Quentin Tarantino fans know Vivica A. Fox as the assassin Vernita Green who goes head-to-head with Uma Thurma’s Bride in a bloody smackdown in Green’s suburban home. Fox’s scene opens “Kill Bill” with a bang, and the actress looks back on the making of the martial arts epic in her new book, “Every Day I’m Hustling.” TIME has released an excerpt from the memoir in which Fox gets brutally honest about auditioning for Tarantino.
Before Fox was even able to properly audition, she had to meet Tarantino first to see if he liked her. The two had a 15 minute interview at a coffee shop where Tarantino said he first realized Fox could be Vernita Green after he saw her on the DVD cover of “Two Can Play That Game.”
“Quentin loves telling stories, and if he likes you, oh, he is going to talk,” Fox remembers of their first meeting. “We discussed favorite movies, of course. I talked about Pam Grier and how much I loved her, and Richard Roundtree, who’d played my dad on Generations. ‘Yeah, I’m Shaft’s daughter,’ I joked.”
The meeting ended with Tarantino saying he would come to Fox’s house and audition her there. Fox was living in Tarzana, Los Angeles in a mansion and worried that Tarantino would get the wrong impression of her if he came over. She made him promise that he wouldn’t “hold her house” against her.
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“I was living in a huge 8,000-square-foot mansion in Tarzana. I’d invested in real estate,” Fox explains. “It could easily be mistaken for the home of a spoiled brat who would never follow direction…I was afraid he would take one look at the place and say, ‘Here I thought Vivica was hungry.’ I still was.”
Tarantino ended up coming over and “helped himself to a tour like he was scouting a location.” The two read the famous “Kill Bill” kitchen scene twice in Fox’s actual kitchen before Tarantino made Fox the offer. But the audition was the easy part, as Fox would soon be put through vigorous training since Tarantino wanted all the actors to have the skills of a martial arts professional.
“For three months, Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, and I spent eight hours a day studying martial arts at a gym they put together in Culver City,” Fox writes. “It was nine to five, Monday through Friday. If you didn’t walk in the door between 8:55 and 8:59, you were in trouble at 9:01. I thought I was in the damn Olympics or something.”
Tarantino would come to the gym every Friday to evaluate the actors, and each week he would have nothing but negative comments to share. On the third week of training, Fox was expecting Tarantino to be favorable to their martial arts progress, but the director tore into them and called them lazy. Fox shocked her co-stars by speaking out against Tarantino to his face.
“I lost it on him,” Fox says. “‘Is this a ‘beat us up’ contest?’ I asked. ‘Are we fucking doing anything right? Goddamn.’ Everyone gasped. I felt Uma draw back. Lucy grabbed my hand and was trying to do a kind of acupressure on me, whispering, ‘Calm down. Calm down.'”
Uma Thurman ultimately helped Fox navigate the tricky waters of being directed by Tarantino. Thurman told Fox that Tarantino loved to instigate and that was simply his way of getting what he wants out of the actor and that his comments were never anything personal. The actress went on to tell Fox that to solve the problem she’d have to learn how to “manipulate the situation better.”
“You have to learn to be quiet, speak less,” Thurman told Fox. “He’s tough, but he’s not stupid. He’ll concede you something if it’s to make the film better. Learn to attack intelligently, Vivica. Because he’s got the power to fire you.”
Fox refers to the conversation with Thurman as “pure sisterhood” and thanks her co-star for looking out for her and teaching her how to advocate for herself on a Tarantino set. Fox goes on to describe just how empowering it was to watch Thurman lead the film on set.
“I watched her argue with Quentin, intelligently and successfully, for wardrobe changes and even dialogue rewrites,” Fox writes. “She made it a true collaboration, pushing him away from simply making an ode to the samurai films he made us all watch with him, toward something new. ‘Kill Bill’ is an astonishing work because of their shared efforts, and it’s because they each approached it not as a job, but as a cornerstone of their careers.”
As for the recent revelation of Thurman’s on set car crash, Fox says had no idea about the accident until everyone else found out in Thurman’s New York Times profile. The scene was filmed long after Fox wrapped her part in the film. Fox’s book “Every Day I’m Hustling” is now available to pre-order and will be released on April 3.