THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED IN THIS STORY
High Noon School: A Pistol-Packin’ Lesson on Westerns, Love, Flutes and Spit
Okay, so Bill hasn’t died yet.
He’s going to, though. Just as the title of Quentin Tarantino’s two-movie bloodbath/love story promises. But before biting the dust, the title character gets plenty of action in Kill Bill: Volume 2, after missing Volume 1 entirely. As played by leathery badass David Carradine (remember him from the ’70s TV series Kung Fu, young grasshopper?), he’s the former boss, spurned love and revenge target for Uma Thurman’s left-for-dead Bride.
While resurrecting long-forgotten TV studs is a Tarantino specialty, he also tosses plenty of pop-culture potpourri into his megaplex blender. We pin him down–along with Thurman, Carradine and bad guys Daryl Hannah and Michael Madsen–to decode Kill Bill: Volume 2’s influences, twists and carnage.
1. Uma Is Now a Verb: After slicing and knifing her way through piles of foes last time, Thurman has caught on as a role model. She says she has heard of young girls acting tough, claiming they’re “getting Uma” or “getting Uma’d up.” She urges caution, though: “Not that I want people to fight. There is that thin line between self-confidence and aggression.”
2. Great Scenes Can Be Afterthoughts: A dirty, show-stopping throw-down in Volume 2 between the Bride and Hannah’s eye-patched baddie Elle Driver was supposed to happen in the open desert. One day before filming, Tarantino instead crammed the catfight–samurai swords and all–into a cramped trailer home. “He just kept making it longer and more funny and more stupid,” says Hannah. Stupid in a good way, right?
3. David’s Not Just Coasting on Reruns: At 67, Carradine still has deadly moves, and he wasn’t too old to learn new tricks from Japanese sword masters and “wire fu” master Yuen Woo-ping. “I’ve always been in pretty good shape, but you can always get better,” he says. “The martial art they use in Chinese movies is a little different from kung fu. I had to get into that.”
4. Zamfir, No; Wind Instruments, Yes: When Bill’s finally introduced in Volume 2, he’s playing a bamboo flute, much like the one Carradine’s character Caine carried throughout his journeys on Kung Fu. “I sneaked it in,” he says. “Every day, when we were stretching, I would do some meditation and flute. I knew that if I did enough of that, maybe Quentin would put it in the picture. And he did.”
5. Not So Many Lopped-Off Ankles: Bad news for The Passion of the Christ fans: Kill Bill: Volume 2 is far less blood-soaked and cringe-inducing than the first installment–both here and in Japan, where they saw a gorier, more graphic Volume 1.
6. The Pussy Wagon Has Been Stolen: The Bride mentions her signature car only in a throwaway line, but we’ve gotta wonder about her Volume 1 ride, the bright yellow truck with its name painted on the back. “Quentin has the Pussy Wagon,” says Thurman. “He possesses the Pussy Wagon, he drives the Pussy Wagon, he loves the Pussy Wagon. It was supposed to have been blown up in the desert by Elle Driver at some stage. I’m not exactly sure what happened with that.”
Thrill Bride: Uma doesn’t kill quite as many people this time.
7. Kung Fu Never Gets Old: The director loves his grind-house cinema genres, but of all influences (spaghetti westerns, Chinese martial arts, Japanese samurai, Asian gangsters, blaxploitation, Italian horror), could he choose a favorite? “I guess it might be the old Shaw brothers kung-fu films,” he says. “I spent a year watching one, two or three of them a day. I never got tired of them.”
8. Movies Move East to West: As you can tell by the cowboy hats and tumbleweeds, Volume 2 flees the Far East in favor of some western flavor. Is the director paying homage to any old-timey spaghetti western in particular? “There’s no super-direct influence,” he says, “unless you’re counting the music I take from this movie or that movie.” He did mull revenge plots from, say, Death Rides a Horse and Navajo Joe (with Burt Reynolds!). But what about Clint Eastwood’s nameless drifter–does he get no love? “There is,” he adds, “a bit of the Man with No Name in the Bride.”
9. Robert Rodriguez Brought His Guitar: When the soundtrack lets up with all the snippets from old western scores (by Ennio Morricone, Luis EnrÌquez Bacalov, etc.), you can hear From Dusk Till Dawn director Robert Rodriguez strumming on a Spanish guitar. The Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Spy Kids filmmaker shares Volume 2 original-music credit with the first part’s composer, Wu-Tang Clan man RZA.
10. The Vega Brothers Live: As all Tarantino nerds know, Reservoir Dogs’ Mr. Blonde (Madsen) and Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega (John Travolta) were brothers. There has been talk about a prequel (a sequel’s out, as they’re both, uh, dead) for years.
Fu for Thought: Gordon Liu may look tiny, but he’s heavy. Recently, Tarantino told Madsen that the two actors were–sorry!–getting too old. “But right after saying that, he went off to Mexico for a couple of days,” says Madsen. “I’m not sure what he did down there, but when he came back he called me and said, ‘I think I’ve figured out how to make the Vega brothers movie. Listen to this…’ Then he pretty much told me the plot of the film in 20 minutes. I couldn’t repeat it to you, because it’s really confusing.”
11. You Don’t Say “No” to Samuel L. Jackson: Tarantinoland regular Sam Jackson cameos as an organist, but that wasn’t always the plan. Says Tarantino, “He was just like, ‘Hey, I gotta be in this movie. There ain’t no way Quentin’s gonna make Kill Bill if I ain’t in it.’ ”
12. Kids Love Bloody Revenge: In a twist at the end of Volume 1, we learn that the Bride’s daughter survived the wedding-rehearsal massacre. She and mommy meet in the sequel, sure, but don’t worry–it’s not all cutesy and gooey. The kid insists they get to know each other, lounging about and watching the infamously gruesome samurai-and-son revenge flick Shogun Assassin.
13. Dead or Not, Bill Can Live On: What, you think that after Bill’s killed it’s over? The director and mastermind says this could be the beginning of a franchise that includes:
ï An anime flick about the young Bill and his three mentors: swordsman Hattori Hanzo, martial-arts master Pai Mei and Mexican pimp Esteban Vihaio
ï Graphic novels about individual members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad
ï And another live-action revenge movie, but only after the young girls in Volume 1 and 2 have grown up. “Maybe 15 years from now. I have an idea for doing the last chapter in the story,” says Tarantino. “But it wouldn’t star the Bride. It would star Nikki, Vernita’s daughter. [She watched the Bride kill her mother in Volume 1.] She’d be 20 years old and going out to get revenge on the Bride. Uma wouldn’t be the star of it, she’d kind of be the bad guy, because the little girl deserves her revenge.”
Mr. Blonde’s Ambition: Is Madsen the sheriff of Tarantino County?
14. Quentin’s Getting Faster: Six years elapsed between Tarantino’s previous movie, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill: Volume 1. But Volume 2 came together lickety-split, in less than six months. He describes the editing as “no airy-fairy, Frank Lloyd Wright, arty architect dream. Grunt work!” At this rate, his next movie (he’s hinted at wanting to direct a James Bond flick) should be coming out…next week?
15. It’s Official–Spit Is Grosser Than Blood: If Kill Bill’s spurting body fluid looks different from what you’re used to, it’s because of an ancient Chinese (circa, like, 1970s) method: squeezing condoms full of fake blood until they burst. It’s revolting but effective. “Not as gross as the can full of spit,” says Hannah, who got splattered plenty. “That was really gross. That was disgusting.”
16. Gordon Liu’s Kung Fu Is Still the Best: Tarantino originally planned to play the white-maned martial-arts wizard Pai Mei. But why bother, when he’s already got chop-socky movie veteran Gordon Liu on board (he was the bald leader of the Crazy 88 in Volume 1)? And reports that Tarantino still speaks Pai Mei’s Chinese dialogue are funny, but way, way off. “No, no, that’s his voice,” he insists. “I was going to dub it, but I just fell so in love with Gordon Liu’s voice.”
17. Bill Takes On, Yes, Clark Kent: At one point, Bill lets loose with a bizarre rant about Superman’s subtle contempt for mere mortals. As with much great wisdom about superheroes, Carradine and Tarantino hit upon it while at a Beijing cigar lounge. “We got into this conversation about Superman and Clark Kent [and] were kind of bouncing off of each other,” says Carradine. “Six days later, a rewrite showed up, and he’d dropped that entire conversation in my mouth.”
18. The Videogame Was Killer–Er, Killed: It’s a no-brainer, right? Put Bill’s characters on your Xbox, kicking, sword-fighting and questing, and you’ve got a hit. Delay after delay, the game was put on hold last year, and then it was canned. (And what happened to the Kill Bill novel Tarantino promised to write?) There is, however, a Reservoir Dogs videogame in the works. No, seriously. There is!
19. Eye Patches Wreck Your Balance: Daryl Hannah’s stunning in an eye patch, but fighting with it on was a bitch. “After I did the first three and a half months of training, I had to start wearing the eye patch,” she says. “Then I had to start all over again, because it messes with your center of gravity and your aim and all that stuff. But the good thing is, you just feel cool wearing it.”
20. Okay, It Could Have Been One Movie: If he had to slam all of Kill Bill into one instead of two flicks, the director knows what he’d lose: his heart, for one thing. Then what? “The first thing to go would’ve been the [Volume 1] anime sequence.” And…? He’d kill the Volume 2 scenes in a strip club and Mexican brothel and shorten the Bride’s training with Pai Mei. “You can imagine the movie yourself,” he says. “But I would’ve lost something.”
THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED IN THIS STORY