Making her name in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman has developed a varied career, with roles in films as diverse as Batman & Robin (ahem) and Richard Linklater's Tape. Quentin Tarantino describes her as his Marlene Dietrich and was even willing to wait until after her pregnancy in order to have her play The Bride in Kill Bill.
Were you thrilled that Tarantino decided to wait out your pregnancy so as to have you star in the film?
I was. I was incredibly, incredibly pleased, amazed and overwhelmed. It's a testament to his loyalty, friendship, and patience - and general goodness! They used to call me - not Quentin, Quentin would never do that - but they used to call me from production and say: "OK now, when's the baby coming? We're trying to schedule it... if the baby comes this day or that day..." Finally I was like, "Listen guys, if you put any more pressure on me to drop this baby I'm going to hang onto it. He's going to be overdue. He's going to come out with dry feet. I swear to God!"
How difficult was it to get back into shape?
The pressure was immense. There was three months of training. When I first put my tracksuit on to go down for my makeup and hair tests, it was the first time I was even remotely in the shape of someone who'd take on 88 people. The entire wardrobe department had bloody fingers from taking that costume in every week, because I was slowly shrinking. It was like: "Is she going to make it, or is this going to be kind of funny for Quentin - this very large bottomed samurai?" He wouldn't have minded, really, he just would have had a lot of butt shots. Quentin is a friend of booty, I think.
Was the climactic battle between you and Lucy Liu as exhausting as it looks?
On the schedule, that sequence was meant to be two weeks. In any normal movie if a sequence were to go a third, or 50 percent, or double in time, that would be considered a cataclysmic failure. Eight weeks later, when I walked off that set covered in blood - with my sword and my beautiful fight team behind me - and fell to my knees, I realised that I had been involved in something that was going to break every rule of cinema. I was on a completely different journey.
What's your favourite method of killing people in the movie?
I'm very possessive of my sword. I earned it, I became one with it. It took a long time. I learned the hard way how to handle that thing. My favourite thing was the journey that took me to that sword, and it was the hardest journey you can go through.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 is now showing in London and opens across the UK on Friday 17th October 2003. (Volume 2 opens on Friday 27th February 2004.)