Dancing with John Travolta in "Pulp Fiction" was nothing compared to the rigors Uma Thurman has endured for Quentin Tarantino's latest movie. "Kill Bill" has her jetting around the globe, swinging a sword and dressing up like Bruce Lee.
"I never, ever saw myself as even having an auxiliary part in an action movie," Thurman said backstage at the Golden Globes, shortly after winning a Best Actress award for the TV movie "Hysterical Blindness." "Now I'm there punching and kicking and fighting, day in and day out. So, it's kind of a career anomaly."
Before he started making "Kill Bill" last year, Tarantino, the chatterbox filmmaker behind dialogue-and-violence-heavy classics "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs," hadn't directed a movie since 1997's "Jackie Brown." In "Kill Bill," Thurman stars as "The Bride," a pregnant assassin who is shot down at her wedding by her boss Bill (David Carradine of TV's "Kung Fu") and other killers. Years later she awakens from a coma and scours the world to take revenge, killing off her attackers one by one in China, Japan, Mexico and California until her ultimate showdown with Bill.
Much of the look and feel of "Kill Bill" will be a noirish tribute to Asian cinema. Tarantino, who has long championed many obscure Hong Kong films, called upon a kung-fu-flick-inclined musician to help out with his latest project. "That's our common denominator," explained Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA, who scored director Jim Jarmusch's similarly minded "Ghost Dog" in 1999 and has now teamed up with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich for the "Kill Bill" score (see "Metallica's Ulrich Asked To Work With RZA On Tarantino Score"). "I thought I knew every [kung-fu] flick in the world [and Quentin] knew one I didn't know," RZA said. "He thought he knew every flick in the world, I knew one he didn't know. That's how it started, like flipping baseball cards. I finally met a muthaf---er in the entertainment world that's into the martial-arts genre like that.
"I don't know if he's a big hip-hop fan, but he has hip-hop albums," he added. "First of all, if you look at the movies he makes, you know he's into urban culture. 'Jackie Brown,' that's a blaxploitation film all the way. You look at 'Pulp Fiction,' you see his whole genre, the ghetto urban sh-- he had in there."
Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson, who starred in both "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown," cameos in "Kill Bill" as the organ player at the wedding, according to a source close the project, though at the Golden Globes he played coy when pressed about his involvement. "Quentin did another movie?" he said with mock surprise. "What? He didn't call me!"
It was scheduled to finish shooting in October, but "Kill Bill" is still in production and reportedly well past its original $39 million budget. "It's taken more than a year of my life — let us pray [it's Tarantino's best movie]," Thurman joked. "And I'm not done yet!"
Part of the hard work for Thurman has been the intense physical demands of playing her character. "It's been great for me," she said, "because I've always been a couch potato. I never was put through boot camp. And I got put through Chinese boot camp on this movie. And with the most beautiful people, [such as] Master Wu Pang, the fight choreographer. And it was a life-transforming experience, for sure."
"Kill Bill" is scheduled to hit theaters October 10.