Tarantino on the Blood and Guts of 'Kill Bill'

Severed ears are no longer enough for Quentin Tarantino (search). In "Kill Bill Vol. 1," (search) limbs fly by the dozens and a few heads roll as well.

The idiosyncratic writer/director's fourth film, opening Oct. 10, even shows a tongue stretched to its snapping point. Somebody seems to be stepping over the line here.

"Well, um, what line would that be?" Tarantino asks. Nearly 10 years after "Pulp Fiction," (search) he's back - with vengeance and more than 100 gallons of fake blood.

"Kill Bill Vol. 1" follows The Bride (Uma Thurman), an assassin whose decision to retire to civilian life is answered at her wedding ceremony by a shower of bullets.

The massacre's lone survivor, she sets out to avenge her former killing comrades, who include Lucy Liu (search), Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah (search), Michael Madsen and David Carradine.

She goes on a slaughtering spree - at one point single-handedly offing 88 gangsters in a 20-minute scene that surpasses the opening gore of "Saving Private Ryan." Blood spurts everywhere and Tarantino seems to savor every drop.

"Somebody else's violence is my action," he insists. "There's no disgrace in trying to kill people in the coolest way possible - especially if you're doing a martial-arts movie."

Millions of fans have awaited the "Kill Bill" franchise, clogging Web sites with speculation for six years - double the wait between "Pulp Fiction," and his last film, 1997's less-successful "Jackie Brown." What's the guy been doing all that time?

Sources for a recent Vanity Fair piece say he's been in his Hollywood mansion, smoking pot and screening old movies in his private theater.

Tarantino shifts in the chair in his Beverly Hills hotel room.

"I've just been writing," he says.

He adds that he's working on three other projects, including a World War II movie called "Inglorious Bastards," starring Adam Sandler. Tarantino - the former beau of Mira Sorvino (search), is now single and living in the Hollywood Hills. And he's exactly what you'd expect in person. He's a 40-year-old version of the geek who got thrown in the garbage Dumpster by the junior high school football team. Geeky things still excite him, like novelty breakfast cereals - in "Kill Bill" a box of Kaboom lives up to its name - and kung-fu movies.

"In the 'Zatoichi Blind Swordsman' movies and 'Shogun Assassin,' the lopping off of the arm is a staple," Tarantino says excitedly. "All of a sudden people have garden hoses for veins and the blood shoots up like the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel!"

"Kill Bill" features three of his martial-arts idols: Japanese sword master Sonny Chiba, Chinese martial artist Gordon Liu Chia-hui and Carradine of "Kung Fu" fame (although only Chiba appears in the first installment).

Tarantino - born in Knoxville, Tenn., and named after Burt Reynolds' character, Quint, on TV's "Gunsmoke" (search) - schooled himself on kung-fu, samurai and yakuza genres while growing up with his mom in the South Bay. This southern L.A. suburb borders the ghetto, where theaters known as grind houses screened martial-arts films long after their initial runs.

After dropping out of ninth grade, Tarantino continued his schooling at Video Archives, a Manhattan Beach rental store where he studied movies all day as a clerk. By then, the new wave of Hong Kong action cinema was beginning to hit and Tarantino made sure his boss stocked every video.

Tarantino's capacity to absorb details made him a local legend. Not only could he remember the name of every actor in every movie on every shelf, he remembered the ID numbers of customers.

"But that was all I did all day for five years," he says. "Some guy comes in and it's like, 'OK, 674.'"

One of Tarantino's co-workers, Roger Avary, was a film-school grad who became his early collaborator. Avary's Hollywood connections helped sell their first script, for 1992's "Reservoir Dogs."

When the crime drama attracted Harvey Keitel (search), its budget went from $35,000 to $1.5 million and Tarantino never looked back.

By now he's written and directed two mobster films, a blaxploitation movie and now a martial-arts picture, but his style always blurs genre lines.

"I guess there is a thing called Tarantino-esque," he says, "but I would be the wrong person to define it. I can't help making it look like one of my movies, no matter what the subject is - nor do I want to ever make a movie that you can't tell I made."

A recurring element is the resurrection of fallen pop icons. John Travolta (search) was walking through "Look Who's Talking" sequels when Tarantino hoisted him up and into 1994's "Pulp Fiction." This time, it's Carradine, who plays the evil Bill of the movie's title.

"It's not this thing like, 'Who am I going to dig up?'" Tarantino says. "I'm just good at casting."

Originally Tarantino planned to appear in "Kill Bill" himself. (His first career goal was to be an actor.) But when his schedule became too overwhelming, he ended up giving the part of a white-haired Chinese priest to Chia-hui.

While many sequels are filmed simultaneously ("The Matrix," "Lord of the Rings"), "Kill Bill" is unusual since it's a two-part production not predicated on any previous success. The second half is due Feb. 20.

"I think it takes a Herculean amount of faith, on the film and on me, to do it on a movie right out of the gate," Tarantino says.

The idea of splitting the film began as a gag on the set when the running time started to push three hours. But Tarantino never dreamed of actually asking Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein (search) to do it.

"I couldn't imagine the answer would ever be yes," he says. "I thought all it would do is alarm him. Just bring up the question and he'd be like, 'Is it that out of control?'

"But when Harvey came on the set during the last month of shooting, he said, 'Quentin, I'd hate like hell for you to have to cut anything out.'"

The dissection was clean, Tarantino says.

"There was a natural break point. If I were to have shown it all together, right where 'Vol. 1' ends, I'd have given you a little intermission there. But I don't think you really want to see much more after what you've seen in 'Vol. 1.'

"I think you're ready to stop for the night."