Elle Driver was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, known by her code-name California Mountain Snake, and by her missing right eye, which was covered by an eyepatch. Elle had some kind of sexual relationship with Bill, much like Beatrix Kiddo, who was Bill's girlfriend and the mother of B.B. Kiddo. After a protracted fight in Budd's trailer, Elle was defeated by Beatrix, who snatched out her other eye, rendering her completely blind.
Elle 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. He offered her a job as an elite assassin and she accepted, just so she could be around him.
Pai Mei's training
Elle, like Bill and Beatrix Kiddo, was Pai Mei's student. 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.
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 headed to the hospital where Beatrix was housed and dressed up as a nurse. Upon locating her unconscious prey, Elle stated that despite their mutual disdain for each other, she nonetheless respected her.
Seconds before injecting poison into the life-support system, Bill contacted Elle and ordered her to abort the mission, claiming that Beatrix deserved better than being killed in her sleep. Infuriated, Elle half-heartedly agreed and departed, leaving Beatrix alive.
At the time Beatrix woke up from her coma, Elle still had some kind of romantic relationship with Bill (evidently, she was the only one of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who was still in contact with him).
Making a Deal with Budd
Elle remained devoted to Bill for years, doing his bidding and carrying on the DVAS tradition. She 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 and showed up at Budd's trailer the next day.
Budd asked Elle about her feelings regarding the death of her archrival, Beatrix, wondering if she was filled with regret that she didn't kill her herself, or relief over Beatrix's (assumed) demise. As Elle replied that she felt regret more than relief, Budd opened the suitcase and riffled through the money, finding a black mamba that Elle had planted inside. The snake violently bit Budd in the face three times and he fell to the ground, writhing in pain as the venom coursed through his veins. Elle sarcastically apologized for her deception, lighting a cigarette and cruelly reading aloud facts about the black mamba and the side effects of its venom. At this point, Elle elaborated on her feeling of regret, telling Budd she regretted that the "greatest warrior [she] had ever met" died at the hands of a "bush-whackin', scrub, alkie piece of shit" like him. With that, Budd died, whereupon Elle collected her money and called Bill, telling him that she had found his brother dead after being attacked by "a Black Mamba" (an allusion to Beatrix's Deadly Viper codename) and taking credit for the assumed death of Beatrix Kiddo.
As Elle was leaving Budd's trailer, she was kicked back inside by the surprisingly alive Beatrix, which led to an intense fight between the two. After a brutal exchange of hand-to-hand combat, the archrivals engaged in a swordfight, each of them armed with a Hanzo katana.
Before they crossed blades, however, Elle admitted that she fatally poisoned Pai Mei in revenge for tearing out her eye. The two women stared each other down and finally engaged each other, locking swords in a test of strength. Elle seemed confident that she could overpower the smaller Beatrix, but little did she know that Beatrix suddenly ripped out her 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 squashed 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 to suffer in the cabin.
The film's end credits depict the names of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad as being crossed off a hit list, with the exception of Elle's, leaving a question mark over her name. Her survival is unknown, as she was left blinded in a remote area and in a confined space with a Black Mamba snake.
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 swordswoman, it can be assumed that Elle was proficient in samurai kenjutsu.
|“||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 humble (enough to earn Pai Mei's respect and approval), 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.
- Elle is the 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.
- Tarantino has commented that any potential sequel to Kill Bill 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.