In the aftermath of Uma Thurman’s New York Times profile, in which the actress spoke about some of the abuse she endured on the set of “Kill Bill,” Quentin Tarantino’s directing style has been called into question. But the director is explaining his version of events in a lengthy interview with Deadline. One of the discussion points involves Tarantino defending his decision to choke his actresses during the filming of select scenes, which happened to both Uma Thurman and Diane Kruger during the making of “Kill Bill” and “Inglourious Basterds,” respectively.
A prominent fight scene in “Kill Bill” finds The Bride (Thurman) facing off against the female assassin Gogo (Chiaki Kuryama), whose weapon of choice is a chain ball she whips around like a lasso. The scene features The Bride being strangled by Gogo’s whip. Tarantino says he first set up the scene so that no one would be physically tugging on the chain that was wrapped around his star’s neck.
“Frankly, I wasn’t sure how we were going to shoot that scene,” Tarantino told Deadline. “Wrap a chain around the neck, you’ve got to see choking. I was assuming that when we did it, we would have maybe a pole behind Uma that the chain would be wrapped around so it wouldn’t be seen by the camera, at least for the wide shot.”
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But according to the director, it was Thurman herself that felt the scene required an actual person tugging on the chain and not just a pole keeping the chain in place around her neck. Tarantino said the actress didn’t just want to be mimicking the act of being choked but felt it was necessary to feel it at the hands of another person.
“It was Uma’s suggestion,” Tarantino said. “To just wrap the thing around her neck, and choke her. Not forever, not for a long time. But it’s not going to look right. I can act all strangle-ey, but if you want my face to get red and the tears to come to my eye, then you kind of need to choke me. I was the one on the other end of the chain and we kind of only did it for the close ups. And we pulled it off. Now, that was her idea.”
During the making of “Inlgourious Basterds,” it was actually Tarantino’s decision to be the one choking Diane Kruger during a scene in which SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) strangles her character, Bridget von Hammersmark, to death. But the director said he explained his intention fully to Kruger before cameras started rolling and that she gave him permission to do so.
Tarantino believed that in order to pull off the scene properly, Kruger had to actually be strangled with severe pressure put around her neck. The director felt he had to be the one responsible to do so as he didn’t want any mistakes being made during such a delicate scene.
“When I did ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ and I went to Diane [Kruger], and I said, look, I’ve got to strangle you,” the director said. “If it’s just a guy with his hands on your neck, not putting any kind of pressure and you’re just doing this wiggling death rattle, it looks like a normal movie strangulation. It looks movie-ish. But you’re not going to get the blood vessels bulging, or the eyes filling it with tears, and you’re not going to get the sense of panic that happens when your air is cut off.”
“What I would like to do, with your permission, is just…commit to choking you, with my hands, in a closeup,” Tarantino continued. “We do it for 30 seconds or so, and then I stop. If we need to do it a second time, we will. After that, that’s it. Are you down to committing to it so we can get a really good look. It’ll be twice, and only for this amount of time, and the stunt guy was monitoring the whole thing.”
Kruger agreed to Tarantino’s request, and he said that she later revealed in an interview that she said “yes” because she “trusted Quentin so much.”
“We did our two times [and] Diane said, okay, if you need to do it once more, you can,” Tarantino said. “That was an issue of me asking the actress, can we do this to get a realistic effect. And she agreed with it, she knew it would look good and she trusted me to do it. I would ask a guy the same thing. In fact, I would probably be more insistent with a guy.”
For more from Tarantino’s Deadline interview, including his tell all about the “Kill Bill” car crash, click here.