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The Iconic Kill Bill Character Bruce Willis Almost Played

To say that Bruce Willis' career includes some iconic characters would be quite the understatement. First and foremost, there's New York cop John McClane from the "Die Hard" series, who seems to have a knack for accidentally ending up in the middle of various criminal plots. Then there's Korben Dallas, a down-on-his-luck cabbie trying to make it in the year 2263 in Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element." And of course, there's Butch Coolidge, the prizefighter-turned-fugitive from crime lord Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction."

"Pulp Fiction" was the only time Willis ever appeared in a proper Tarantino movie (unless you count his cameo in "The Man from Hollywood," the director's segment in the anthology film "Four Rooms"). But it's not the only role that Tarantino ever considered Willis for. If things had gone a little differently during production of the director's two-part "Kill Bill" saga from the early 2000s, we might be able to add one of its most important characters to the Willis résumé.

Willis was on Tarantino's list to play Bill

In "Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2," viewers follow the Bride (Uma Thurman) on her long quest for vengeance that culminates with her, well, it kind of says it right there in the title. Viewers of the film(s) know that when we finally meet Bill, he is memorably played by David Carradine. But in a 2019 appearance on the CinemaBlend ReelBlend podcast, Quentin Tarantino spoke about the fact that Carradine was not his first choice for the role of Bill. Nor, as you may be wondering, was Bruce Willis. In fact, Tarantino originally conceived the character as being played by Hollywood legend Warren Beatty. When that plan fell through, he reworked the role for Carradine instead.

How does Willis fit in? On the podcast, Tarantino says that if Carradine had also been unable to play Bill, Willis would have been next on the list for the role.

Bill would have been different with Willis in the role

Quentin Tarantino says he had to rewrite the character of Bill when it turned out he was going to be played by David Carradine instead of Warren Beatty. But he says that had Bruce Willis stepped into the part instead, that would not have been necessary.

"Bill was a little bit more of an evil James Bond type. Okay? Rather than the Bondian villain, he was more like an evil Bond," Tarantino explained on the ReelBlend podcast. While Willis never played James Bond, the director said he can easily imagine the actor fitting this version of the character: "I probably wouldn't have had to have rewritten it that much if I had cast Bruce in it." 

Tarantino went on to add, "Bruce could have actually played that evil James Bond kind of character and I would have just leaned into his personality maybe just a little bit more." However, Tarantino did clarify that there would have likely been a few adjustments between the original Beatty vision of Bill and the imagined Willis version. The director said under Willis, the character would have been "[a] little less Cristal, a little bit more Coors ... [a] little less champagne, a little more beer."

It is a fascinating prospect to imagine, as it sounds like the casting of Willis would have given us a significantly different version of "Kill Bill' than the one we have now.