15 Killer Facts About Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Even by Quentin Tarantino’s standards, Kill Bill was a surprise. He’d made a name for himself with a slew of curse words, violence toward ears, and riffs on sleazy genres, but the story of The Bride seeking revenge on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad was an epic. A movie that couldn’t be contained in one easy piece, it had to be split up into two still-large parts that paid homage to a fistful of genres.
It’s been 15 years since we met The Bride in the first installment. Looking back, there’s an elegant simplicity to how Uma Thurman crafted a character dead-set on killing everyone who left her to die in a creaky church in El Paso, Texas. She had a goal, and she went after it. No sweeping life lessons about the corruption of vengeance—just a question of whether she had the grit and skill to carry it out. To celebrate the film's 15th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not know about Kill Bill: Vol 1.
1. THEY REALLY SLICED A BASEBALL IN HALF.
During the scene where The Bride gets the sword from Hattori Hanzo, he throws a baseball at her which she cuts in two. They didn’t fake it—though it was Thurman’s stunt double, Zoë Bell, who actually did it.
2. O-REN ISHII’S GENERIC THREAT CAME TRUE.
Before O-Ren Ishii fights The Bride, she mocks her in Japanese by saying, “Hope you’ve saved your energy. If you haven’t, you might not last five minutes.” Four minutes and 59 seconds after O-Ren steps forward to start the fight, she gets part of her head cut off. Turns out The Bride didn’t need to last that long.
3. THE BRIDE’S NAME IS HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.
If you look fast or pause the movie, you don't need to wait until the movie's second installment to learn The Bride's name. Thurman’s character goes by a series of code names throughout the first installment, and her real name is bleeped to keep us from knowing it, but it’s printed clearly on her plane ticket to Tokyo (and Bill calls her “Kiddo,” which turns out not to be a nickname).
4. THE BRIDE’S YELLOW JUMPSUIT IS AN HOMAGE TO BRUCE LEE.
As a nice sartorial tribute, The Bride wears a killer outfit meant to mimic the iconic ensemble Bruce Lee wore in Game of Death. Tarantino also copied a short headlock sequence from Game of Death during The Bride’s fight with Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox).
5. QUENTIN TARANTINO PUT THE MOVIE ON HOLD WHEN UMA THURMAN GOT PREGNANT.
Tarantino and Thurman conceived of The Bride together while shooting Pulp Fiction, so there was only ever one actress to play the role. Then, Thurman got pregnant, so the long-gestating idea got put on hold again. “She got pregnant, and I was like, 'Okay, do I wait or do I not?' But I can honestly tell you that I didn’t have a choice,” Tarantino told the BBC. “Yes, this is my samurai movie; yes, this is my badass chick movie; yes, this is my spaghetti western and my comic book movie. But it’s also my Josef Von Sternberg movie, and if Josef Von Sternberg is getting ready to make Morocco and Marlene Dietrich gets pregnant, he waits for Dietrich!”
6. USING BLACK AND WHITE FOR THE CRAZY 88 FIGHT WAS A PRACTICAL HOMAGE.
The film shifts from color to black and white when The Bride battles the Yakuza in the House of Blue Leaves, which is a nod toward kung fu movies shown on TV in the 1970s, but it wasn’t just an artistic choice. Those movies were broadcast in black and white to get around the censors, and that’s exactly what Tarantino did, too. To avoid an NC-17 rating, and to avoid cutting out any of the over-the-top violence of the scene, he shot it in black and white.
7. THERE’S NO BLOOD IN THE TRAILER.
As the bastion of general audience innocence, the MPAA won’t allow “blood or open wounds” in green band trailers, so Kill Bill: Vol. 1’s advertisements make it look like The Bride was stabbing a barrel of motor oil with a samurai sword and got some on her jumpsuit. I’m pretty sure the people most excited about fictional bloodshed got the message.
8. THERE’S A REASON HANZO SET UP SHOP IN OKINAWA.
Hattori Hanzo leaving his life as a swordsmith behind and opening up a sushi bar specifically in Okinawa is a bit of an inside joke. Okinawa has a reputation in Japan for not having great sushi (they love pork, though) so it’s suggested in the film that an Okinawan sushi bar is the perfect place for Hanzo to hide from his old life. Not to mention the shared love of perfection, craftsmanship, and knives.
9. THEY USED CONDOMS FOR THE BLOOD EFFECTS.
Just like many Chinese action flicks of the 1970s, Tarantino and company used fake-blood-filled condoms to create the bursts of blood you see on screen. He was also particular about the blood recipe. “You can’t pour this raspberry pancake syrup on a sword and have it look good,” he said.
10. TARANTINO ASKED THURMAN TO WATCH THREE MOVIES TO PREPARE.
Those three movies were: John Woo’s The Killer; Jack Hill's Coffy, starring future Jackie Brown star Pam Grier; and Sergio Leone's timeless western A Fistful of Dollars. That blend also captures the exact balance of the genres Tarantino celebrated in the script. He and Thurman also first crafted The Bride after talking about Coffy on the set of Pulp Fiction.
11. THURMAN GOT SERIOUSLY INJURED DOING A CAR STUNT.
It only came out recently that Tarantino coerced Thurman into driving a rickety blue Karmann Ghia for a pivotal scene that he demanded be done without green screen or CGI. The production knew the car was unsafe and required a stunt professional, but Thurman eventually relented, crashed the car into a tree, and injured her back and knees. Tarantino apologized publicly, and she’s since forgiven him.
12. O-REN WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO GET BEHEADED.
The Bride fatally wounds O-Ren during their fight by slicing off part of her head, but she was originally supposed to cut her head off completely. The problem with that? With her head gone, O-Ren wouldn’t have recognized that The Bride wasn’t lying about having a genuine Hattori Hanzo sword.
13. O-REN IS THE ONLY ONE WHO DIES BY THE SWORD.
The movie places a great deal of importance on The Bride getting the Hattori Hanzo sword to use it in her revenge, but O-Ren is the only one who sees the wrong end of the blade. In the second installment of the movie, The Bride plucks Elle’s eye out and uses the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Bill.
14. THE BRIDE WASN’T SUPPOSED TO SPARE ANY OF THE CRAZY 88.
Tarantino is meticulous about his scripts, but he’s also wide open to changing things during shoots. That includes the character played by 17-year-old Hu Xiaokui, whose innocent face spared his life, turning him into a witness and figure of The Bride’s (limited) sympathy.
“I thought, ‘There’s no way she’d off a kid with a mug like this,'" Tarantino told TIME Magazine. So, she leaves one alive after the blood bath.
15. BUCK’S CAR IS UNCENSORED ON TV.
Buck the hospital orderly’s infamous “P*ssy Wagon” gets changed to “Party Wagon” in dialogue when the movie plays on network TV (how much of it can even be on TV?), but the networks either didn’t see a need or didn’t want to pay to have the car’s license plate changed digitally. It still reads “PSY WGN.”