone goes through phases.

So you met Ann B. Davis of “Brady Bunch” fame while doing the ABC sitcom “Hi Honey, I’m Home” in the early ‘90s!

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Yes!

That’s a piece of TV history.

A lot of pieces -- “Grandpa Munster” Al Lewis, Gale Gordon, Ann B. Davis -- very iconic television characters. That was my very first job. It was great.

That’s like a bridge to the past.

That was an experiment to see if I could be an actress; I wasn’t sure. It got me where I am today.

Your history looks like you just kept swinging away at it.

I’m a hustler. You have to be when you’re an actor, especially when you’re young and just starting out. I wanted to work. And I believe that work begets work. You can do good work in bad material. You have to raise the bar for yourself.

I didn’t necessarily always succeed. But you don’t know. All you can do is continue working. I’m scrappy! I’m a fighter. I’m competitive, and I love what I do.

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People get very precious about work.

And that perfect role -- sometimes they do come along, but how do they know where you are, and what are you gonna do in the meantime? I am a trained actress -- I still study and go to classes, but the training is on the job. I learn something different about my craft when I’m doing it. I’m not sitting around the house, waiting for my dream job. I don’t even know what that is. Send me on an adventure.

What’s your dream role?

Having experienced “Rambo,” that was an amazing job. Three months in Thailand working your butt off, covered in dirt, sweating like a pig. Who knew? That was challenging and exciting and thrilling, as it actually turned out. I knew it was going to be an experience, but I didn’t know on what level. And if I had said no?

Then you wouldn’t be trapped in a hotel room.

A really nice hotel room! An amazing view of Beverly Hills.

It must be a good smog day.

No, you can barely see the Hollywood sign. I call it “marine layer.”

Oh, IMDB, that oh-so-reliable source, says, “Dallas!” Rumored! Sue Ellen!

It’s rumored! Yes, it’s rumored. Listen, I grew up watching “Dallas.” I wanted to know who shot J.R. I would love to play Sue Ellen. It’s a rumor!


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