Thursday, January 21, 2010

20 things to learn about Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino strides into the room, grins, flashes the peace sign, sits down and starts talking. And doesn't stop for the next two hours. The subject of the latest Alfred Dunhill BAFTA A Life in Pictures, everyone's favourite obscure film fanatic and pop-culture auteur is in a terrific mood. This is a chance not only to listen to one of the greatest film-makers of the past two decades talk movies . . .

1. As is well documented, the 22-year-old Tarantino worked in a video shop, Manhattan Beach Video Archives. (It had a great classics section.) He refutes the accusation that this was his version of film school - he got the job because of the expert knowledge of film he had in the first place.

2. Tarantino originally wanted to be a producer rather than a writer because he couldn't type.

3. When he watched Kevin Smith's Clerks he was reminded of his own early film-making experiments, saying, "I've got something like that in my garage".

4. He has still never seen Natural Born Killers. He was horrified with Oliver Stone's modifications to the script. (Now all his work comes with a "final draft" stamp.) He kept a story credit for "coming up with the names Mickey and Mallory". He has since made up with Oliver Stone over drinks.

5. Like most writers, Tarantino incorporates autobiographical elements into his scripts. So the reason John Travolta's Vincent talks about mayonnaise on chips is because Tarantino wrote the scene when he was living in Amsterdam. (He took the opportunity to live abroad after getting his first big paycheck for Reservoir Dogs.)

6. One of Tarantino's greatest accomplishments is bringing international attention to cult directors he loves - such as Chungking Express by Wong Kar Wei, which was distributed through his Rolling Thunder production company.

7. Using a scene between Pam Grier and Samuel L Jackson from Jackie Brown as an example, he considers his dialogue to be a combination of "poetry, stand-up comedy and hip-hop". He finds it surprisingly easy to write.

8. Although he has subsequently found out that there was a squad of Jewish resistance fighters shortly after World War II, Tarantino didn't base the Basterds on even the smallest factual detail. He's particularly proud that in a genre that prides itself on "based on a true story", Inglourious is 100 per cent a work of fiction.

9. Tarantino was all set to play Mr Pink in Reservoir Dogs. He wanted the role, but Harvey Keitel and he agreed that he should audition for it. In Keitel's eyes, Tarantino delivered the best performance - but then the director realised that by appearing in his film he might compromise it, even in the slightest way. The role went to Steve Buscemi.

10. Tarantino is cautiously optimistic about the future of the film industry. "If you get one masterpiece a year, you can't really ask for more. That's pretty good." He is trying to resist becoming "the old guy in the block".

11. Having studied the work of Elmore Leonard, Tarantino enjoys exploring works of a particular genre and then making them more interesting by introducing realistic elements. It's a strange combination of realism and fantasy. Tarantino loves bringing what he describes as his "Basquiat touch" to genre cinema.

12. He can count the number of great scriptwriters working in Hollywood on eight fingers.

13. After Basterds, it's the first time his films have been considered a body of work: "I have an oeuvre." He hopes that in the future anyone could select any work from his filmography and find they are all "from the same place". (He used the example of how he got into the work of Howard Hawks via His Girl Friday.)

14. He loves manipulating an audience's emotions: "Your feelings are my orchestra."

15. When interviewer Francine Stock suggested that Uma Thurman as the Bride suffered "more than any onscreen character in history", Tarantino pointed out that Jesus in The Passion Of The Christ went through a lot.

16. When he first starting writing Basterds, Tarantino admits to suffering from "epic-itus" where he started to question whether the medium of cinema was big enough to hold his vision. It turned out it was.

17. Sometimes people get cast because of how nice they are. The woman dangling from the front of Rosario Dawson's car in 60 per cent of Death Proof is Zoe Bell, who charmed Tarantino as a stuntwoman for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.

18. Tarantino's favourite films of last year include Funny People, the film Adam Sandler turned down Inglourious Basterds for.

19.  He describes the role of Hans Landa as "the best role ever written". But only found Christopher Waltz on the last day of auditions.

20. "In genre cinema violence is the bill of fare." Get used to it.

Quentin Tarantino was speaking at Alfred Dunhill BAFTA A Life In Pictures. dunhill.com; bafta.org

Post a Comment