"Gargantuan. Such a great word. I rarely get to use it in a sentence." ― Elle while describing the venom of the snake she uses to kill Budd[source]
Elle Driver, also known as California Mountain Snake, is the secondary antagonist in Quentin Tarantino's film series Kill Bill, serving as a major antagonist in the Kill Bill: Volume 1 and the secondary antagonist in Kill Bill: Volume 2. She is an assassin and a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who previously worked for Interpol. Her involvement in the Massacre at Two Pines coused her to become a major target of Beatrix Kiddo.
She was portrayed by Daryl Hannah.
Elle Driver originally worked for Interpol and was sent on an assignment to apprehend Bill. Upon tracking him down, she soon fell in love with him despite his dating Beatrix Kiddo. He offered her a job as an elite assassin which she accepted, just so she could be around him.
Pai Mei's training
Elle, like Bill and Beatrix Kiddo, was a student of Pai Mei, an authoritarian and sexist martial arts teacher. Some time after Beatrix finished her training, Bill sent Elle to the legendary master. Unlike Beatrix, who was quite humble, Elle was the opposite, being a brash and insolent pupil. At some point in her training, Elle called Pai Mei a "miserable, old fool." Furious, Pai Mei ripped out Elle's right eye.
One night, Pai Mei ordered Elle to cook fish heads for him, and in retaliation for extracting her eye, Elle poisoned her master's favorite dish, killing him.
Massacre at Two Pines
During their days as members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Elle and Beatrix had a hostile relationship, both competing for Bill's affection and favor as his second-in-command.
Elle, along with Budd, Vernita Green and O-Ren Ishii, arrived at El Paso and killed all eight people who attended Beatrix's wedding dress rehearsal. After abusing the helpless Beatrix, Elle stood above her bloody body as Bill approached and then shot her in the head.
After the massacre, Elle was assigned by Bill to kill Beatrix, who was revealed to have been comatose ever since. She shows up to convince herself of Kiddo's survival. She steals a nurse's uniform in the hospital and enters Beatrix's room in disguise. This is in a coma and is therefore defenseless. Elle is also preparing an injection of a lethal poison. She whispers to the comatose Beatrix that although she never liked it - she even despised it - she nonetheless respected her. She claims that it is a blessing for someone in her profession to die in her sleep and calls this Elle's gift to Beatrix. Before she can inject the syringe, Bill suddenly calls Elle. He asks the assassin about Beatrix's condition and Elle replies that Beatrix is in a coma. However, when Bill says she will cancel the mission, Elle freaks out.
Bill claims that they all tried to kill Beatrix and she survived everything. He claims that they will do even more to her if she ever wakes up. The one thing they will never do, however, is sneak into their room and kill them while in a coma - they are all better than that. Elle reluctantly sees this and leaves the hospital room with a last contemptuous look at Beatrix. As parting, Elle advises the Bride not to wake up from a coma. In fact, this occurs shortly afterwards and Kiddo moves out to take revenge on those who have destroyed their lives.
Deal with Budd
After killing O-Ren Ishii and Vernita Green, Beatrix is overwhelmed and anesthetized when she tries to kill Budd. Elle eventually received a call from Budd, who informed her that he had acquired Beatrix's sword after shooting her with rock salt and burying her alive. He then offered her the priceless blade in exchange for one million dollars in cash. Elle agreed on the condition that Kiddo will suffer until her last breath and showed up at Budd's trailer the next day.
In the morning, as agreed, Elle drives out into the desert to Budd's trailer. She brings a suitcase that contains Budd's payment. Meanwhile, Beatrix, who has escaped Budd's trap, heads back to Budd's trailer, where she notices Elle's arrival and immediately recognizes Elle as one of her former colleagues.
Inside Budd's caravan, Budd explains exactly how he "killed" Beatrix, he buried her alive. Elle finds this sufficiently cruel, which means that Budd kept his part of their deal. She asks Budd about the name of the gravestone under which Kiddo is buried and writes it down. Elle then asks Bill's brother if she can look at the sword and Budd asks if his money is in her suitcase. When Elle confirms this, Budd replies that the sword now belongs to Elle and that she can therefore of course look at it. She takes the sword in awe and asks Budd about his own Hanzo sword. According to his own statement, he gave this up a long time ago. He offers Elle another drink that she accepts. Budd then sits down and asks Elle if she, now that her rival Kiddo is dead, is relieved or disappointed since she now has nothing to cling to. Elle claims to feel both, but Budd dismisses it as a lie.
He then sits down at the table to open the case that contains his money. When he does this, he laughs with joy at the many bundles of money inside the suitcase, but the joy doesn't last long because there is a black mamba in the suitcase that bites him several times. When Budd jumps up in panic and knocks the suitcase over, Elle looks on calmly. As the poison slowly takes effect and Budd goes down, Elle reveals that the snake is a black mamba. While Budd dies, Elle reads him some facts about the Black Mamba. She also reveals that she is very disappointed that the brilliant warrior died at the hands of a failure like Budd.
Fighting Beatrix and Defeat
After Budd's death, Elle collects the money scattered on the floor in her suitcase. Meanwhile, Bill calls her and takes the opportunity to tell him that Budd was killed by Kiddo and that she avenged him. She tells him that he should go to Paula Schultz's grave if he ever wants to find Kiddo's body. While Elle wants to leave the caravan, she is suddenly kicked out by Beatrix and pushed back into the caravan. Due to the limited space inside the caravan, Elle cannot pull the sword out of its sheath. Inside the caravan, there is a duel between the two rivals, in which Beatrix accidentally finds the second Hattori Hanzo sword hidden by Budd - which he therefore did not mock. During the fight, almost all of the furniture inside the caravan breaks and Beatrix can briefly overwhelm Elle and tries to drown her in the toilet. However, Elle can free herself and flees back to the main room, where she draws Kiddo's sword. Kiddo in turn pulls Budd's sword to defend himself.
Before the fight comes, Beatrix mentions that she has always been interested in what exactly Elle said to Pai Mei so that he tore her eye out. Elle reveals it to Kiddo and adds that she murdered Pai Mei for it. This clearly shocks Beatrix, but Elle only laughs. This leads to the final fight between Elle and Kiddo, but due to the limited space, neither can really strike. Beatrix takes the opportunity to pull Elle's remaining eye with a free hand. Totally blind, Elle shrieked and stumbled backward into the bathroom, wildly writhing on the ground like an animal. Amid the chaos, Beatrix dropped the eyeball to the floor and squished it with her bare foot as a final insult. As Elle continued her blind raving, Beatrix recovered her Hanzo sword and left, leaving her foe for dead.
Elle's survival is unknown. She was left blinded in a remote area and in a confined space with a Black Mamba snake. The ending credits have a question mark over her name.
"It's the first villain that I've played in a movie that has absolutely no vulnerability and no innocence, nothing whatsoever that is likeable about her, other than she's so bad. All the other Deadly Vipers have some empathetic quality: O-Ren Ishii has this horrible past, [Vernita Green] just wants to be a mom, the Bride has been abused, but my character is just bad all the way through, there's nothing to like about her, and you're going to hate her so much." ― Daryl Hannah (on Elle Driver)
Elle is the least sympathetic and seemingly the cruelest of the Deadly Vipers, killing for her own pleasure; however, she recognizes and respects skill, as she does with Beatrix. She is also extremely ambitious, as well as very protective of Bill, though she is not above using him to achieve her own ends.
She perhaps serves as a contrast to Beatrix; during Kiddo's training under Pai Mei, she was disciplined and knew her place well, whereas Elle was disrespectful and arrogant. This costed Elle greatly in life, in this case her vision on both accounts with her former mentor and peer. What also differentiates between them is the fact in spite of her ruthless and merciless lust for revenge, Beatrix still held onto her humanity during her journey and was still capable of emotion and love. Elle, on the other hand, lacked any trait that defines her as human.
Elle has proven herself multiple times to be a coward, in the fact that she uses underhanded methods in winning a fight, as well as how she tried to kill Beatrix while she was comatose and when Budd incapacitated her. The actual reason for Elle nearly overwhelming Kiddo, despite the latter's superior skills, was due to Beatrix having already been weakened at this point, giving Elle an unfair advantage during the battle. A finer example is also shown how she poisoned Pai Mei as revenge for taking her eye, rather than face him an actual fight.
Though the California Mountain Snake is not a threat to humans, it is quite lethal to other snakes, as it specializes in ophiophagy, and has a high resistance to the venom of other snakes. This accompanying the fact that Elle was picked as Kiddo's replacement in Bill's hierarchy of assassins suggests Elle was specifically called California Mountain Snake because she represented Bill's enforcer within the group itself. Should any member get out of line, she could best any other member of the group if need be.
From a production standpoint, Tarantino may have named this character in order to suggest that her character's demise was even less secured, also hinted at by the question mark placed by her name at the end credits of the film series. She could return in a sequel, as a true California Mountain Snake could conceivably survive a black mamba's venom. If so, she could pose a threat to Kiddo in the future, as well as Kiddo's daughter. Due to the nature of her name, some fans speculate that the Elle character may even be intended to best the Kiddo character, as a California Mountain Snake could possibly kill a black mamba (though this is merely speculation, as Tarantino has never hinted at such an event happening in a sequel).
Not only could her code name have been chosen for the aforementioned reasons, but it could have also been chosen to better describe the personality of the character. Elle has no problem with the killing of Pai Mei or Budd, or killing Kiddo, even when Kiddo was comatose. So, too, does an actual California Mountain Snake have no qualms with feasting on other serpents. Being as that is, her code name may have been chosen to represent Elle's treacherous nature.
Elle's code name "California Mountain Snake" is the only non-venomous snake in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. This is ironic, as she is the only member known to use poison as a primary means of assassination.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat: Though it is unknown as to whether or not Elle completed her martial arts training under Pai Mei (one would assume it was incomplete, as it is doubtful that she would stay beyond her training), she proved to be a highly adept hand-to-hand combatant. Her fighting style was very similar to the Bride's, employing swift, direct blows. In some contexts, she is arguably slightly slower, but also slightly stronger. Beatrix seems to know that letting her get too close is bad news. The Bride almost seems helpless against Elle's direct punches and kicks, for example. Throughout, Elle's combat is equal to, if not better than, the Bride's, although Beatrix was surely exhausted from traveling when fighting Elle. It could be argued that Elle is too narrow-minded and arrogant to see the Bride's strategy, however. It could be said that only Elle and Gogo Yubari truly seem to gain the edge on Beatrix in their fights, with fate stepping in to help the Bride in both instances.
- Toxicology: Elle is seen on 3 separate occasions employing toxins against victims. We see her on the verge of poisoning Beatrix while the latter is comatose, using an extremely venomous Black Mamba to kill Budd, and poisoning a meal prepared for Pai Mei.
- Swordsmanship: Being that she held her own against Beatrix, who was a superlative swordsman, it can be assumed that Elle was proficient in samurai kenjutsu.
- Elle is the first person who states Beatrix Kiddo's name.
- The fight between Elle and Beatrix won "best fight" at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, and parodied in "Date Movie".
- Daryl Hannah won a Saturn award for her performance as Elle Driver.
- Quentin Tarantino said that he planned for a third volume franchise would see Nikkia Bell face the Bride after training from Elle and Sofie Fatale.
- Elle may be the last surviving Viper Squad member on Beatrix's death list, as her death is uncertain.