He’s arguably the most successful cult film director of all time. A veteran writer and producer, Quentin Tarantino gave us
The 44-year-old Tennessee native originally released his new feature ‘Death Proof’ as part of a double bill called ‘Grindhouse’ with director Robert Rodriguez, who filmed an accompanying film called ‘Planet Terror’, the project failed to capture a wide audience, even with his loyal fan base. Now the two films have split from the ‘Grindhouse’ concept and are being released and promoted separately. Jon Evans spoke to Quentin about his cinematic inspirations, throwing strops on-set and why he didn’t get to direct James Bond in ‘Casino Royale’.
Q: ‘Death Proof’ crosses many genres but mostly references movies from the 50s, is it important to you to have references from the past? A: It’s kind of fun if it’s appropriate, especially if you are dealing in terms of genre and sub-genre and where your film fits inside that genre. I’m trying to do my own crazy-whacky version that hopefully I deliver not the same way that they do. At the same time if a video store is out there and they have a car chase retrospective week, I want ‘Death Proof’ to be sitting there and hopefully it’s pretty good. It deserves a shelf space! They do a heist film section, then hopefully Reservoir Dogs is sitting there and hopefully it’s different.
Q: How difficult was the ‘Death Proof’ shoot? Do you have times on the set when it all gets too much? A: In the course of a long shoot I might have one or two days when I am a grumpy b**tard. There is a wild movie about movie-making called ‘Hollywood Man’ by Jack Starrett and it is about making a motorcycle movie. And at one point they’re on location and they are having a production meeting in the kitchen of the motel they are staying in, early in the morning. The director is saying that the motorcycles are not working, that the stunts are going to cost too much, they talk about the time and the footage. At one point the director is shouting: ‘That’s it. I have had it. I have f**king had it.’ I had watched the movie a couple of times but after I had made ‘Kill Bill’, I laughed so damn hard because I thought that this was the perfect expression of a director who loses it.
Q: When was the last time you lost it like that? A: I don’t remember being quite like that on ‘Death Proof’ but I was like that twice on ‘Kill Bill’. We shot ‘Kill Bill’ for almost a year, about nine months. It really was a situation like I had it. I was just sick of making the f**king movie, of getting up so f**king early, working so damn hard, of not having a life, of answering questions. I was that f**king grumpy asshole the whole day. It happened twice and eventually I come to my senses. Every once in a while you just want to prove to yourself that you can be like that, that you are human and just don’ have to do what you are supposed to do all the time.
Q: How did everyone else react? A: When you are like that, people don’t bug you with a million questions. They’re scared of you because you are being grumpy. They don’t go and talk to you unless they have to and when they do, they keep it short! So I was just pacing around, looking like a tiger in a cage, saying ‘I am an artist and I am doing what I want to do.’ Zoe [Bell] was my stunt cast, she was Uma Thurman’s double. I had been teaching her to start feeling like an actor, not just to jump through the window but also to know that she is the character; that she isn’t jumping through the window to get money but that she is my actress. I wanted her to know the context so she wasn’t in a void. She wasn’t used to that, she was very unpretentious, she chuckled a little but tried to do it and she started getting the idea. It was during that night when we were shooting the scene when The Bride is on the motorcycle with a helmet on. I was having my little ‘disgust’, people were scared of me. Somebody came to me saying, ‘Zoe needs to talk to you.’ She was sitting on the motorcycle in her yellow jump suit and I go, ‘You want to talk to me? What about?’ And she said, ‘I’m getting ready for the scene acting-wise – is there anything you want me to know, anything you want me to think about?’ And I just knocked it, it just all went away, because now she was starting to act like an actress – though you can’t see her face under the helmet anyway!
Q: Is it true you were going to direct ‘Casino Royale’ at one point? A: I don’t think I ever came close to it; I don’t think they ever considered me. I never saw the movie because I felt kind of raw about it. I could never really imagine doing it with the Broccolis (Bond producers) for the simple fact that they are never going to give me control. They could read the script I write and let me do it, but they were never going to give me final-cut control. And I don’t know if I could ever trust them enough that it would all work out because they were going to be too nervous about it. It’s important to them. It’s important to me, but for different reasons. The closest I came was after ‘Pulp Fiction’ when we tried to buy ‘Casino Royale’, because we didn’t know the Broccolis owned it. But the thing is, I am annoyed for two reasons: they never met with me- I deserved at least a meeting, a talking-to; and the second thing is the fact that I actually deserved a thanks because they would never have made ‘Casino Royale’ without me. They went on record saying it was unfilmable and when I started talking about the idea, which I hoped would provoke a meeting, then suddenly the internet was filled with ‘That is what the Bond fans want to see,’. I created a demand for that that did not exist whatsoever before. So at least the director should have called me up and said, ‘Hey thanks.’
Q: What movies really inspire you? A: I would say, ‘Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein’ because I saw that when I was a little boy and it was my favourite movie at that time. Part of the reason was the combination of genres, the fact that my favourite types of movies – comedies and horror films – were together. The Abott and Costello stuff is pretty funny, and when Frankenstein’s monster shows up it’s pretty scary. I didn’t know I was making genre distinctions when I was five, but I was! But that’s what’s I have been doing my whole career, mixing genres together. I would put ‘Taxi Driver’ as one of those films. You can’t quite boil ‘Taxi Driver’s’ power down to one or two sentences but I will say it is probably the most novelistic, complex character study for my money in the history of cinema. It’s only in novels where you find a character treated like that. But at the same time, it’s a very entertaining movie. There are laughs all through ‘Taxi Driver’. He pulls it off, it’s amazing. And the last movie, as I always say, is ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.
Q: You are planning a war movie next, are there any genres that don’t appeal to you? A: I don’t like everything. I like historical movies, but I am not a fan of the costume drama. Even though I have seen a few that I liked. actually, after making fun of James Ivory for so long, I thought that ‘The Golden Bowl’ was a really good movie. It was very intriguing. But that’s one of the genres I don’t like. Another genre I have no respect for is the biopic; they are just big excuses for actors to win Oscars. Even the most interesting person – if you are telling their life from beginning to end, it’s going to be a f**king boring movie. If you do this, you have to do comic-book versions of their whole life. For instance, when you make a movie about Elvis Presley, you don’t make a movie about his whole life: make a movie about one day. Make a movie about the day Elvis Presley walked into Sun Records. Make a movie about the whole day before he walked into Sun Records, and the movie ends when we walks through that door. That’s a movie.