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INT: Lawrence Bender

Interview #1 Uma Thurman
Interview #2 Lucy Liu
Interview #3 Lawrence Bender
Interview #4 Vivica A. Fox
Interview #5 Quentin Tarantino

Clad in a tattered leather jacket and sporting a mop of long, wavy hair, Lawrence Bender looked more like an East Village hipster than a Hollywood producer as he sat down to talk about KILL BILL, his latest collaboration with director Quentin Tarantino. Bender, a former dancer who studied civil engineering in college, has been Tarantino’s producer since the days of RESERVOIR DOGS, a little indie flick that you might be familiar with. 

It’s been a long time since Dogs first made a splash at Sundance, and Bender is now a big-time Hollywood mofo, having garnered boatloads of Academy Award nominations with films like GOOD WILL HUNTING. Nevertheless, KILL BILL represents, by far, his most ambitious project to date. Though it possesses Tarantino’s trademark quirkiness and indie sensibility, the movie is still, at its heart, a $55 million action movie.

Shot in four different countries, KILL BILL presented enough logistical challenges to make give even the most confident producer pause. But Bender proved more than up to the task, as audiences will learn when the movie opens on Friday. Here’s what he had to say about it:

LAWRENCE BENDER

How did the idea of splitting the film into two volumes originate?

When we were working on the movie, the idea of this Volume 1, Volume 2 thing came up like about a month before we ended shooting. Quentin wrote the script in chapters, so it kind of lends itself to that idea. Not that we thought about it before. Quentin came up with a way to do it, pretty quickly, actually, and then we just dropped it. Of course, that created rumors. Everyone on the set talked about it, the actors started talking about it, and then it hit the press. But it wasn’t like we were going back and forth. It’s just, we thought about it and we dropped it.

We finished the movie and then we got into the editing stage and we were working through it. At a certain point, we got to basically where it is now. We called Harvey into the editing room and said “Let’s just watch the movie now. You’re looking at the first half of one movie or it’s going to be part one of two parts. Have an open mind and let’s see.” We basically watched what you guys watched, only in a much rougher form. And we felt like it totally worked. It felt like you have a full meal. It’s not over because you haven’t killed Bill. And it’s called KILL BILL so you know there’s more to come. Yeah, I think you feel relatively satisfied but you’re yearning more.

Did you ever suggest to Quentin that he might trim the film to get it under three hours?

It’s kind of a boring, because it wasn’t very confrontational. Literally, we were there with Harvey, me and Sally, our editor. We thought about it a little bit. But until we watched it, we were kinda like, “Let’s not talk about it until we see it. And then we’ll just see how it works. We’re all open to it.” I actually brought up, “Does it make any sense to cut this thing down?” And the answer was, “No.” I was just saying it to say it. I didn’t believe it. So, no.

Will there eventually be a DVD with all of it put together?

Maybe. I don’t really know. We haven’t really thought about that. We really want each movie to be seen as a separate entity. So, I mean, that’s primarily what we’re focused on. At some point maybe we’ll do that.

How hard was it to internationally cast people?

Oh, my God. This was huge endeavor. We were in four countries, by the way. This was an enormous, enormous logistics project. I mean, what we did was we brought master Yuen Wu-Ping and his Hong Kong fight team to Culver City where we set up a training center and we trained Lucy, Daryl, Vivica, Uma and David Carradine nine to five for twelve weeks. And that was really tough, because that’s like full-on hard-core fight training. Stretching, punching kicking, wire work. Uma had the hardest job because each person had to learn one technique but she had to learn all the techniques because she had to fight everybody with all these different weapons. She had to learn Japanese.

We went to Beijing and the process was: we were going to have them train in Beijing for a few weeks to get acclimated to the sets, to being in Beijing, to that environment. I tell you, that was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. Those first three weeks were very difficult because the communication was difficult, the Chinese would be upset because they weren’t quite able to do what we wanted and the Americans were upset because they couldn’t quite communicate. The equipment was different. It was just three weeks of “How do we figure this out?” Literally, halfway through the fourth week, three and a half, four weeks in, it just started clicking. After a few weeks we were just working like clockwork. It was amazing. The first days shoot we had 21 set-ups, which for a big movie is really wonderful amount of work to accomplish. It just really worked well.

You said there is a different version that will be shown in Japan. That it’s colorized in the restaurant. Is there anything else that’s changed?

I don’t like to talk about the differences. You’re going to have to figure it out. You’re going to have to see it somehow. I don’t want to give it away.

Is Quentin working on that World War II project?

Because he’s been working on this for three years, he hasn’t, I don’t think, thought that much about that movie. You could ask him, of course, but honestly, whatever he does next, he’s not gonna really know until he finished Volume 2 and emotionally goes through… I remember working on THE MEXICAN. At one point, David Fincher was going to direct The Mexican and he was on post-production on FIGHT CLUB. He finally said, “Lawrence, you know, I can’t date another girl.” As a director, you’re so emotionally involved with the movie until you’re through it and you’ve promoted it and released it. It’s hard to know what you’re going to do next.

How do you manage to keep fresh when you have increasing budgets?

It’s true. It’s funny, JACKIE BROWN, PULP FICTION and RESERVOIR DOGS, it’s people go to a place and they talk. Or they go some place else and they shoot somebody. Do a bit of action, then they go someplace else and they talk. In this movie, there’s very little talking. Half of its in Japanese, and it’s in four different countries to boot. You know, I think it comes out of Quentin ultimately. He really thinks outside the box. He really doesn’t accept “Well, that’s just the way it’s done” kind of an answer. ‘No. Why? Cause it doesn’t work that way. What do you mean? Why can’t we…’ So he’s challenging that way. He challenges me. So he keeps me on my game. And ultimately, it’s cool, because he pushes boundaries. And, we also find ways to work on lower budgets. This movie is a 155 day shoot, but because we were able to shoot so much in China, we were able to keep the cost down.

Did Uma’s pregnancy have an effect on the start of production?

The answer is yes and no, honestly. When Uma got pregnant, Quentin wasn’t really finished with the script. You never know how these things go. If she didn’t get pregnant, would he have gotten it done quicker? Maybe. But, it was kind of a blessing in disguise, because I don’t know if he would have. So, that gave him a little more time to finish. We had a massive pre-production schedule. When he handed me that script I had no down time. You have to crew up in four different countries. It’s just a massive amount to pull of, so it ended up helping us. If she didn’t get pregnant, could we have pushed back a couple of months? Maybe. But, I sort of don’t know how we would have done it in that short amount of time.

Are you really working on a soccer trilogy for David Beckham?

I am working on a soccer movie. Whether Beckham’s in it, I don’t know.

Would you like him to be?

Sure. It’s not about David Beckham. I am working on a soccer movie; I hate to talk about it because we’re not even in pre-production yet. But it’s about a young Latino kid from East LA who ends up on an English soccer team. We’re still working on the script.

Was the Japanese music in the closing credits composed for the film?

No. That music has actually been around for a long time. Quentin has always been known for using music in his movies. I feel like, in this movie, he’s just taken a jump. I mean, from Quincy Jones to Bernard Herman to Nancy Sinatra singing, “Bang bang.” It all works. I remember watching for the first time in the editing room the scene with Daryl Hannah. “Where did you come up with that idea? What an amazing idea to put that Bernard Herman music. It’s extraordinary.” And the same with the end title music. That’s old music. It’s been around for a long time. Let me tell, clearing that stuff is not easy too. You’re tracking down people all over the world.

MORE KILL BILL INTERVIEWS COMING SOON...

Source: JoBlo.com

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