Daryl Hannah has been a mermaid and an acrobatic android – but never an assassin who dresses like a nurse and wears an eye patch. Until now. The star of such films as Splash and Blade Runner is making life miserable for Uma Thurman (a.k.a. “The Bride”) in the bloody, butt-kicking Kill Bill, Vol. 1, the fourth full length feature by director Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino’s movie, a tribute to chop-socky cinema that was so massive in scope that Miramax broke it into two parts (Vol. 2 hits theaters early next year), features Hannah as Elle Driver (a.k.a. California Mountain Snake), a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, which also includes costars Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu. While Hannah’s role is limited in the first installment, expect plenty more of the actress (and plenty more blood) in Vol. 2. Hannah, 42, recently put down her sword to talk about the role.
So, what’s sexy about women fighting?
I don’t know. I’m probably not the best person to ask that question to. Maybe you should ask Quentin (Tarantino) – I’m sure he’ll have a great answer for that one.
Are you surprised that some people consider women fighting sexy?
Yeah, I guess. I mean, it’s the same as two men fighting, really, isn’t it? It’s just two people fighting. For Quentin, it’s definitely got its fetishy aspects.
We don’t see you fighting much in this first installment.
We all trained the same, Vivica (Fox), Lucy (Liu) and me … and Quentin, who is going to be playing Pei Mei, a character you haven’t met yet. And we all trained the same. We trained with Master Woo Ping with the kung fu wire-work stuff, and then we trained with Sonny Chiba doing all the samurai sword stuff.
Would you like to continue training?
I wish I could. Right now I’m training for something else, but I’m doing archery so that’s a different type of training. But I will probably keep up a certain amount of it. Sonny Chiba wants me to come to Japan and be the blue-eyed samurai, so I’m hoping that I’ll get to go do some samurai films with him.
What kind of films did Tarantino have you watch to prepare?
I asked him for his recommendations, because I really didn’t know too much about a lot of the genres that he was pulling from. I got 75 tapes or something – boxes and boxes. Also, he showed double features at his house all the time. I saw all of those, I saw Japanese anime, I saw samurai films, I saw kung fu films, I saw Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, all those spaghetti Westerns, as well. Then I saw ones that were specific to my character, and certain influences that were drawn from them, like Twisted Marriage, an English thriller, and They Call Her One Eye, this Swedish porn film for my patch.
How did he approach you for the role?
I was doing a play in London and he just showed up backstage one night after the play. He told me about it, that he was writing something with me in mind. He told me her name, and that I was going to be The Bride’s nemesis.
Did you ever worry about what you were getting yourself into?
No, are you kidding me? It was months before I got the script, after I first met him, and I was so excited right from the beginning. I’ve always been a big fan of his and admired his work and everything. I even worked as a crewmember at the end of the film when I finished shooting. I was pretty happy to be there because I was learning a lot.
How did you enjoy fighting with swords?
The samurai sword was mostly the weapon that I used, and I did also use a submachine gun. But the samurai sword is so beautiful, it’s such an amazing art. It’s so ceremonial. When you bow to each other, you always look your opponent in the eye, and if you don’t it means there’s no war between you.
Why is your character nicknamed the California Mountain Snake?
You’d have to ask Bill.
You still look like you did in Splash. How do you keep your youthful appearance?
I don’t know. One of my ex-boyfriends went to a high school reunion and he said it was really weird because some of the people at his reunion looked like old people – like really old – and then some of them looked like they did in high school, but just older versions of themselves. We kind of realized that it’s the people who settled and said, “Okay, I’m done learning, I’m gonna just stay here” and sank into this routine that had grown old. It was the people that had kept learning things and growing that still looked young.
I feel like I’m about 7. I always get shocked when I look in the mirror and see a grown-up.