Film & TV

Quentin Tarantino Serves Hitler’s Head on a Plate with Inglourious Basterds

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Christoph Waltz, the veteran Austrian television actor who plays the evil S.S. colonel, Landa, walks away with the movie.

He’s one in a million. Landa is one of the best characters I’ve ever written. He comes from a long line of suave, charming Nazis. I tried to have the audience, almost against their will, invest in him being a detective. You want him to figure out what the basterds are doing just to see what he’ll do.

To make him a closeted opportunist is a lovely twist. Mostly, one sees movie Nazis as so devoted to the cause. And you figured out that there are worse things you can do to a Nazi at the end of the war than kill him.


If you had cast Eli Roth, who plays one of the Jewish Apaches, in the lead, instead of Brad Pitt, that would have truly set the cat among the pigeons. He actually looks Jewish.

I thought about that, but I had a whole history with Pitt’s character, Aldo. Aldo has been fighting racism in the South; he was fighting the Klan before he ever got into World War II. And the fact that Aldo is part Indian is a very important aspect of my whole conception, even of turning the Jews into American Indians fighting the un-fightable, losing cause. So that lead guy is legitimately an Indian. Also, the dichotomy of this Southern hillbilly and his verbiage bouncing off them is interesting. And Eli Roth does a great Boston accent.

In the 17 years since we last met, you’ve become this huge star. There has been criticism, including by me, about violence and juvenility in your movies. Others think you’re a misogynist. I thought if you saw my review of Sin City, you might not agree to this interview.

That’s Robert’s movie. I only did one scene.

Was Death Proof your answer to critics who find your work violent or misogynistic?

I don’t think my work is misogynistic. I had a lot of female friends in their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. For the past five or six years, they’ve been really important in my life, and I hung around with a lot of different girl posses. So I’m the one guy with the four girls, and I got a really good sense of their dynamic, how they talk. So this was my girl movie, my way to write girls now, not me remembering what girls were like in college. It became my version of The Women. But I directed it like an exploitation film. Every other movie I’ve ever done, I’ve always been a gentleman about how I shot women. Not in that movie. I was a leering bastard in that one.

You’re 46 now. Life must feel different to you than it did when you were 29. Does that change your attitude about the movies that you still want to make?

It definitely does. Yes, there’s stuff I’ve grown out of.

And what would that be?

Well, I don’t know if I have any specific examples.

Would you, for example, do the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs again?

Oh, heavens to Betsy, yes. In fact, in Inglourious Basterds, I don’t do it off-camera anymore — I get you a bit closer to the scalping. No, back then, I was so gaga—“I want to do this, I want to do that, da da da da.” After Jackie Brown, I realized I’d gotten that kids’ stuff out of my system. For example, I had flirted with the idea of a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. But I grew out of the idea. Also, Pulp Fiction broke the mold of what I was expecting to happen with my career. What I mean by this is, normally, if you made a film like Reservoir Dogs for the studios, they’d say, “That guy’s pretty good. Maybe if we match him with more commercial subject matter, that will take it to the next step.” So I do my little art thing, Pulp Fiction, in my little auteur way, and maybe it makes $30 to $35 million. “OK, now we’re ready to bring him into the studio system for real. Let’s give him Dick Tracy or the Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie,” something like that. Well, that didn’t happen. I didn’t have to wrap my voice in some commercial project to get it across. My voice, me being me, became huge, so I never had to do that. I rise or fall by my ability.

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Ella Taylor
Contact: Ella Taylor