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The Legacy of Kill Bill and Its Forgotten Inglourious Basterds Connection

What do you tend to think of when someone mentions Quentin Tarantino? Back in the day, it was Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde dancing to “Stuck in the Middle with You,” or Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace having an overdose. These days it might be Leonardo DiCaprio’s skull-smashing Calvin Candie speech, Hitler being blown to pieces in Inglourious Basterds, or The Bride’s blood-splattered fight with the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

As Tarantino’s fourth film turns 20-years-old, a birthday marked by the release of a special 4k Blu-ray DVD remaster edition from Lionsgate,  it’s time to look back at the story of how Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo, a.k.a. The Bride, came to wield her deadly Hattori Hanzō sword … and the kung fu favorite’s strange connection to Inglourious Basterds. While Kill Bill predates 2009’s Basterds by six years, it turns out its two female powerhouses were initially cut from the same cloth. 

Inglourious Basterds had a who’s who of famous faces onscreen, including Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and a way out-there casting of Mike Myers. While many would argue it is Pitt’s violently Nazi-allergic Lt. Aldo Raine that leads the story (much like he leads the titular Basterds), that honor should actually go to Mélanie Laurent’s Shosanna Dreyfus. While the crux of Basterds was Shosanna getting revenge on the Nazis responsible for hunting her and her Jewish family, it turns out that Tarantino originally took her character cues from The Bride.

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“Almost everything I liked about Shosanna, I gave to the Bride.”

Speaking to talk-show host Charlie Rose in 2009, Tarantino confirmed Shosanna was going to have her own Nazi hit list inspired by The Bride’s Death List Five. Describing the original draft of Shosanna as a “real Joan of Arc of the Jews,” Tarantino explained that “she was killing Nazis and she had a list of officers … she’d snipe Nazis from the rooftops of Paris.” After escaping Waltz’s Hans Landa in the tense opening, Shosanna was masquerading as Emmanuelle Mimieux and running the Le Gamaar cinema in Paris. 

Recalling that the characters of Raine, Landa, and Shosanna had floated around his mind for a decade, Tarentino gushed about her action scenes being “a lot of fun.” The director started writing Inglourious Basterds around 1998, shortly after he’d finished Jackie Brown, and he has candidly said he couldn’t nail the script because he was “too precious about the page.” Thus, both Kill Bill and Death Proof, about which he was presumably less precious, would wind up appearing before in his filmography. Tarantino even toyed with Basterds being a TV mini-series, but he eventually jettisoned the idea for one reason or another, leaving its five-chapter narrative as a holdover. 

Finally Tarantino was ready to put Basterds in his crosshairs, using his Pulp Fiction script as a guide for length. By the time he got around to finishing the Basterds script, however, he felt his Shosanna was too close to what he’d done with The Bride in Kill Bill–forcing him to retool the character. 

“Almost everything I liked about Shosanna, I gave to the Bride,” admitted Tarantino. In Kill Bill, The Bride was an ex-assassin who went on a bloody rampage against those who’d wronged her. Similar to how Inglourious Basterds opened with laying out Shosanna’s motivations for hating Nazis, Kill Bill Vol. 1 gave us a similarly bloody backstory, with The Bride taking a bullet to the brain (but surviving) at the hands of the titular Bill. “The Bride is the one with the list and the Bride is the one going down the list and kicking butt…” Tarantino continued. “What I liked about that aspect was that it allowed me to make Shosanna more realistic.” Thus, while Shosanna might not have been taking out Nazis like a reverse of Daniel Brühl’s sharp-shooting Fredrick Zoller, her quieter personality made her explosive finale-blowing lowing up Hitler–all the more shocking. 


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Assassin Beatrix Kiddo’s (Uma Thurman) notorious katana-pierced death list in 2003’s Kill Bill. 

Tarantino also shed some light on Shosanna’s modus operandi and painted a picture of her motives going into her final moments: “Shosanna is thinking she’s going to go up with the theater … she can’t imagine living through something like this. So it is a suicide mission on her part.” 

Mélanie Laurent having smoke and a read as Shosanna Dreyfus in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009)

There’s some neat imagery to be found here, with Shosanna’s mission of vengeance ending in her demise and mirroring Hamlet’s tragic conclusion. But Shakespeare’s Danish Prince isn’t the only one influencing Shosanna. Instead of being compared to The Bride, Tarantino said this “survivor” Shosanna ends up being like another of his characters. Namely, Jackie Brown. 

“If you don’t treat her nice, she’ll put you on ice.”

An often forgotten part of Tarantino’s back catalogue, the 1997 crime film Jackie Brown revived the careers of Pam Grier and Robert Forster–earning the latter an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. As a money-smuggling flight attendant rather than a Nazi-scalping soldier, the no-nonsense badass portrayed by Grier couldn’t seem further away in conception from Inglourious Basterds

But Tarantino explained that Shosanna had more in common with Jackie Brown than seemed outwardly apparent.  Like Jackie, he said, “Shosanna’s strength is keeping it together in tight situations where anyone else would crumble, when anyone else would melt.” 

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Pam Grier as the tough female lead in 1997’s eponymous Jackie Brown, one of Tarantino’s early and oft-forgotten films.

As time lends perspective to the volcanic creative output of Tatantino’s peak decade (he produced, directed and wrote four films from 1992-2003, while also directing and writing  a segment of a fifth), it’s likely he’ll be most remembered for the all-male cast of Reservoir Dogs, or perhaps for Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction. But he’s always delivered strong female characters; from Amanda Plummer’s Honey Bunny in Pulp Fiction to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight, the women of the Tarantinoverse mean business. And it’s much the same with Diane Kruger’s Bridget von Hammersmark, who stands out against the men of Basterds. Still, there’s a sense of understated simplicity to Shosanna that makes it easy to see why she’d be more like Jackie Brown than The Bride. 

Some may lament that we never see a submachine gun-toting Shosanna working alongside the Basterds and plowing down hordes of Nazi, but her altogether more tragic arc works. Still, as Laurent mused after she was cast, “It’s been my dream to kill Hitler since I was, like, four.”

Given such tender childhood sentiments, it seems a shame Shosanna doesn’t get a chance to pop a bullet between the Führer’s eyes.

About the Author:

Based in Manchester, UK, Tom Chapman has over seven years’ experience covering everything from dragons to Demogorgons. Starting out with a stint at Movie Pilot in Berlin, Tom has since branched out to indulge his love of all things Star Wars and the MCU at Digital Spy, Den of Geek, IGN, Yahoo! and more. These days, you’ll find Tom channelling his inner Gale Weathers and ranting about how HBO did us dirty with Game of Thrones Season Eight.

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