15 Killer Facts About Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Andrew Cooper, Miramax Films
Andrew Cooper, Miramax Films

Even by Quentin Tarantino’s standards, Kill Bill was a surprise. He’d made a name for himself with a slew of curse words, violence toward ears, and riffs on sleazy genres, but the story of The Bride seeking revenge on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad was an epic. A movie that couldn’t be contained in one easy piece, it had to be split up into two still-large parts that paid homage to a fistful of genres.

It’s been 15 years since we met The Bride in the first installment. Looking back, there’s an elegant simplicity to how Uma Thurman crafted a character dead-set on killing everyone who left her to die in a creaky church in El Paso, Texas. She had a goal, and she went after it. No sweeping life lessons about the corruption of vengeance—just a question of whether she had the grit and skill to carry it out. To celebrate the film's 15th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not know about Kill Bill: Vol 1.

1. THEY REALLY SLICED A BASEBALL IN HALF.

During the scene where The Bride gets the sword from Hattori Hanzo, he throws a baseball at her which she cuts in two. They didn’t fake it—though it was Thurman’s stunt double, Zoë Bell, who actually did it.

2. O-REN ISHII’S GENERIC THREAT CAME TRUE.

Before O-Ren Ishii fights The Bride, she mocks her in Japanese by saying, “Hope you’ve saved your energy. If you haven’t, you might not last five minutes.” Four minutes and 59 seconds after O-Ren steps forward to start the fight, she gets part of her head cut off. Turns out The Bride didn’t need to last that long.

3. THE BRIDE’S NAME IS HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.

If you look fast or pause the movie, you don't need to wait until the movie's second installment to learn The Bride's name. Thurman’s character goes by a series of code names throughout the first installment, and her real name is bleeped to keep us from knowing it, but it’s printed clearly on her plane ticket to Tokyo (and Bill calls her “Kiddo,” which turns out not to be a nickname).

4. THE BRIDE’S YELLOW JUMPSUIT IS AN HOMAGE TO BRUCE LEE.

Uma Thurman in 'Kill Bill: Vol. 1' (2003)
Andrew Cooper, Miramax Films

As a nice sartorial tribute, The Bride wears a killer outfit meant to mimic the iconic ensemble Bruce Lee wore in Game of Death. Tarantino also copied a short headlock sequence from Game of Death during The Bride’s fight with Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox).

5. QUENTIN TARANTINO PUT THE MOVIE ON HOLD WHEN UMA THURMAN GOT PREGNANT.

Tarantino and Thurman conceived of The Bride together while shooting Pulp Fiction, so there was only ever one actress to play the role. Then, Thurman got pregnant, so the long-gestating idea got put on hold again. “She got pregnant, and I was like, 'Okay, do I wait or do I not?' But I can honestly tell you that I didn’t have a choice,” Tarantino told the BBC. “Yes, this is my samurai movie; yes, this is my badass chick movie; yes, this is my spaghetti western and my comic book movie. But it’s also my Josef Von Sternberg movie, and if Josef Von Sternberg is getting ready to make Morocco and Marlene Dietrich gets pregnant, he waits for Dietrich!”

6. USING BLACK AND WHITE FOR THE CRAZY 88 FIGHT WAS A PRACTICAL HOMAGE.

The film shifts from color to black and white when The Bride battles the Yakuza in the House of Blue Leaves, which is a nod toward kung fu movies shown on TV in the 1970s, but it wasn’t just an artistic choice. Those movies were broadcast in black and white to get around the censors, and that’s exactly what Tarantino did, too. To avoid an NC-17 rating, and to avoid cutting out any of the over-the-top violence of the scene, he shot it in black and white.

7. THERE’S NO BLOOD IN THE TRAILER.

As the bastion of general audience innocence, the MPAA won’t allow “blood or open wounds” in green band trailers, so Kill Bill: Vol. 1’s advertisements make it look like The Bride was stabbing a barrel of motor oil with a samurai sword and got some on her jumpsuit. I’m pretty sure the people most excited about fictional bloodshed got the message.

8. THERE’S A REASON HANZO SET UP SHOP IN OKINAWA.

Hattori Hanzo leaving his life as a swordsmith behind and opening up a sushi bar specifically in Okinawa is a bit of an inside joke. Okinawa has a reputation in Japan for not having great sushi (they love pork, though) so it’s suggested in the film that an Okinawan sushi bar is the perfect place for Hanzo to hide from his old life. Not to mention the shared love of perfection, craftsmanship, and knives.

9. THEY USED CONDOMS FOR THE BLOOD EFFECTS.

Just like many Chinese action flicks of the 1970s, Tarantino and company used fake-blood-filled condoms to create the bursts of blood you see on screen. He was also particular about the blood recipe. “You can’t pour this raspberry pancake syrup on a sword and have it look good,” he said.

10. TARANTINO ASKED THURMAN TO WATCH THREE MOVIES TO PREPARE.

Those three movies were: John Woo’s The Killer; Jack Hill's Coffy, starring future Jackie Brown star Pam Grier; and Sergio Leone's timeless western A Fistful of Dollars. That blend also captures the exact balance of the genres Tarantino celebrated in the script. He and Thurman also first crafted The Bride after talking about Coffy on the set of Pulp Fiction.

11. THURMAN GOT SERIOUSLY INJURED DOING A CAR STUNT.

It only came out recently that Tarantino coerced Thurman into driving a rickety blue Karmann Ghia for a pivotal scene that he demanded be done without green screen or CGI. The production knew the car was unsafe and required a stunt professional, but Thurman eventually relented, crashed the car into a tree, and injured her back and knees. Tarantino apologized publicly, and she’s since forgiven him.

12. O-REN WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO GET BEHEADED.

The Bride fatally wounds O-Ren during their fight by slicing off part of her head, but she was originally supposed to cut her head off completely. The problem with that? With her head gone, O-Ren wouldn’t have recognized that The Bride wasn’t lying about having a genuine Hattori Hanzo sword.

13. O-REN IS THE ONLY ONE WHO DIES BY THE SWORD.

The movie places a great deal of importance on The Bride getting the Hattori Hanzo sword to use it in her revenge, but O-Ren is the only one who sees the wrong end of the blade. In the second installment of the movie, The Bride plucks Elle’s eye out and uses the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Bill.

14. THE BRIDE WASN’T SUPPOSED TO SPARE ANY OF THE CRAZY 88.

Tarantino is meticulous about his scripts, but he’s also wide open to changing things during shoots. That includes the character played by 17-year-old Hu Xiaokui, whose innocent face spared his life, turning him into a witness and figure of The Bride’s (limited) sympathy.

“I thought, ‘There’s no way she’d off a kid with a mug like this,'" Tarantino told TIME Magazine. So, she leaves one alive after the blood bath.

15. BUCK’S CAR IS UNCENSORED ON TV.

Buck the hospital orderly’s infamous “P*ssy Wagon” gets changed to “Party Wagon” in dialogue when the movie plays on network TV (how much of it can even be on TV?), but the networks either didn’t see a need or didn’t want to pay to have the car’s license plate changed digitally. It still reads “PSY WGN.”

11 Surprising Facts About Sylvester Stallone

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As streetwise boxer Rocky Balboa (in eight films) and haunted Vietnam veteran John Rambo (in five films), the man born Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone has made his brand of muscular melodrama a staple of the action film genre across five decades.

The latest Rambo chapter, Rambo: Last Blood, opens September 20. In the meantime, check out some of the more intriguing facts about the actor, from his modest beginnings as an accidental porn star to his peculiar rivalry with Richard Gere to his waylaid plans to run a pudding empire.

1. An errant pair of forceps gave Sylvester Stallone his distinctive look.

Many comedians have paid their bills over the decades by adopting Sylvester Stallone’s distinctive lip droop and guttural baritone voice. The facial feature was the result of some slight mishandling at birth. When Stallone was born on July 6, 1946 in Manhattan, the physician used a pair of forceps to deliver him. The malpractice left his lip, chin, and part of his tongue partially paralyzed due to a severed nerve. Stallone later said his face and awkward demeanor earned him the nickname “Sylvia” and authority figures telling him his brain was “dormant.” Burdened with low self-esteem, Stallone turned to bodybuilding and later performing as a way of breaking through what seemed to be a consensus of low expectations.

2. sylvester Stallone attended college in Switzerland.

A publicity still of Sylvester Stallone from the 1981 film 'Victory' is pictured
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Despite a tumultuous adolescence in which he was kicked out of several schools for misbehavior, Stallone eventually graduated high school while living with his mother in Philadelphia. He went on to attend American College, a university in Leysin, Switzerland, where he also worked as a gym teacher and dorm bouncer in addition to selling hamburgers on campus. It was there he became interested in theater—both acting and writing.

Stallone continued his education at the University of Miami before moving to New York with the hopes of breaking into the entertainment industry. While auditioning for parts, Stallone worked as a movie theater usher and cleaned lion cages at the zoo. He was fired from the theater for trying to scalp tickets to a customer. Unknown to Stallone, the customer was the theater owner.

3. Sylvester Stallone’s mother was an expert in “rumpology.”

Stallone’s parents separated while he was still a child. His father, a beauty salon owner named Francesco Stallone, was apparently prone to corporal punishment, and would cuff his young son for misbehavior. (Stallone was once caught swatting flies with a lead pipe on the hood of his father’s brand-new car.) His mother, Jackie Stallone—whom he once described as “half-French, half-Martian"—later grew interested in the study of rumpology, or the study of the buttocks to reveal personality traits and future events.

4. Sylvester Stallone had a small part in a porno.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during a promotional tour for the film 'Rambo' in Madrid, Spain in January 2008
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

While struggling to make it as an actor, Stallone was talked into making an appearance in Party at Kitty and Stud’s, a 1970 softcore adult film that was not as explicit as other sex features of the era but still required Stallone to appear in the nude. While he was initially hesitant to take the role, Stallone was sleeping in a bus shelter at the time. He took the $200 for two days of work. Following the success of Rocky in 1976, the film’s producers capitalized on their now-valuable footage and re-released it under the title The Italian Stallion. In 2010, a 35mm negative of the film and all worldwide rights to it were auctioned off on eBay for $412,100.

5. Sylvester Stallone wrote a novel.

In addition to his acting ambitions, Stallone decided to pursue a career in writing. After numerous screenplays, he wrote Paradise Alley, a novel about siblings who get caught up in the circus world of professional wrestling in Hell’s Kitchen. Stallone finished the novel before deciding to turn it into a screenplay. Paradise Alley was eventually produced in 1978. The book, which was perceived as a novelization, was published that same year.

6. Sylvester Stallone was not a fan of the Rambo cartoon series.

After the success of 1982’s First Blood and 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone was confronted with a litany of Rambo merchandising. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune in 1986, he said he disliked that the psychologically-tortured war veteran was being used to peddle toys. “I couldn’t control it,” he said. “I tried to stop it, but I don’t own the licensing rights.”

On the subject of Rambo: The Force of Freedom, a 1986 animated series featuring a considerably softened-up version of the character, Stallone was resigned. “They’re going to make this Saturday morning TV cartoon show for kids with what they tell me is a softened version of Rambo doing good deeds. First of all, that isn’t Rambo, but more important, they tell me I can’t stop them because it’s not me they’re using. It’s a likeness of a character I played and don’t own.” The show lasted just one season.

7. Sylvester Stallone never planned on the Rocky series enduring as long as it has.

Through the years, Stallone has made some definitive declarations about the Rocky series, which has been extended to eight films including its two spin-off installments, 2015’s Creed and 2018’s Creed II. Speaking with movie critic Roger Ebert in 1979 shortly before the release of Rocky II, Stallone indicated Rocky III that would conclude the series. “There’ll never be a Rocky IV,” he said. "You gotta call it a halt.” In 1985, while filming Rocky IV, Stallone told Interview magazine that he was finished. “Oh, this is it for Rocky,” he said. “Because I don’t know where you go after you battle Russia.” In 1990, following the release of Rocky V, Stallone declared that “There is no Rocky VI. He’s done.” Upon the release of Rocky Balboa in 2006, Stallone once more declared he was finished. "I couldn't top this," he told People. "I would have to wait another 10 years to build up a head of steam, and by that point, come on."

Creed was released nine years later. Following Creed II, he posted a message on Instagram that served as a “final farewell” to the character. Several months later, in July 2019, Stallone told Variety that, “There’s a good chance Rocky may ride again” and explained an idea involving Rocky befriending an immigrant street fighter. It would be the ninth film in the series.

8. Sylvester Stallone was offered the lead role in Beverly Hills Cop.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during production of the 1978 film 'Paradise Alley'
Central Press/Getty Images

In one of the more intriguing alternate casting decisions in Hollywood history, Stallone was originally offered the Axel Foley role in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Not wishing to make a comedy, Stallone rewrote the script to focus more on the action, as Detroit cop Foley stampedes through Beverly Hills to find his friend’s killers. Stallone described his version as resembling “the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan on the beaches of Normandy” and said his climax involved a game of chicken between a Lamborghini and an oncoming train. Producers opted to go in another direction. It became one of Eddie Murphy’s biggest hits. Stallone would later use some of his ideas for a rogue cop in the 1986 film Cobra.

9. Sylester Stallone does not get along with Richard Gere.

While filming 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush, in which Stallone and then-unknown actor Richard Gere both played 1950s street toughs, the two actors apparently got off on the wrong foot. Stallone recalled that Gere drew his ire for being too physical during rehearsals—and worse, getting mustard on Stallone during a lunch break. Incensed, Stallone demanded the director choose one of them to stay and one of them to be fired. Gere was let go and replaced by Perry King.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger once tricked sylvester stallone into starring in a box office bomb.

Actors Sylvester Stallone (L) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) are photographed during the premiere of 'The Expendables 2' in Hollywood, California in August 2012
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Stallone has often discussed his rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the two action stars were believed to be the two biggest marquee attractions in the 1980s. Recalling his 1992 bomb Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Stallone told a journalist in 2014 that he believed Schwarzenegger was to blame. “I heard Arnold wanted to do that movie and after hearing that, I said I wanted to do it,” he said. “He tricked me. He’s always been clever.”

11. sylvester Stallone wanted to create a pudding empire.

In 2005, shortly before Rocky Balboa resurrected his film career, Stallone embarked on a line of fitness supplements. His company, Instone, produced a pudding snack that was low-carb and high in protein. Stallone even appeared on Larry King to hawk the product. A legal dispute with a food scientist over the rights to the concoction dragged on for years and Instone eventually folded.

Highclere Castle—the Real-Life Downton Abbey—Is Available to Rent on Airbnb

Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Emily_M_Wilson/iStock via Getty Images

Have you ever wanted to spend a night in a castle? And not just any castle—the Downton Abbey castle, Highclere Castle? On November 26, one lucky couple will get the opportunity to relive the TV show and movie, when castle owners Lady and Lord Carnarvon will cordially invite one person and their guest of choice to spend the night in the castle, which is located in Hampshire, England—about 45 miles west of London. On October 1 (Airbnb reservations go live at noon BST) anyone with a verified profile, positive reviews, and passion for Downton Abbey can vie for the opportunity. Even though the castle has 300 rooms, they are only making one bedroom available, for $159.

Upon arrival, the royals will host cocktails with the guests in the saloon. Visitors will hear stories from more than 300 years of Highclere Castle history (construction on the castle began in 1679, and has been in the Carnarvon family ever since).

“I am passionate about the stories and heritage of Highclere Castle and I am delighted to be able to share it with others who have a love of the building and its history,” Lady Carnarvon said in the Airbnb listing.

The Earl and Countess will host a dinner for the guests in the state dining room, and afterwards have coffee in the library. Before bed, the guests’ butler will escort them to their gallery bedroom. The next morning, guests will receive a complimentary breakfast, a private tour of the 100,000-square foot castle and 1000-acre grounds, and a special gift from the Carnarvons. (Airbnb will also make a donation to The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.)

It should be noted the castle doesn’t have Wi-Fi or central air, but it does have fireplaces and central heat. There are a few rules guests must follow, though: all newspapers must be ironed; one butler per person; cocktail dress is required at dinner; gossip is restricted to downstairs; the listing is midweek because, as the Dowanger once said, “What is a weekend?”

If you don’t win the opportunity to stay at Highclere, all is not lost: you can tour the castle year-round.

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