That Time Kill Bill's Lucy Liu Had To Have Surgery Right Before Filming Iconic Tarantino Scene

Lucy Liu as O Ren Ishii in Kill Bill Vol. 1

Movie stunts are no joke. That’s why some actors choose to have body doubles or stunt professionals do the more dangerous scenes. But, some of the best in the business are adamant about doing their own stunts, even if they are coming off a major surgery. Lucy Liu recently revealed that she had a pretty big operation just weeks before filming an iconic scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1.

In an interview Lucy Liu, who played O-Ren Ishii in Tarantino’s famous Kill Bill franchise, shared that she was fresh off back surgery ahead of filming the iconic showdown between her character and Uma Thurman’s The Bride. In her own words:

I was training for both Charlie's Angels, the sequel, and for Kill Bill. I did something, I don’t know what I did, and next thing you know I was immobilized. I had a ruptured disc. So, they basically had to shave that part that had come out of the disc. So I did the surgery and then two weeks later I was shooting the snow garden scene in China.

In the interview with Women’s Health Magazine, Lucy Liu went on to note that while she was fresh off surgery, the scene didn’t require a lot of movement from her newly repaired back:

When you fight with Samurai swords you just swing your body you don’t have to do any weird contortions, most of the movement is with your legs, sliding and with your arms. Luckily, it wasn’t Kung Fu necessarily, it was just action with your arms and with your legs. The center part of your body maintains itself and stays pretty still.

That being said, she still had to take breaks to make sure she didn’t further injure her back, which makes sense, given the quick turnaround between the operation and shooting:

I could be up for a certain amount of time but then I had to lie on my back or something to just relax my back so I didn’t over do it. So between takes I would be in this barcalounger that I would have to flip up and lie flat in for 20 minutes before I could get back into the ‘snow’ and do the fight.

Fortunately, Liu was able to finish the iconic showdown between Cotton Mouth and Black Mamba. The thrilling, yet brutal finale to Kill Bill Vol. 1 has become one of Tarantino's more memorable scenes over the years, no doubt due to Lucy Liu’s incredible performance.

Since starring in Kill Bill Vol 1. Lucy Liu has gone on to have a successful career across film, television and even video games. Recently, it was announced that she’ll have a chance to get back in on the action game, as she’s been cast as a villain in the upcoming Shazam 2.

Fans of Lucy Liu can revisit the legendary showdown once more by checking out the first entry into Tarantino’s epic saga on HBO Max, where Kill Bill Vol. 1 is now streaming.

Braden Roberts

Into tracksuits by Paulie Walnuts, the Criterion Channel and Robert Eggers.