QUENTIN TARANTINO: INTERVIEWS
A BRIEF TALK WITH QUENTIN TARANTINO
Montreal World Film Festival - August 1992
Q- Your publicity biography lists you in the cast of Jean-Luc Godard's King Lear.
A- It's a lie. I put it on my resume as an actor, and said I was in that, because nobody would ever see the film.
Q- Were you intimidated by the Reservoir Dogs cast?
A- Good actors don't intimidate me. After two weeks of rehearsal, they were ready to pop. They had some egos there, but they left them at the door.
Q- Could you talk about casting Hollywood "B" veteran Lawrence Tierney in Reservoir Dogs as the gang's mastermind, Joe Cabot. He's someone who has been in a lot of trouble in his personal life.
A- I met him at a party at the Actors' Studio. He's an older guy, and had only so much to give in terms of stamina. He's a good guy, but he can slow you up 30%. He's alternately a teddy bear and a grizzly bear. He had a gun-firing incident. Do you remember his 1947 film, The Devil Thumbs a Ride? That could almost be entitled The Lawrence Tierney Story.
Q- What's the connection of director Monte Hellman, the cult film director of The Shooting and Two-Lane Blacktop, to Reservoir Dogs?
A- He's worked on all these different projects that didn't happen. Three years ago, he made a film called Iguana, that never got released. A mutual friend gave Monte the script of Reservoir Dogs, and he wanted to direct it. We went to CC Brown, an ice-cream parlor, and I said to him, "As much an honor as that would be, this one is mine." "Well, OK." We continued eating ice cream. He said, "I'll be executive producer." He'd show up on the set every once in a while, and he gave the film to Tony Safford, who submitted it to Sundance.
I probably would write something for Monte to direct, possibly a remake of his western Ride the Whirlwind set in the 1930s.
Q- You've mentioned John Carpenter's claustrophobic redoing of The Thing as an influence on Reservoir Dogs.
A- One of the great remakes ever made: see The Thing again! Kurt Russell is just excellent. I've never met him: hopefully, he'll read this! And I should say that John Woo is also inspirational.
Q- Describe yourself at age 29.
A- I'm first and foremost a film geek, and making movies is a film geek's dream. All I ever spend money on is movie posters, videotapes, and books. Now I can buy a ton of film books, and they're all tax deductible.
When I was 18 or 19, I was going to write a book on genre filmmakers--John Flynn, Joe Dante, John Milius, Richard Franklin--and engage them in a conversation with movies. My four favorite directors in the world are DePalma, Leone, Godard, and Howard Hawks. I once had a dream that I was invited to a party at Hawks's house. Robert Mitchum was on a balcony and said, "You're here to see the old man." Hawks was on a patio with John Wayne. He said, "Hey, Quentin, come down, kid." I woke up. I was sad, it was so real.
Q- Has Sam Fuller seen Reservoir Dogs?
A- We hung out together, and he rips up your movie: "You make a movie for idiots! Too much gibble-gabble! Too much talk! Harvey Keitel? He's not an actor! He's a planet!"
Q- And Michael Madsen as an actor?
A- Michael conjures up so much to people: a handsome Neville Brand, Robert Mitchum in Thunder Road. Michael reminds me of Michael Parks, who, in the TV show, Then Came Bronson, is the greatest living actor!
Q- And when Madsen's dancing about, before the famous razor blade scene?
A- I love the time he takes playing the tape. He was great. It's my favorite scene in the movie. A female director said to me, 'What's scary about it is how much you enjoyed it." Early on, Harvey Weinstein of Miramax asked, "What do you think about taking the torture scene out?" Cut it out? I wouldn't. "Look," I said, "it's part of the movie, for people who appreciate the whole package." If violence is part of your palette, you have to be free to go where your heart takes you.
Sure, I think the scene is pretty horrible. I didn't make it for yahoos to hoot and holler. It's supposed to be terrible. But I didn't show it to convey a message. I don't think Stanley Kubrick was condemning violence in Clockwork Orange. He wanted to film that stuff. It was cinematically exciting. He loved mocking "Singin' in the Rain."
Clint Eastwood fortunately decided to finish The Unforgiven in the right way, by taking everyone out. Did you see Patriot Games? It's a revenge movie, but they don't let Harrison Ford get to kill the bad guy at the end. The guy falls on a shovel, which is an asinine, chicken-shit way to kill the villain. They should go to movie jail for this! The only way to end it is for Harrison Ford to beat this guy to death.
Q- What about the comparisons of you and Scorsese?
A- Like him, I like mixing fast-cutting scenes and more deliberate ones, and I'm very particular with the frame. But he's almost a stone around young filmmakers' necks. So many new films are aping Scorsese. I don't want to be a poor man's Scorsese.
(An unpublished talk with this book's editor.)