Film & TV

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

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True, but you also have to answer for the fact that the world is now full of would-be Taranteenies, not all of whom have your gifts.

I’ve heard that: a lot of guys in black suits. It just makes my stuff look all the better when you eventually see it again. Oh, well, I never want them to match me. I never want them to do a better movie than mine. Anyway, it’s dropped off now. I’m flattered by all those guys, but every time people start writing me off because of them, I come up with a new movie and they go, “Oh, that’s how it’s supposed to sound.” Actually, I like some of those movies. I got a big kick out of everything that happened after Pulp Fiction. It’s like, I love Sergio Leone so much, and he made spaghetti Westerns—he re-created the Western genre and then made this subgenre that everybody followed. A case can be made that I re-created the gangster film and set forth the next higher subgenre that other directors followed, and there were some good films that came out. Love and a .45 was really good; it was very close to True Romance, Natural Born Killers, and Reservoir Dogs all combined. That might be the only film that guy ever made, but he had a gift for really funny dialogue. Lucky Number Slevin was pretty good. My least favorite was The Usual Suspects. But the ones I loved the most were from foreign countries — the Hong Kong gangster movies, [like] Johnnie To or Too Many Ways to Be Number 1.

Do you worry that your movies might be remembered for the triumph of technique over substance?

I don’t feel that way about my work.

By the time people hit their mid-forties, their parents are growing older, and the more tragic side of life seems to come out more. Does that affect your work?

My movies are painfully personal, but I’m never trying to let you know how personal they are. It’s my job to make it be personal, and also to disguise that so only I or the people who know me know how personal it is. Kill Bill is a very personal movie.

But you won’t say why.

It’s not anyone’s business. It’s my job to invest in it and hide it inside of genre. Maybe there are metaphors for things that are going on in my life, or maybe it’s just straight up how it is. But it’s buried in genre, so it’s not a “how I grew up to write the novel” kind of piece. Whatever’s going on with me at the time of writing is going to find its way into the piece. If that doesn’t happen, then what the hell am I doing? So if I’m writing Inglourious Basterds and I’m in love with a girl and we break up, that’s going to find its way into the piece. That pain, the way my aspirations were dashed, that’s going to find its way in there. So I’m not doing a James L. Brooks—I loved how personal Spanglish was, but I thought that where Sofia Coppola got praised for being personal, he got criticized for being personal in the exact same aching way. But that doesn’t interest me, at least not now, to do my little story about my little situation. The more I hide it, the more revealing I can be.

Presumably, some of the time you don’t even know you’re writing about yourself.

Oh, very much so. Most of it should be subconscious, if the work is coming from a special place. If I’m thinking and maneuvering that pen around, then that’s me doing it. I really should let the characters take it. But the characters are different facets of me, or maybe they’re not me, but they are coming from me. So when they take it, that’s just me letting my subconscious rip.

At what point do you score a movie?

In three stages. I pick a lot of music as I’m writing, some of it even before I write. I have a vinyl room, like a record store, in my house — that’s one of the perks of being me. I dive into my record collection, I have a turntable already set up to make tapes, and I’m trying to find the rhythm, the beat of the movie. For instance, I wanted to set Jackie Brown in a more black world than the book took place in—even if it’s not a blaxploitation movie, it will have that energy or vibe. So then I go diving into ’70s soul music. Usually, I’m trying to find that opening credit sequence and once I find that, then I’m like, “OK, I can do this now,” ’cause that gives me enough to be excited by it. Also, if I get tired writing, or whenever I just need enthusiasm, I go into that room, play those songs, and imagine watching the movie with my friends and everyone’s oohing and aahing, and that gets me going again. I might even play those on the set. Then I’m always looking for music while I’m doing the movie, and then that last thing is in the editing, I’m diving for more stuff. And Harvey [Weinstein] always wants me to put more music in. I’m like, “Harvey, the reason it works so good is that there’s not wall-to-wall noise, [so] when it comes on, it’s cool.” [It’s] the last little thing before we lock picture — because Harvey pays a lot of money for my movies so let me give him a little respect. I dive in, and if I find something [else], it’s good, and if I don’t, I don’t. But I know that if I look hard enough, I’m going to find something.

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Ella Taylor
Contact: Ella Taylor