David Carradine has opened an industrial-sized vat of whoop-a*s over his long and checkered career, so it’s not surprising that a tinge of anxiety would precede an encounter with the 6 foot 2 inch star of Kill Bill. Fortunately, this icon of both the cinema (“Bound For Glory,” “The Long Riders”) and the small screen (“Kung Fu”) appears sedate and talkative as he reclines in a swanky room at Seattle’s Fairmont Hotel.
White smoke trails upward from a cigarette, one of many that Carradine will pull from a silver smokes case and light up over the course of the next forty-five minutes. Smoking, it seems, was key to a bonding experience he shared with Kill Bill director Quentin Tarantino during production, which resulted in much of the spectacular wordplay that concludes the film.
“When we were in pre-production in Beijing,” Carradine explains, sitting cross-legged in a hotel chair, “I got a call one evening in my hotel room. It was Quentin. He said, ‘Do you smoke cigars?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘There’s a cigar lounge here at the hotel. Will you meet me there?’ So we met there, smoked cigars, and had this conversation about Superman and superheroes, and all that. Six days later, there was a re-write to the script. And there it was, in the movie.”
The resulting monologue from this inspired stogie session is the capper to Kill Bill, a speech delivered by Carradine that covers parenting, goldfish, life, death, and the romantic regrets of a hardened-yet-human killer. Of course, there’s also the part about why Superman is the toughest badass hero of ‘em all.
Such dialogue delights, but doesn’t necessarily surprise. After all, Tarantino’s comic book fixation has left its mark on his work as consistently as the funnies brand newspapers each day. Tony Scott’s “True Romance” (which Tarantino scripted) featured a comic store slacker as its hero, and even the submarine actioner “Crimson Tide” (also directed by Scott, but partially penned by Tarantino) gave us Denzel Washington singing the praises of Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer.
What is surprising about Tarantino, however, is his open, improvisational approach to such unique movie moments. According to Carradine (who knows a thing or two about the methodry of legendary directors, having played the lead in Martin Scorsese’s “Boxcar Bertha” in 1972), the set of Kill Bill was a testing ground for tinkering, revising, and experimenting. “Most of the time (during filmmaking),” Carradine laments, extending his cigarette with jade-ringed fingers, “the director has a preconceived notion of what he’s gonna do. And he’ll do it, come hell or high water, even if it’s not the greatest idea any more. Maybe the location isn’t right, or maybe the chemistry between the actors isn’t there. But he’ll do it anyway.
“But Quentin is open to changing with the wind, and he did it with his writing right up until the very end. That whole final monologue changed, like five times. The last time it changed was the day that I came in to do it! I had the whole thing committed to memory, and he just threw it out the window and started over.”
Get the rest of the interview in part two of DOUBLE “BILL”>>>