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Kill Bill: Volume One - Quentin Tarantino Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. The violence... clearly, it is your intention, when you hear the voice of Nancy Sinatra singing 'Bang, Bang, my baby shot me down', to let the audience know really early that this was a very black comedy?
A. Definitely, definitely. I've been violent before, but I've never done it in such an outrageous way. So I think that goes a long way to... whatever. Not that I have any problem with it when it's not outrageous, but this is definitely taking place not on planet earth. It actually uses a lot of Japanese filmmaker influences, where it's a standard staple in Japanese cinema to cut somebody's arm off and have them have water hoses for veins [says making spewing sound]. So I'm keeping that tradition alive.

Q. Given that most of the men in the film are fodder for being killed, and all of the cool roles belong to women, would you regard this film as something of a feminist statement?
A.
I would probably use the word girl power.

Q. There's so much graphic violence in Kill Bill, which we enjoy, did you actually sit down and make a list of all the alternative ways in which you could maim and hack at the human body with a samurai sword? And with all of your favourite genres now mixed up into one film, are there any genres that you loathe?
A.
When it came to do the House of Blue Leaves fight scene, where Uma fights the crazy idiot with the samurai sword, yeah, I was trying to think up every inventive, most entertaining way, I could of dismembering and disemboweling, or putting to an end those bastards.
I was out there trying to create one of the greatest, most exciting sequences in the history of cinema, so I was definitely working overtime. What do I want to see? What haven't I seen? It took about a year to write that fight sequence. One of the things I'm most proud of about it, is the fact that the movie doesn't stop while that scene goes on, I think there is actually storytelling going on in the course of it. And, when I wrote it, I didn't write it as a stand-alone action scene, it was just like the whole rest of the script, and I was working my way through it.
I knew I wanted to do this, and this, but now I had to get there. That's not the way I work. But when I didn't have a middle section, for instance, what I would do is think of something I'd seen in a cool kung-fu movie, like Sammo Hung did in that movie, and I'd fill it in, and have that be the space in-between. And over the course of the year, I would just constantly rewrite it, and rewrite it, until all those scenes were gone and it was all filled with original stuff. That's how I did that.
As for the stuff I hate. Loathe may be a little too strong. I'm not really a big fan of Victorian movies. They're not my kind of movies. For the simple fact that movies about knuckling under to society, or trying to fight society and being knuckled under because of it, or those that I consider to be movies about people who are following rules, or who are destroyed for breaking rules, they're so polite, and I'm not really interested in that.
I like movies about people that break rules, or movies about mavericks, and I don't like movies about people who have been pulverized for being a maverick.
But one of my genres that I'm not really that into, as far as cinema is concerned, are biography movies. I just don't think they make interesting cinema. They create interesting performances, there's a great character for a person to play, but they usually always follow a rise and fall. There's a few persons in this world that their whole life is interesting enough to make a movie about.
You could make a very good book, but not a movie.
If I was ever to do a biography, I would follow somebody for three days. Not their whole life; when they're young, and then their middle age, and their old age. I would just choose three days.
And if I were to do a movie about Elvis Presley, I'd do it about the day he walked into Sun Records and that would be it.

Q. What can we expect from Kill Bill: Volume Two, and are there big plans for the DVD?
A.
I can’t really elaborate on it all that much, you know? We have a big dot, dot, dot there. And even though I’m being cagey, I still have to make Volume Two, which is one of the reasons we’re doing such a whistle-stop right now. If we were all done, we would have a little more time, but I have to get home and start doing it all over again.
But the thing about Volume Two is that there is a personality change between Volume One and Volume Two. At the end of this film, when Sonny Chiba gives that little parable, and says that revenge is never a straight line, ‘it’s like a forest that you can get lost in, somewhere that you lose your way and forget where you came in’, Volume One is the straight line; Volume One is the straight-ahead, heart-pumping, sit on the edge of your seat, wow, that was a night at the movies kind of thing, you know? It can be said, you know, well, where’s the resonance?
And my feeling is that it’s there… but you don’t need it, alright? Growing up, when I watched Avenging Eagle, or Five Fingers of Death, I wouldn’t think, ‘where’s the resonance’? I was getting off, man, alright, this was the shit, so that’s where I was coming from. I think it’s there, but it don’t have to be there. It’s there if you want it.
Now, however, it’s not straight ahead. Now it’s the forest and it’s easy to get lost and to lose your way as far as The Bride’s journey is concerned. Now we slow down a little bit, we get to know the characters a little bit more, and things aren’t one, two, three. Real life rears its ugly head into her journey.
And as far as the DVD is concerned, yes, I’m thinking about it big-time already. I can’t imagine a better movie when it comes to great DVD stuff. But I’m going to really play fair. We’ll come out with a separate volume for Volume One, and a separate volume for Volume Two, I’ll do special stuff for that, and then we’ll come out with a real big version that puts both of them together, but I won’t repeat the special stuff I put on Volume One and Volume Two. I might even make a little ‘movie movie’ thing on that special double feature version [laughs].

Q. If you had to choose the quintessential martial arts movies, what would they be?
A.
I think I'd probably include Five Fingers of Death, I'd have to mention a couple of Angela Mao movies, Lady Whirlwind would definitely be one, Broken Oath would be one as well. Almost anything, as far as I'm concerned, by Chang Chueh, because to me he is to old school kung fu films what John Ford was to Westerns. And I have to go off on a little bit of a tangent here because...
Chang Chueh died when we were in pre-production and any time you put the camera up on the ceiling and looked straight down, I called it the Chang Chueh POV. There's even one moment in the movie, where we had this gag where I was getting frustrated by all the modern-day pyrotechnics of making movies. We had a really great make-up crew, but they're doing everything the modern way, which means everything involves hydraulics and fire extinguishers, canisters and tubes going up legs.
And I eventually said, 'screw this guys, we're not making a God damn horror movie here; you have to pretend that we're little kids and we're making a Super 8 movie in our back yard and you don't have all this shit, alright? How would you achieve this effect; ingenuity is important here'. I was getting pissed off.
What happened is Woo-Ping came up and goes, 'well, Quentin, do you know what Chang Chueh developed in the Seventies? To get some of those cool blood effects that he had, he would take a Chinese condom and fill it full of blood - and to make the record straight, a trojan doesn't work, it has to be a Chinese condom - and the fighters would have a sword in one hand, and a blood-filled condom in the other and when they would swing it at the bad guy, as they flinch backwards, they would squeeze the condom and blood would spurt out'.
And it was great; no canisters, no tubes or nothing, just Chinese condoms and it worked like a charm.
Anyway, I'm doing this shot, where Uma swings the sword at this girl's throat and the idea is the camera is behind the girl, and she is supposed to grab her throat, squeezes the condom and the blood spurts out towards the camera.
We did it, but it's not directional; it's a Chinese condom, so who knows where the fuck the blood's going to go, so we're doing it 10, 12, 13 times and all the time it squirts down her front, as opposed to out. I was just starting to get frustrated, even though it wasn't her fault, or anyone's fault, and I swear to goodness, at some point, I feel like Chang Chueh talked to me, and kind of came to me and said, 'hang in there Quentin, it's going to work out; it's bound to explode the right way once; just hang in there'. And sure enough, about four times later, it did it perfectly. To this day, I'm almost positive Chang Chueh came to me and told me to calm down and not to worry.

Q. You're obviously quite a wild character yourself, is this why you went with David Carradine?
A.
Good question. I've always considered David Carradine one of the great mad geniuses when it comes to wild actors and Hollywood. Nicholson would be up there, as would Christopher Walken and definitely David Carradine.
One of the things that was a big thing about him getting the role was that I had actually read David's autobiography, and it was called Endless Highway, which is one of the best autobiography's I'd ever read in my life; it was just fantastic. To read about this guy's life, and to imagine his life, being John Carradine, the Shakespearean actor's son, in Hollywood and New York, it was quite a fascinating journey, and it occurred to me, while reading it that, God, this guy is Bill, he could be Bill. This could be Bill's story; it'd be different, but it'd be just as inventive and just as character-filled. So that went a long way to me casting David in the role.

Q. When did one movie become two and how soon were you aware of the change?
A.
If I could have done it as two movies from the get-go, I would have. But to bring it up to Harvey Weinstein right at the beginning, that would maybe have put up warning signs, or a flag right off the bat, which I thought might have not been prudent.
But what ended up happening was the crew realised they had made two movies, because normally they make about two movies a year, whereas in this movie, they had made one movie in the course of a year and they realised they had made two movies, and began making jokes about it.
But then what happened is Harvey Weinstein came on to the set and said that he didn't want me to lose anything, so why don't we make it two movies? And I was like, 'that's a great idea, Harvey, GENIUS!' And I went back to work and, in the next hour, figured it all out, that this would happen here, and that would end there.

Q. What did you take away from the experience of working in China and how important is it to you that it is welcomed over there?
A.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to China was twofold. One, there's a vibrancy to Beijing that I was trying to capture. Even though the movie doesn't necessarily take place in Beijing, there's a vividness and invigoration to this Chinese cinema that I was aspiring to, that I wanted to get at.
Also, I wanted to shoot the Chinese way, which is, as opposed to the American way, they don't give a damn about the schedules. The films there are cheap enough, you can just keep shooting until you get it right, as opposed to America where everywhere schedule is God.
I wasn't going to settle for anything but one of the best action scenes ever made, and that takes time. I mean, if you're going to make a giant omelette for everyone in the room, you've got to break some eggs.
However, having said that, one thing that was just as important to me, as making a cool movie, was that I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to go on the adventure of a lifetime and remember this experience.
The journey aspect was as important to me as a good movie. They can work together, but they were equally important, and I got it; I got the adventure of a lifetime and I'll quite never be the same again.

Q. If you were able to assemble your dream cast, from living or dead, who would it be?
A.
Oh God, that's too much of a big question. It would be quite a few people. Charles Bronson would definitely be one of them, as would the Hong Kong kung-fu star, Lieh Lo, who created a character, Pai Mei, who is in Volume Two; he would be in there.
Aldo Ray would be in there, Ralph Meeker, the list goes on and on. I don't need a Dietrich however, because I already have one [says, hugging Uma Thurman].


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