We, the assembled hacks, have to wait for our audience with Quentin and his girls. We’re all here at the Dorchester Hotel to talk about Kill Bill Vol 1, in which Uma Thurman, as The Bride, prosecutes vengeance against the assassination squad that spoiled her wedding plans four years earlier. It’s enormously violent and colourful, even by its director’s standards, with an obsessively informed devotion to exploitation genres rather than an interest in character or emotion: Tarantino is keener to recapture the kick a 13-year-old gets from an imported fight scene than foster engagement; he often draws our attention to the bottom of the screen, as if to suggest the distancing experience of reading subtitles, even when there aren’t any. (When there are, they come in the same yellow-and-black as Uma’s jumpsuit.) It’s breathless, vivid, enervating and hollow.
There are worse places to loiter, but after three rounds of tea and biccies in a chintzy bunker and forty minutes of fidgety Dictaphone tests in an opulent conference room, the gang is growing restless. Then the stars arrive: Tarantino, Thurman, Daryl Hannah, Julie Dreyfus. The room buzzes and cranes, professional nonchalance slipping for a moment. There’s something compulsive about Hollywood royalty in the flesh: they still seem glossy and specially lit and somehow apart, as if their foundation were laced with Bakelite. There’s banter, water is poured, the questions start.
The first one is about bloodshed, which the film has in spades. Quentin gets animated. "I’ve done violence before, but I’ve never done it in such an outrageous way. This is definitely taking place not on planet earth. It’s the standard in Japanese cinema to cut someone’s arm off and have them have water-hoses for veins – PSSSHHHH!!! So I’m keeping that tradition alive." He lets loose the first of a string of long, loud, high-pitched, hooting giggles which punctuate the entire conference. Everyone’s a little taken aback, especially because his speaking voice today is hoarse and raw. When he gets even more excitable he reminds you of Robin Williams.
Clearly, high impact was Tarantino’s aim. "Vol 1 is just the straight ahead, heart-pumping, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, wow!-that-was-a-night-at-the-movies kind of thing. Now, it could be said [in a French accent], ‘where’s the resonance?’ And my feeling is it’s there, but you don’t need it, all right? Growing up, when I watched Avenging Eagle and Five Fingers of Death, I wasn’t thinking ‘where’s the resonance?’ I was getting off, man, this was the shit!" The resonance, he assures us, comes in Vol 2: "we slow down a little bit, we get to know the characters a little more." More meat, less blood.
Questions follow for the actors. Uma talks about the pressures her unanticipated pregnancy – and Quentin’s decision to delay shooting for six months to accommodate it – put on the production. (The studio was less patient: "Finally I said, listen guys, you put any more pressure on me to drop this baby and Iím gonna hang on to it. It’s gonna come out with dry feet, I swear to God."
Daryl recalls Quentin’s backstage visit when she was performing in London prior to being cast: "I said, what the hell are you doing here? Not nice to meet you. What the hell are you doing here?" Julie – the only one of the four who actually looks like a real person, albeit a ridiculously beautiful one – describes how Quentin deposited a bottle of blood on her head in frustration at the make-up artist’s understated dabbing.
The next questioner notes that Kill Bill Vol 1 is dominated by strong, resourceful women and asks if Tarantino considers it a feminist picture. "Erm, I would probably use the word ‘girl power’," he replies. It’s apt, positioning Tarantino alongside Spice Girls creator Simon Fuller, assembling titillating images of feisty femininity viewed through a male eye. Later on, Uma describes how she only just reached her target weight before shooting. "Is this gonna be kinda funny for Quentin, this large-bottomed samurai? But Quentin is a friend of booty, I think." "Nothing wrong with a big back yard," he nods.
Before things wind up, Tarantino delightedly details an unfilmed fantasy scene in which a rapist goes to hell ("all these centaurs and minotaurs are lining up to gang-fuck Buck and this big minotaur with a big, bold, blue, veiny dick comes over, just ramming it up his ass, and a cloven hoof is smacking his cheek, he’s crying in pain, the devils are laughing and playing little violins"), holds forth on unreliable bargain-basement SFX techniques ("it’s not directional, it’s a Chinese condom! Who knows where the fuck the blood’s gonna go?") and patiently deals with an abortive, Eurovision-like attempted video-link with an auditorium of fellow hacks in Sheffield.
Then it’s wind-up time. A brief throng rush the table for autographs as the talent are shepherded out of the room. Later we’ll see the instant replay on London Tonight and look at the fancy duds they brought for the Leicester Square premiere. High impact, the name of the game.