It wasn't the Mexican hookers that bothered me. It was the pimp. and even he wouldn't have been such an issue if he hadn't recently killed a man.
We're watching them film Quentin Tarantino's ''Kill Bill'', but these aren't actors. This is a real pimp. Who committed a real murder. At least that's what they tell me. ''He like, knifed a guy,'' explains producer Lawrence Bender, gesturing at the man behind the bar, who leers back with a gold-toothed grin. ''You know, it was just a typical bar, whorehouse, fight-over-a-girl kinda thing.''
Right. One of those.
On any other production, you'd dismiss this anecdote as a tall tale. On a Tarantino movie, you just never know. This brand of freakiness is what passes for commonplace on his first film in six years, a revenge thriller starring Uma Thurman as an assassin called ''The Bride.'' The production has weathered minor drug use, antiques smuggling, questionable Chinese healing methods, on-the-fly script rewrites, massive budget overruns, unholy amounts of exposed film, and the controversial, borderline-bizarre decision to split ''Kill Bill'' into two movies after wrapping.
(''Volume 1'' will be released Oct. 10; the second part will hit theaters Feb. 20.) The shoot lasted a staggering 155 days and spanned the globe from Beijing to Tokyo to Los Angeles to where we are on this February morning, the next-to-last week of filming, in a scorpion-infested Mexican brothel. A real scorpion-infested Mexican brothel.
The whorehouse itself is in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a cracked street in a village 35 minutes inland from a small Pacific coast town. It's an open-air shack with a bar, a clothesline with soiled bras, and a reeking, airless back room with six foul cots lined up against the wall. You could miss the joint easily -- it's marked only by two words scrawled in whitewash on the outside. ''You know what that means?'' Tarantino asks. ''It means Pu -- y. And Snacks! Pu -- y and Snacks! And it's misspelled!''
He gives a giddy smile and heads off to prepare for today's scene, which calls for Thurman to come screeching up to the front door in a powder blue convertible, stare down a couple of (real and fake) hookers, and hit up a (fake) pimp for info. The problem is, the elegant, long-limbed actress can't drive stick. So the car repeatedly stalls, stops short, or drastically overshoots its mark -- leaving two Mexican farmers to scramble after the chickens they've thrown in front of the car to produce the full poultry-squawking-and-scattering effect.
This happens again and again. Uma stalls. Production stops. Chickens scatter. Finally, on the eighth take, Thurman screeches to a halt and hits her mark.
And a chicken.
Tarantino's mouth forms a distinct O. Grips snigger. Thurman flees, distraught over her hit-and-run poultricide, and the production breaks for a moment. I look around: Months behind schedule, more than $10 million over budget and knee-deep in whores, chicken blood, and choking dust, it suddenly seems possible that Quentin Tarantino has finally gone gloriously, hilariously, irrevocably insane.