An interview with Quentin Tarantino

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This website started, in some form or another, back in 1999. Ever since then, The Quentin Tarantino Archives was committed to provide everything there is to know about Quentin Tarantino. And there is still work ahead. While the mostly one-man-show that is www.tarantino.info is heavily into pre-release Grind House buzz and the message boards are running wild, after what the movie advertisings refer to as a roaring rampage of revenge, we finally got the chance to meet The Man, or The Man finally met us, as it turned out. Tarantino.info's Sebastian Haselbeck sat down with none other than Quentin Tarantino last Sunday at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and what follows, is the 30 minute chat among movie fans that reveals tons of information about Grind House, about Cowgirls in Sweden, Inglorious Bastards, and a lot more. Quentin even got to interview us. So enjoy reading. (En espanol: Parte 1 y parte 2)

A conversation with Quentin Tarantino: Volume 1

Quentin (as Sebastian enters the room): Sebaaaaastiaan!

(a hearty welcome ceremony ensues that was not caught on tape. Quentin Tarantino finally meets Sebastian, or the other way around. And then I finally think of pressing the recording button...)

QT: I just wanted to let you know, I really appreciate what you're doing. You write really well, you handle that website. I think that website is just fucking killer. It's so much fun to read and watch. And you do it all yourself, out of interest. I know, I really appreciate it...... Where are you out of? I don't know.... So you run the website out of Germany? I never knew that, that's cool.

Sebastian: I started in 1999, just collecting stuff. Just as a highschool project, and it just grew. And at some point, most of the “competitors” died out more or less, all these websites, and it was all me.

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QT: You're totally the last man standing. It's funny because, I go on the links and I look at other stuff, and nothing is completely comprehensive and just as entertaining. With all your different things that go on. It's a lot of fun. Yours the one I check in “what's the temperature?”, right now, amongst my fans.

Sebastian: Yeah and that's why I asked you about Cowgirls in Sweden earlier today, because everybody was bombarding me, “you gotta ask him what is going on with that trailer!”

QT: Yeah. I am rather shagrin that I was the one who wasn't able to do a trailer. Robert made me feel better, he was like “If I hadn't made Machete first thing off the bat, I wouldn't have a trailer in the thing either.” It was just, we were working so hard on Death Proof, and literally just like, you know, locked print and finished the mix last week. You guys were the first audience to see the goddamn thing. So I just never had the opportunity. But I loved my idea for Cowgirls in Sweden. I actually had another idea for a trailer that I think I'll make for something else or another installment of Grind House. I am also, you've probably heard, I am a huge fan of the Italian mafia movies. Especially like the films of Fernando di Leo. So I came up with a seventies style Italian mafia movie called “The Big Boss of Rome” (laughs) And that's gonna be one of the ones I wanted to do, even wrote a little script for it, and Robert was “Oh man you gotta do that one!” So I may do it for another movie.

Sebastian: Yeah I already slipped the Cowgirls idea to Ms Winstead and Freddy Rodriguez, and he was like “Aw, it's gotta be like a, Russ Meyer style movie, with lots of boobs and stuff”

QT: Oh totally. Actually not only that, at one point in time, not only was I gonna have a trailer for Cowgirls in Sweden, I was even gonna do the first 15 minutes of the movie, and the way it at one point in time early early on, the way Grind House was gonna end, you'd see the trailer for Cowgirls in Sweden in the middle of the movie and everything, and Death Proof is over, dadadad da, boom over. And then you'd hear the theater manager, and it will be a dark screen, and you'll hear the theater manager say (theater manager voice) “Okay, that's it for Planet Terror and Death Proof. You might now that tonight's the last night for this, and starting next week it will be Teenage Hitchhikers and Cowgirls in Sweden. We're checking the print right now, so anyone who wants to stay for the first reel of Cowgirls in Sweden, feel free” and boom alright, and just when it starts getting sexy and really good, the reel runs out. (laughs)

Sebastian: That would be amazing. Last night was so wild because people started getting out when it said Intermission. And like “wait, that's not a real popcorn ad”

QT: Yeah exactly (laughs)

Sebastian: That was such a wild ride. I was waiting such a long time for that.

QT: Oh man it's like, I can image you're waiting for the movie, but then also you have to deal with it all the time, with your website. How, please be honest, how did it play for ya?

Sebastian: I don't know. Three months ago I got the script in my email, and you know, once you have it there you just have to click on it, and I read it. And you know, before Kill Bill, I got the Kill Bill script two years before the movie came out.

QT: Oh yeah, I wrote it a long time before it came out. And it took me a year to write the goddamn movie.

Sebastian: The good thing was, that there was a lot of stuff in it that didn't make it into the movie, like the character...

QT: Oh, Mr Barrell? That was the very first thing, and then the whole Yuki's Revenge...

Sebastian: And that whole chapter with Bill...

QT: Oh yeah, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie

Sebastian: Yeah, so that was good. Because sometimes you get spoiled so early, because I have to gather all the info, and in the message boards people just go wild and speculate, too, and at some point I, since it's my place I have to stay on top of it, and I always get stuff, so I am never completely isolated from what's going on.

QT: But you know, one of the things that's gonna happen though, you know, me and Robert really made three movies. There's Planet Terror proper, with everything in it, standing alone. And then there's Death Proof proper, with everything in it, standing alone. And then there is Grind House. And those are three different movies. Part of the fun of it was, uh, knowing that the films eventually would go out to other countries, and even in America, and on DVD at some point, by itself. It encouraged us to do, for this grindhouse experience, to cut our movies to the bone. How much can we take out of it, how short can we cut it down and actually have it work, still have it mean something and deliver. It'd still be two movies. We can kinda just go for it because we knew that, I mean you read the script, a lot of narrative strategies I worked into the script don't work now, because of the way I cut it down so much, but they will work, and they will be there in the version by itself. But it is actually ever since Kill Bill I've had the kind of thing, I can never just think of one version of a movie. I'd like to think of a couple different independent versions of the same thing.

Sebastian: And people are still waiting for a really good DVD of Kill Bill. That is one of the things people are going crazy about...

QT: You know one of the things was, I knew that... you know, the theatrical cut of that is already done and stuff, but one of the things is, I worked so hard on Kill Bill, that I wanted a few years off, and figured the fans weren't gonna go anywhere, make them wait, they are also getting so used to these big mammoth mamoo versions coming out every six months, so I was like I like Volume 1, Volume 2, let that stand for right now, they're not going anywhere, and make them want it even more when it finally shows up. It gives me a break on it, you know...

Sebastian: At some point I wrote, I think, chew on the Sin City recut for a while, that's a huge DVD.

QT: It is, yeah, exactly... (laughs)

Sebastian: And Robert is so into it, he does all kinds of stuff. The greenscreen version of the movie, and he puts his cooking school on it, and there's talk about a “fucking school”

QT: Haha yeah right that's all a lot of fun. Oh yeah and when we're gonna do the big mamoo grindhouse version, well you know barbeque is a big deal in his story, he's gonna have is own recipe for barbeque sauce...

Sebastian: That is crazy... I talked to Kurt about Stuntman Mike's motivations, and we came up with a theory that he might not even have been successful as a stunt man at any point, and so what he's doing is, he still wants to be a stunt man, so he's just going out there doing his stunts, and people get killed.

QT: Oh yeah yeah, haha. I mean, you could make up a subtext going on, that maybe these puny credits he's talking about, he didn't even do them, alright? It's his imagination, to make the credits better than they are (laughs)

Sebastian: At some point you considered Mickey Rourke for the character? At the end, what was the tipping point, why not him?

QT: You know, it was like, I though about Mickey Rourke for the character. One, because I am friendly with Mickey and we were kinda hanging out at the time. And also, it I was just so taken with his performance of Marv in Sin City, and then he kinda pumped it up with this other great performance in Domino, which I was a huge fan of. But then you know, I wrote it, and we talked about it, and it just didn't seem like, it just wasn't the right one to do. I could totally work with him in another movie, you gage when somethings right or something's wrong, and ultimately it just didn't seem right. So Robert was already shooting Planet Terror by that time, so I was thinking hm... who could be Stuntman Mike? There's this guy, and there's that guy and I'm thinking about it, all interesting and all, three four five completely different movies depending on who would be in it, but the thing about it was, Robert's movie is so similar in style and feel to a John Carpenter movie, we've always been joking that, it's like the zombie movie John Carpenter should've made in between Escape from New York and The Thing. And not only that, Robert was even playing Escape from New York music on the set all the time, and he'd shoot a scene and cut a little version of it together and score it with Escape from New York music. So the John Carpenter role was just kind of all around us everywhere, and then I thought of Kurt Russel, and it was like he was hiding in plain sight, and I was like oh man that's totally what I gotta do, that's the guy!!

Sebastian: Just like David Carradine

QT: Yeah exactly, it was just hand in glove.

Volume 2

Sebastian: I read his diaries on Kill Bill.

QT: Oh yeah. I loved that book. He is a fantastic writer, too. And very funny. Part of the reason why I ended up casting David Carradine is because I read his autobiography Endless Highway, that's one of the best autobiographies I'd ever read. He's a fantastic writer, and that actually went a long way to me casting him in Kill Bill, was reading his autobiography.

Sebastian: He has so much to tell, too.

QT: By the way, I actually....your website does one thing in particular, that I appreciate. I wouldn't have known at least 6 of the books about me that have come out in the last years. I wouldn't have known about them if I hadn't found them on your website. So it's like, you know, “hey, there's a new book about me, hey gosh I gotta find that and read that book and put it in my library”

Sebastian: I always try to get those free and review them, and a lot of those are just not good. This one guy Jim Smith. Not sure if you've heard of it. It is an awesome book. I think it's just called Tarantino.

QT: I don't know if I know that one. The ones I like the most are the more film-criticism type ones, the more subtextual stuff. I really got a big kick out of that western one that's come out, what was that, “Westerns from Shane to Kill Bill

Sebastian: Haven't read that.

QT: That was a really cool one. I liked that.

Sebastian: I am also a huge Spaghetti Western fan.

QT: Yeah me too.

Sebastian: Started a spaghetti western database

QT: Oh yeah I know that, actually I have clicked on that, from your website.

Sebastian: That's successful as well.

QT: Yeah actually I had many a fun time going through there. One of these days we'll marry those together, coz one of the things in my life is not only to do a spaghetti western, but to do like, 3 or four, at least 3 spaghetti westerns. So it doesn't all have to exist on one movie, it could have... I have few, a canon of them... history to sort with, which is.... the best

Sebastian: Five years ago there was a rumor, that you were gonna make 40 Lashes Less One, is that still up there somewhere?

QT: Yeah it is, I actually own the rights to that novel. It's a terrific novel. I could never let go of it. I've written about, like 20 pages of the adaptation of it. But I might very well do it some time. It's the only thing that I have just kind of held on to, that I can't quite let go. I might do it some time.

Sebastian: Don't let it go (laughs). And people wonder, when is he gonna make Inglorious Bastards?

QT: That'll be the next thing I do. Not only will it be the next thing I do, it's the next thing I have to do. It's the next thing I must do. It's my next mount everest. It's like Kill Bill, big giant epic projects, challenging like mount everest. And Kill Bill was my last one. That is my next one. And I almost mean to do it, so I be the filmmaker I wanna be when I'm done with it, and have something else, that I am super passionate about. So if you hear about me all of a sudden coming up with something else I am doing instead, then it's just me being “I'm afraid of what I'm supposed to be doing.” And Inglorious Bastards, I'm coming up with something else to delay it. But I will let that happen. I've been writing on it for years and years, I am gonna go around the world with this movie for about 6 months and I'm gonna finish writing on the road. Which is what I did with Pulp Fiction. I wrote at least half of Pulp Fiction on the film festival circuit, you know, with Reservoir Dogs.

Sebastian: I've seen Enzo Castellari's movie of the same title. And then there was some interview a year ago or so where you mentioned that it's already three scripts, is that true?

QT: It's not quite three scripts. I can't quite go in the details right now of exactly what I'm gonna do with it, but I know exactly now what I'm gonna do with it. And, it was gonna be too long before, but now it's not too long... sorry to be so cryptic... but it's gonna be a big massive epic. That's all I can say. And I figured out how to do it but I can't reveal that right now.

Sebastian: At some point you said you wanted to do some TV, and then there was people saying well if he has three scripts, why doesn't he do a Band of Brothers, you know, like a mini series?

QT: I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up exactly that way (laughs)

Sebastian: Aside from your war epic, what are kind of the genres that you always wanted to do, you never knew how to do it? Robert for example wants to so a sci-fi movie.

QT: Yeah you know, I'm not that really drawn to science fiction as far as spaceship kinda stuff is concerned. Even though actually right now my favorite show on television is Battlestar Galactica. I think that show is awesome. But I'm not really that drawn to science fiction per se, especially when you're talking about space ship kind of movies. But I really wanna do a spaghetti western. I'd love to do a bootlegging movie, a movie that takes place in the south in the 70s, about moonshining, that would be really groovy. I wanna do Inglorious Bastards, but any time I do any research about world war II, you end up finding nine other movies you could possibly make, there are so many interesting stories. Even with Inglorious Bastards, I just even might... look, hands down, my favorite genre of all the subgenres was spaghetti westerns. And even Inglorious Bastards, the ww2 movie, I want it to play like a spaghetti western, just using world war 2 iconography. Actually the sub title to Inglorious Bastards is “once upon a time in nazi-occupied france”

Sebastian: I see one problem though with Inglorious Bastards, how are you gonna work a Sheriff McGraw into that?

QT: (laughs) Yeah yeah. Maybe his, uh, his grandfather was an MP. Hey, how did you like McGraw coming back?

Sebastian: Oh great. Just one of those moments. I saw Wild Hogs a few weeks ago, and there was Peter Fonda, and I'm sitting in the theater and go “holy shit! Peter Fonda! oh... shhh”

QT: Yeah, exactly

Sebastian: It was one of those moments. McGraw, yeah, or even Nick Cage in Zombie's trailer.

QT: Fu Manchu, yeah (laughs)

Sebastian: The laughter, awesome. Speaking of McGraw, how do you fit Grind House into your universes theory?

QT: Oh. Death Proof in particular, that takes place in the, not the movie-movie universe. To me that takes place in the Quentin universe, like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction takes place in. It's the real world going on. Having said that, McGraw has actually now become the one character that actually has a passport to move back and forth between the universes. I always said that The Wolf was the only one who could probably really do that, but he hasn't done it yet. But McGraw has that kind of capability, and also there is something kinda fun about Earl McGraw, the fact that me and Robert kinda just have both joint ownership over him. I loved it when he made McGraw such a big character in Planet Terror and then half way in the script you actually realize that Marley is his daughter, and 'oh McGraw had a daughter. And a wife, who knew!' And it actually was so exciting in Death Proof, now we got the McGraw clan, we gotta put them all together, at least in one shot.

Sebastian: The son, too.

QT: Yeah you have Jimmie..... Earl McGraw, Edgar McGraw and Dakota McGraw, all together in one shot.

Sebastian: The McGraw clan. You could turn it into a Dallas.

QT: I've actually thought that both Earl and Edgar would make a cool TV show.

Sebastian: Like Starsky and Hutch?

QT: Yeah exactly (laughs)

Sebastian. So, when people heard about you playing another rapist, were they asking “is he doing Richie Gecko again?”

QT: Yeah (laugsh), ... I had not planned of acting, it was something where Robert was at the script reading where we're having a reading of Planet Terror and so the actors were playing their parts, and then, you know, everybody was there, so he said “Quentin, take this guy, Marley take that girl” and then the time came for “Rapist #1”, and he said “Quentin play Rapist number 1” . Okay so I do that, and everyone liked what I did, and they were like “you gotta play this part, man, you've got it nailed”, so that's how it ended up.

Sebastian: And takes a terrible end too, for that character.

QT: Yeah, boy (laughs)

Sebastian: That was gross, people screamed. Not sure if it was that moment but there was someone sitting close to me, choking on her hotdog.

QT: Haha, choking on a hot dog. Perfect. (laughs)

Sebastian: Don't eat when you're watching a zombie movie.

QT: Yeah especially when you're watching extending dicks, you may wanna lay off the hot dog.

Sebastian: Yeah speaking of hot dogs...

QT: (laughs)

Sebastian: Getting back to the exploitation stuff. You started Rolling Thunder Pictures in the late 90s, and now I'm thinking that might've been too early.

QT: Yeah, I know

Sebastian: ... Coz now you'd have all the momentum, after Kill Bill and so on. And they canceled it back then, but now it would be the perfect timing.

QT: Yeah I ended up pulling the plug on it because it ended up being mostly a frustration, not fulfillment, because of mostly all the reasons you've been saying. Yeah, I think that idea actually ended up being way before its time. But what's nice now is, you know, well we'll see how well the movie does, but I think one thing will be for sure is, we'd actually set up this grindhouse label. And one of the things we were talking about doing is, we could do a couple of cheapy, fun, straight to DVD kind of movies. Me and Robert can do another big grindhouse again, working with different genres than this time, if we want. But one of the other things is, I can re-release some of these other cool, just like with Rolling Thunder, some of these cool exploitation movies that we have, and do exactly like we do it here, release them under the grind house thing, double features, the same cool trailers, all petted by me, and the stardom, in between. And it would be the same thing, but actual real legitimate grindhouse movies. So I think that's the way to go, as far as like, you know, video/dvd releasings of these old films go.

Sebastian: There have been a bunch of releases after Kill Bill came out, for example a DVD box called Kill Chiba

QT: Oh yeah yeah

Sebastian: Looked like the Kill Bill DVD, with three Sonny Chiba movies in it.

QT: Oh I know, yeah

Sebastian: And all these companies like Blue Underground, and they're releasing all these movies already, and ...

QT: Synapse, yeah.

Sebastian: They released They Call her One Eye.

QT: I know, oh man. Thriller.

Sebastian: People buy it.

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QT: Oh you better believe it, man. I mean to me those are like some of the hottest selling in the ... these grind house movies and these giallo, the sergio martino giallo collection has come out. All these Fernando diLeo movies coming out of Italy are coming out on DVD. And these are the hottest shit out there. That is so cool, and they really totally found an audience. It's like the floodgates are open now.

Sebastian: Just like with the spaghetti westerns. A lot of stuff is out on bootlegs, but good ones. Because no big studio is putting them out usually.

QT: Yeah you gotta, look for, out of Japan, they released a whole big spaghetti western collection

Sebastian: The .. maccaroni...

QT: Yeah the Maccaroni Western Bible...

Sebastian: Those are expensive!

QT: Yeah but what's really good about them, they have all the Giuliano Gemma ones, especially the ones he did with that director Calvin Jackson Padget, who's a really cool spaghetti western director. So you get a lot of those from them.

Sebastian: It's amazing, those just keep getting released. But it's always just a niche market, just fans like you and me buying them. I look at my website and wonder why I am still “in business”

QT: But I question how niche it is. But you go to the Virgin Megastore, Amoeba or any of these big places. I'm not talking about, you know, Best Buy. But these big DVD stores, you go in there, and it's like, there's like an entire wall of those movies, and that's this big thing they're pushing. So, how niche is it, when have so much prominent store space in the virgin megastore.

Sebastian: Yes, I'm wondering, too. Because those are one of the greatest movies ever. If I watch Once Upon a Time in the West, I wonder how can that be niche....

QT: Okay as far as I'm concerned, The Good The Bad and the Ugly is for my money, the best movie ever made.

Sebastian: See, I'm the other way around on those.

QT: Yeah to me its about The Good the Bad and the Ugly, but I love Once Upon a Time in the West, too.

(taking pictures)

QT(to the assistant): Hey, it's going on my website, his website... for me...

(done taking pictures)

Sebastian: Cool, thank you so very much.

QT: Thanks a whole bunch, man. I really appreciate what you do.

Sebastian: I never knew you looked at it.

QT: Well, I never do the talk back and stuff, I read it... but actually you're my go-to-guy to take the temperature of what's going on out there. And I know you're doing it out of the love of your heart, so I just wanted to know I really appreciate it.

Sebastian: Thank you very much

QT: Thank you.

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