Vivica A. Fox on 'Arkansas' and Wanting Revenge in Potential 'Kill Bill 3'
Vivica A. Fox is honored to be able to pass the action heroine baton to the next generation of female stars, much like Pam Grier once did for her. Fox — who's most known for her roles in Kill Bill, Set It Off and Independence Day — understands that paving the way for the next group of "bigger and badder" women comes with the territory. At a time when female action heroes like Furiosa, Harley Quinn, Valkyrie and Wonder Woman have never been more popular, Fox is proud to be considered one of the original "bad chicks" that led the industry to this point.
In Arkansas, her latest return to the big screen, Fox plays "Her" — a power broker and proxy for Vince Vaughn’s drug kingpin character, Frog. For Fox, the chance to work with Vaughn, while reteaming with her Independence Day: Resurgence co-star Liam Hemsworth, was a no-brainer.
Heat Vision breakdown
"It came as an offer at first, and once I heard that it was a film with Liam Hemsworth and Vince Vaughn, I didn't need to hear any more," Fox tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I didn't have to audition, and Liam and I had worked together on Independence Day: Resurgence. So, getting the chance to work with him again was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
Most film fans remember Fox's widely praised role as Vernita Green and her heart-stopping showdown with Uma Thurman's Beatrix Kiddo in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1. Their brutal fight scene also included a tantalizing setup for a third Kill Bill film involving Vernita's daughter, Nikki (Ambrosia Kelley). Tarantino has teased the possibility for many years, and Fox, just like the audience, is waiting with anticipation for Green to get her revenge by proxy.
"Oh my gosh, I can't wait. I think they're waiting for [Vernita's] daughter to grow up," Fox explains. "So, the latest I've heard is that [Quentin] and Uma have been talking, and I'd love for them to figure it out. Quentin is great with flashbacks and figuring out some kind of way to make his characters alive again in a film. So, I'm really hoping that Vernita Green gets her revenge."
Fox is still blown away by the exhaustive work that she and Thurman put into their confrontation, including the physical toll it took on their bodies.
"Oh my God, I trained for six months. I literally went from a size 8 to a size 2," Fox recalls. "It was intense and grueling, but I loved every single bump and bruise. I'll never forget the fourth and final day of filming the fight; I counted 30 bruises on my body, and I was proud of every single one of them. I earned them."
In a recent conversation with THR, Fox further reflects on her Kill Bill experience, being a part of "time capsule" films like Independence Day and the unusual detail that sticks with her from Batman & Robin.
How are things with you and yours right now?
Well, I am doing my best to make it through "Corona Corona," but I am ready for it to be over. I am ready to get back to a little bit of normalcy. I have lived in my house for five years, and I’ve probably spent more time in it these last five weeks than I have the whole five years I've owned it. (Laughs.)
So, at some point, someone must've called you about Arkansas and said, "They want you to play Her." Did that lead to some confusion at first?
(Laughs.) The only thing that led to confusion was when I read the script. It came as an offer at first, and once I heard that it was a film with Liam Hemsworth and Vince Vaughn, I didn't need to hear any more. I was like, "Liam and Vince Vaughn?" and they're like, "Yeah!" So, I was like, "Absolutely!" It was a direct offer; I didn't have to audition, and Liam and I had worked together on Independence Day: Resurgence. So, getting the chance to work with him again was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Then, I started reading the script, and I kept going, "It just says Her." And they're like, "That’s the character's name." So, when I got there, I couldn't wait to meet the director, Clark Duke, and I was like, "Clark, yo, what’s up with the Her?" And he broke it down and said, "It’s a mislead because you don't know if it's Her running the drugs or not. You play Vince Vaughn's love interest, and neither of you want to be traceable. Hence, the name Her."
From hair rollers to foot sponges, how much influence did you have over Her's look?
(Laughs.) You know — hats off to Clark Duke, the director, who also co-wrote the script. That was the description when you finally got to see Her. She was sitting there with the sponges on her feet and hands, in the hair rollers, but still looking quite beautiful. I was like, "That's an interesting combination to try and pull off." Then, when I found out we were filming in Alabama, I was like, "Oh, OK. Hmm … Let's figure this out." So, I embraced it. I worked with the wardrobe stylist, and we did the necklace. And thank God I went to the swap meet by my house and got some of those big old rollers. I said, "Clark is either going to love this, or he's going to see it in person and go, 'Absolutely not.'" So, I said to Clark, "Are we still going to do the roller look?" and he said, "Absolutely!" So, when I got to set, he goes, "I love it! You nailed it."
Of course, your director, Clark Duke, is an actor as well. Do you notice a difference when working with actor-directors compared to non-actor directors?
Most of the time, it's a luxury when you get to have an actor-director. An actor-director understands that sometimes what's written on the page we can't make happen due to location, other actors or a line just doesn't work. So, in my experience, actor-directors are a lot more creative and flexible with actors. For a first-time director, Clark couldn't have been more precise. I love how he captured the dark comedy-thriller aspect of this film. He was a dream to work with; he really was. He reminded me a lot of when I worked with F. Gary Gray on Set It Off. F. Gary Gray was young and precise in his first time, and he knew exactly what we wanted.
The interior of Her's boathouse was shot at the same location as the exterior, right?
Yes, it was a boathouse in Alabama that we all had to squeeze in and climb up and down on one ladder. We had an amazing crew that showed up on time, but when it got dark, it got dark. (Laughs.) So, we had very early calls, and we'd always try to wrap by sunset. There were only one or two night scenes with Vince (Frog).
Because of the time that we're living in, I keep thinking about how future generations will perceive this current one. And that got me thinking about time capsules and how you've been a part of work that will survive us all. Do you ever think about how your work will be passed on like this?
That is a great question. I am so blessed that my films are cult classics; they will never go out of style. Every generation embraces and understands a lot of my films from 20 years ago such as Set It Off, Two Can Play That Game and Independence Day. So, I’m very blessed for that. The storylines are timeless. So, in a hundred years, even though they might be floating in the sky or some time warp, I hope they can still set it off.
Quentin has been kicking the tires on a third Kill Bill for a while now, and he mentioned it again during his recent press tour. Are you eagerly waiting for the day when Vernita Green is avenged by her daughter, Nikki?
(Laughs.) Oh my gosh, I can't wait. It rears its ugly head every couple of years. They'll say, "So, Vivica, Kill Bill 3, they're trying to make a sequel to all your movies," and I’m like, "I think they're waiting for my daughter to grow up." And then you always hear that Quentin falls in and out of love with Hollywood. He's like, "I'm done, I'm back, I'm done." (Laughs.) So, the latest I've heard is that him and Uma have been talking, and I'd love for them to figure it out. Quentin is great with flashbacks and figuring out some kind of way to make his characters alive again in a film. So, I'm really hoping that Vernita Green gets her revenge.
What goes around comes around …
Revenge is a dish best served cold!
We could do this all day.
Was that fight scene with Beatrix (Uma Thurman) the hardest scene you've ever shot?
Oh my God, I trained for six months. I literally went from a size 8 to a size 2. I couldn't hold on to the weight at all. It was intense and grueling, but I loved every single bump and bruise. I always stretched and took Epsom salt baths to get ready to kick each other's butt for 12 hours each day of filming the fight scene; it took four days. I'll never forget the fourth and final day of filming the fight; I counted 30 bruises on my body, and I was proud of every single one of them. I earned them.
You certainly did. When Beatrix throws the knife into Vernita's heart, was the knife-to-the-heart shot done in reverse with a retractable wire?
We actually did that in two takes. I nailed it on the first take, and Quentin couldn't believe it. He was like, "Your hair even died in slow motion. It was wet and stuck …" If you look at how I go out … he went, "That's beautiful!" How I remember it … I don't know if they shot it in reverse or if it was a contraption where Uma acted like she threw it and then I went back. So, I think it was placed in my garment, underneath, and then they did the blood and stuff. She threw it, and then there it was. So, it wasn't on a machine or anything. The editor deserves a round of applause, too.
Yes, the great Sally Menke. Of all the movies you've been in, which one would make for the best documentary in terms of being an eventful set?
Gosh, that's a top two. Independence Day was just all that and a bag of chips. We had $60 million 20 years ago, and we filmed in Wendover, Utah, the first 11 days. Then, a close second is a tie between Set It Off and Kill Bill. Set It Off is because we filmed the last six weeks of it at night; it was a low-budget film. To see the girls shoot those guns, drive those cars and become bank robbers was just amazing. The physical training of Kill Bill and seeing these girly girls, who were all gorgeous women, transform themselves into assassins in less than six months of training with the master Yuen Woo-ping, who did The Matrix … All three would be wonderful documentaries, in my opinion.
Action heroines are all the rage right now. Do you like having the bragging right of being one of the originals?
(Laughs.) Yeah, I like being an O.G. We were original with it. We came first, but that's what we're supposed to do. For me, Pam Grier was that original, kickass, bad chick. So, the fact that I can pass that baton to the generation next to me is cool, and they're even bigger and badder. Did you see that stunt women challenge they had the other day?
I did; it’s amazing.
I was like, "Holy cow!"
Was the Batman & Robin set even stranger in person? As expected, the production design of Mr. Freeze's (Arnold Schwarzenegger) headquarters was just so out there.
To be honest with you, I didn’t get to really do a whole lot on Batman & Robin. Most of my scenes were just with Arnold, and George Clooney came by that day; he's so awesome and just a sweetheart. But, the main thing I remember was a lot of glitter. I had a lot of glitter that stuck to me and that outfit. And we only filmed on one soundstage, which was beautiful. But, I didn't get the whole Independence Day thing; that's where I got it. We had several huge stages. So, it was a little different.
When Luke Perry passed, I rewatched some episodes of Beverly Hills: 90210 and your episode, "Ashes to Ashes," was one of them. What do you remember about that experience?
I remember being thrilled when I got cast. Everybody was like, "How come there ain't no black people on 90210?” (Laughs.) So, when I got the call to audition and then I got the part, I was thrilled, and then I was even happier to work with the majority of the cast. Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty were there, but I didn’t get to do a whole bunch with Luke or Ian Ziering. But, later, Ian and I made two Sharknados together. And the last Sharknado we did, Tori Spelling was in it. So, we're always connected. Everybody was like, "Hey! How are you doing?!"
People love to ask you about Kill Bill, Independence Day, Set It Off and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but what's a role you love that you wish you were asked about more often?
I'd say Elizabeth from Why Do Fools Fall In Love. Unfortunately, they released the film too early, but me, Halle Berry, Lela Rochon and Larenz Tate did some good ass work in that movie, especially my scenes with Larenz Tate where his character kills my dog. People love that; they’re like, "I hate that Frankie killed your dog!" It went under the radar, and it got buried because we went up against 54, Blade and Rush Hour. They didn't think Rush Hour was going to do anything, but it came out and killed everybody. So, I wish I got more questions about that, but Elizabeth is some of the best acting I've done in a feature film.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Arkansas is now available on Blu-ray, Digital HD and VOD.
by Graeme McMillan
by Graeme McMillan
by Graeme McMillan
by Aaron Couch, Borys Kit