Press Conference – Quentin Tarantino
1. What’s the eureka moment when you realise you have a movie after you’ve had a project for such along time, after muting so many ideas?
That’s a really good question, one of the things about it was, when I decided to chuck the first storyline which was the one that was turning it into this mini series idea, and I came up with something that was more of a movie idea which was the Fredrick Zollar film premiere and they plot to blow the place up. I was so nervous that I could still make it a movie and so what I did, I knew I didn’t want the movie to be any longer than ‘Pulp Fiction’ and it isn’t longer than ‘Pulp Fiction’ and the only way I could do that was to make sure the script wasn’t any longer, and that was something I had really gotten out of the habit of doing, starting from ‘Jackie Brown’ to ‘Kill Bill’ I didn’t censor myself at all when I was writing, I wasn’t writing for a Production Manager, I thought I’m a writer, I’m gonna write, cut to ‘Kill Bill’ volumes one and two. So what I did was, I had a copy of the script for ‘Pulp Fiction’ always next to me and as I was writing my story, I’d get maybe twenty pages done, and then I’d look at the ‘Pulp Fiction’ script and go where was I at page forty two on ‘Pulp Fiction’, ok I was at this place and where am I now and how much more story do I have to tell, so it’s the closest I’ve ever come to policing my own work, but it was simply in an effort for the thing not to become elephantine, especially as I knew I was trying to get done in time for Cannes I wouldn’t have all the time in the world, I really didn’t have time to shoot a load of stuff that I wouldn’t even use, but that happened anyway.
It wasn’t until I got into the third act that I thought this is going to work, it wasn’t like I had another hour infront of me, no I think I can wrap this up in a movie form.
2. How machiavellian are you about your career, or do you have it planned out what you are going to do at different points in your career?
That’s a very insightful question actually, it’s kind of a mix of the two, which I think it’s the way it should be, whatever turns me on to write the story is what turns me on to write the story. I guess if I was too machiavellian about it, I wouldn’t have done ‘Grind House’ with Robert, in that case I just wanted to do it, it seemed like a fun thing to do, we didn’t know it was going to turn into this year long thing and turn into this big deal, it was supposed to be this cool little fun thing we were going to do over the summer, so we kinda got derailed from what our initial idea was, as far as I’m concerned but that didn’t bother me as I’m a big far of the movie. So if I’m interested in the movie and I wanna do it, at the same time I’m thinking about my career, I’m thinking about my filmography, I believe that a film maker lives and dies by their filmography, and if you muck about too much then you’ve cheapened your whole artistic standing. I admire directors, who retire at a certain age, they don’t cheapen their filmography with limp dick old man movies, so that was the thing behind the idea of saying the fourth film by Quentin Tarantino, I’m not counting them in that way anymore, but your first movie is your first movie and there’s something special about that, and your second movie is your second movie and the fact that ‘Kill Bill’ was my first movie in six years was a big deal. So I was thinking of it in terms like that, and I probably will think interms like that cause I am a student of cinema and I’ve seen where directors have gone wrong, at least where I think, where they’ve gone off track or off the road or lost that excitement about their work that there was before, and I don’t want that to happen.
3. What films inspired you when making this film?
There wasn’t any specific movies that I drew inspiration from, it was more genres and sub genres and the spirits of films that was inspiring to me.
What was interesting to me though, what was inspiring to me at the beginning, became very passé. What I took true inspiration from was something I hadn’t thought about, not stylistic inspiration, just inspiration. For example when I first sat down to write the film, I was thinking of a bunch of guys on a mission genre. What was really inspiring to me was alot of the movies made in the forties, that people despairingly called American propaganda movies and I don’t like that term because I really like those movies, most of them are done by foreign directors who are now living in Hollywood because they couldn’t live in their home countries because the Nazi’s had occupied them and in that case you’re talking about Jean Renoir with ‘This Land is Mine’, your talking about Fritz Lang with ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Hangmen Also Die’, you’re talking about Jules Dassin with ‘Nazi Agent’ and ‘A Reunion in France’ you’re talking Douglas Sirk with ‘Hitler’s Madmen’ and one of my favourites that I discovered that I hadn’t heard of before was a Russian director working out of France called Léonide Moguy who did ‘Paris After Dark’ about the Paris underground, the interesting thing is that almost al these movies star George Sanders. What was also interesting to me was all these movies were made at exactly the time of World War Two when the Nazi’s weren’t this theoretical evil boogeyman from the past, but was actually a threat, this was actually going on on the planet Earth, and not only that, many of these directors actually had personal experiences with the Nazi’s, and I’m sure all of them were living in exile, these directors obviously had people that they were concerned about back in their home countries, yet these movies are entertaining,thrilling and quite alot of humour, particularly ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ by Ernst Lubitsch so the thing is all these movies are so literate, the dialogue is just fantastic. These are the movies that I got tremendous amounts of inspiration from not stylistic wise, I didn’t shoot it in black an white and I didn’t try to re create them, I may be inspired by their sense of set design, because that was the way I was gonna go and build sets. But there’s nothing stylistically that can link my movie to theirs other than entertainment value.
4. The last line of the movie was that always in the script and do you see this movie as your master piece?
I didn’t have that line, until it came the time to write that line, so when I was writing that scene that was the line he said, so yes it was definitely in the script, it wasn’t the last line I wrote in the script but it was in the script.
Not to be coy, it’s not for me to say, I mean it’s not for the chicken to speak of his own soup, and if I were to have that opinion then it wouldn’t be until three years from now when I look back on it.
5. Obviously, Hitler meets a very grizzly end in the movie, when did you decide exactly how Hitler would die?
Well, literally it wasn’t until I was up against it, just heading into the climax of the piece, I had no intention of doing that before.
When you’re writing a scenario, you have many roads available to you that the character could go down, they could go this way or that way or this way, and in particular screen writers have a habit of putting in road blocks against those roads cause they can’t afford for their characters to go down that road, cause they are trying to write a movie or sell a script or something like that. I’ve never put that sort of imposition on my characters of where they go I follow. Now when I came to write this movie, I came up against those road blocks and one of them in particular was history itself, and I was more or less prepared to honour that, until I actually came up against it, and I go no I refuse, I’ve never done that before and I’m not about to start, and what I mean by that is this, my characters don’t know they’re a part of history, history has not been written yet, they don’t know there are things they can and can’t do, there are no can or cants, there’s only action and re action.
Some people have asked me ‘is this movie a fairy tale?’ and yes, it does start ‘chapter one, once upon a time in Nazi occupied France’, so if you want to look at it that way then look at it that way, I think the movie works really well in that regard. I personally don’t look at it that way, the way I look at it is this, my characters change the course of history, now that didn’t happen cause my characters didn’t exist, but if they had existed then what happens is quite plausible.
6. Why did you put a film critic character in the movie, and did you take any pleasure in killing him off?
Not at all, for one, I don’t have any bones to pick with critics, infact, if I wasn’t a film maker, I would probably be a film critic, most of my bone is that I would be a better film critic than most of the film critics I read. Talk about kick a dog when it’s down, I never thought that some of the critics that I’ve grown up reading and admiring are going the way of the dodo bird, I think it’s a really sad time what’s happening to them now. No I love Archie, Archie Hicox is awesome, he’s terrific and it’s not just some weird flight of fancy, I vaguely based the idea on Graham Greene, who was a film critic but also a commando, and it just makes sense, cause he would be somebody as an expert that could mix it up with the hoy paloy at a Third Reich film shindig, so I thought it was a very clever way of doing the mission.
7. Having a film in development for over ten years, and now seeing your vision on screen what are the moments that you are most proud of?
I’ll boil it down to the two match heads, and that would be the opening chapter, that was everything I could’ve ever hoped it would be, and that’s a three way collaboration I definitely did my job when I wrote it but it would’ve been nothing without Christoph Waltz and Denis Menochet, they were just impeccable, the other moment in the movie that I’m cinematically proud of, that came out exactly the way that I had it in my head, I almost can’t believe it got nailed to such a degree is the sequence in the projection booth between Shosanna and Zoller, the music, the slow motion, the camera coming up to this sort of twisted Romeo and Juliet type of cablo on the floor as the film reel continues to go on, and they are still alive although we see them dead but live on in film, that is the moment I go ‘oh my god’.
8. After so long writing the film, was it a challenge to stop making it?
That was the problem earlier on when I was writing it, I had the opposite of writers block, I couldn’t stop writing, I couldn’t shut my brain off, I couldn’t just get on with it, I kept coming up with new things, that’s why I had to put it aside.
When I went back to it, I didn’t want to be in the situation where I was with ‘Kill Bill’, don’t get me wrong, I love ‘Kill Bill’ but I didn’t want it to be be Basterds one and Basterds two. So I forced myself to use a discipline that I haven’t imposed on myself in such a long time, so I would write these big long scenes but I was writing towards the end, I was on a train and I was trying to get into the station.
9. How early on do you music choices come to you and how important is music to you in your films?
Music is very important in my movies, it kind of happens in a three way stage, in some ways, the most important stage and whether it makes it into the movie or not, one of the most important stages is when I just have the idea itself, before I even start writing, I go into my record room, I have big vinyl collection and I have a room set up like a used record store and I just dive into my music, whether it be rock music, lyric music or my soundtrack collection, and what I’m looking for is the spirit of the movie, for the beat the movie will play with. What I’m trying to do in a way is jump to the screening process, cause when I find the right bit of music, and it’s usually for big stuff, like the opening credits or some giant set piece, I can visualise myself in a movie theatre and watching it on screen and the images are provided by my imagination, the music is right there and I’m cranking it. All the way through the writing process, I’m always going back there to reinvigorate myself, and to remind myself that it’s not just words on a page, I’m a very precious writer, I can get real caught up into that and that process goes on during shooting, that’s the second wave. The third wave is when I’m editing, and sometimes there’s a piece that’s not quite right when you put it up there with the images, so you find something else. What’s interesting about doing it during the editing process is that it becomes less about the big moments, now it’s the small moments that need a bit of musical accompaniment.