Kill Bill: Vol. 1
"The Restaurant Shot", By Larry McConkey
This shot is probably one of the most well known shots of recent years. Without first hand commentary from those directly involved, how this shot was executed would probably still baffle even other veteran operators. Impressing your peers is always the greatest reward.
Source: The Observer, 9/22/02
The production's turning point, most agreed, came on the fourth day - an ambitious Steadicam shot in which the camera needed to snake its way through the bustling nightclub, following The Bride down a flight of stairs, around a corner, then rising up and over a wall to follow her (as though looking straight down from the ceiling) into a bathroom, then back down on the ground, out into the club, across the stage where a band was performing, over a dance floor and up a stairwell on the other side of the room.
'I remember when they described it to me I said, "What was that part about going over a wall?"' says Larry McConkey, a veteran Steadicam operator, laughing.
In the end they had to shoot the bustling nightclub, and then, when the camera turned, remove one of the side walls and roll in a crane that McConkey could climb aboard which then transported him over the wall and into the bathroom. As he shot in there, the crane was rolled out, the wall replaced and the bustling resumed before the camera made its way back.
'I got bounced around pretty good,' McConkey said. 'I never actually hit the ground, but I hit just about everything else.' The intricately choreographed scene required 17 takes, Walsh said, but they got it in one day. 'We knew if we could do that, we could get anything done.'
I don't think this shot could have been accomplished except for the huge and enthusiastic crew we had in China. It took a very large crew to pull it off. A conventional crane could not get over the wall - we had to use a motorized hoist system that ran on overhead tracks that first lifted me up and then tracked along on top of the wall above Uma, crossing the wall at a slight angle until reaching the bathroom set and then lowered me down as Uma entered a stall to change into her "killing" costume. A custom chair was suspended from the winch that I could sit down for the flight over the wall operated by key grip Herb Ault who managed to get me up over and down with only a few minor collisions with the set. I then got off and continued the shot back into the main room of the restaurant set. In the meantime, an army of Chinese stagehands flew a large section of a wall, brought in large ramps and rolled a crane onto the set in time for me to back onto it so I could 'fly' up to the second floor and descend with Julie Dreyfus as she walked down stairs past the stage and into the bathroom. Also, in order to see the singer in a closeup as I backed into the restaurant, a large Koi pond in front of the stage was covered over with a wood platform and the singer came to the front of that new stage in time for me to pan to her as I sat on the crane.
Crane Step On/Off