My interview with Quentin Tarantino pt. 2

My second session with Quentin Tarantino about Inglourious Basterds. Read the first part here. Read the original story here (in Norwegian).

Why did you want to do a World War II Movie?

QT: World War II is the biggest event in the 20th century. I’m not a world war aficionado, but I have a very good working knowledge of it. I’m an academic at heart, even though I quit school at a very young age. I read a lot of books about the subject, and I didn’t have a researcher who read the books and broke down the information. I’m a one man band that way.

There is a lot of things you can know intellectually, but you read about what exactly happened, you know of it and understand in another way. You understand it, you feel it. This research was very eye-opening. I’m different now. I did a tremendous amount of research of something that ended up never being in the movie: how black troops were deployed in a segregated army, about them in training in America and what happened to them overseas. That was really a gigantic eye-opening experience. I knew about racism at that time in America, that’s just intellectual knowledge, but to actually learn about it and realise the depths of it, untill the civil rights laws were passed in 1967! The true depth of the second class citizenship that blacks in America experienced, until my own lifetime. It opened up my eyes to a lot.

You actually ended up rewriting history in the movie?

QT: I didn’t plan on doing it. I had an idea where I was going, but it’s like when you don’t have directions to a friend’s house, but you’ve been there before: You’ll get going, figure it out, remember something and you’ll find your way there. That’s kind of how I structure my stories. I have an idea where I’m going, but I really want the characters to take me there.

I don’t want to take the lead, my characters have to take the lead, and I follow them. You’re using your scenario as the main road, but many times you’ll meet a fork or a roadblock in the road.  So now I’m doing this movie, and history itself was the roadblocks. What the hell am I doing? My characters don’t care. They’re free to change history, and that’s what happens. This is a western, it doesn’t have to be historically articulate. My characters changed the course of history.

Did you read war comics growing up?

QT: Yes! I never got into Sgt. Rock, but I was really into Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, the Marvel version of Sgt. Rock. I imagined doing a movie version when I was a kid, and I do a shot at Sgt Fury in True Romance. I was always attracted to comic books that read more like movies, as opposed to the more fantastical comics. I couldn’t imagine making a movie out of Dr. Strange, that was too wild. I read Werewolf By Night, Sgt. Fury and westerns like Kid Colt or Two-Gun Kid, theya all seemed like movies.

In the movie you show us the Germans as cultural people, while the American soldiers are more brutal and barbaric.

QT: It’s more a situation of what’s on the surface. On one hand you can say that Hans Landa is cultured and refined, but he has a ton of agendas that aren’t on the surface. Everything he does, he does for an effect. He’s talking to you , because he wants to get something out of you. Everything he does is a piece of theatre, to put you on ease or on edge.

An example: In the opening scene, who says he smokes a pipe at all? He knows the farmer LaPatit smokes a pipe, so he brings a pipe with him as a prop to annoy him. And what does he bring? He brings the Kalabash, the Sherlock Holmes pipe. «I fucking know what’s going on, don’t think that I don’t.» It’s all a piece of theatre, and the same goes for Aldo (Brad Pitt’s character).

What Aldo does is theatre. Aldo is very, very intelligent, but he doesn’t play the cultured guy, he plays the hillbilly, he plays the illiterate. But just listen to his dialogue, you realise he’s not illiterate, he’s just as mush a a wordsmith as Landa is, but in a different way. He’s creating a different illusion for what’s going on behind him. Everything he does, is also a piece of theatre, according to who he’s dealing with whoever he wants to deal with.

I love these characters, they are very interesting.

You have always used music from other movies as your soundtrack, but this time all the music is from other movies.

QT: I have different feelings about it. I don’t wanna hire a composer, so if I wanna use music, it will probably be taken from something that I know, or like and have. I just don’t wanna hire composers and give them that kind of power. I don’t wanna hear the music at the end of the day, I wanna hear the music before the day. I wanna choose the music myself.

I truly don’t understand [whispers] how other directors do that, it’s unfathomable that you would let somebody else have that kind of power over your movie, I just do not understand it.

It doesn’t really make any sense for me, it would make sense to do what I do, and that’s why I do it. Never say never, but I wouldn’t probably have someone in a movie takes place in 1943, and having a David Bowie song out of the radio. Like The Rolling Stones’ «Satisfaction» out of a 1944 radio. However, any music that I put in the movie, that’s not source music, but over the soundtrack, that’s score. That’s my choice, I could have rap music, anything I want. If it’s score that’s not being practically played in the room for the characters, I could play anything I want, it’s just up for me to pull it off. (For instance Tarantino uses David Bowie’s «Cat People» in a scene in the movie.)


It sometimes seems that you want to remind the audience that they’re watching a movie, with tools like voiceover, chapter titles and pointers.

QT: Well, I don’t know if I’m trying to remind the audience that they’re watching a movie, but I have never watched a movie and didn’t know that I’m watching a movie. That sounds smartass, but it’s true. Every book I’ve read, I knew I was reading a book, every movie I’ve ever seen, I knew I was watching a movie, however caught up in it I was. You always know you’re watching a movie when you’re watching a movie. I always want to have the freedom to do whatever I want. And many serious movies have very pansy voiceovers.

But maybe you want to remind the audience that they’re watching a Quentin Tarantino movie?

QT: I use my tools so that I don’t waste time, so that I tell the story as easily as I can. In the case of the scene at the movie theatre, they bring up quite a few times that Goebbels, Goering, Bormann and Hitler will be attending the show. And I could show many conversations to tell this, but who wants to watch that shit? I just point an arrow, there’s Goering, and that’s it. No wasting time, there’s Bormann, arrow. I really believe in making it simple, instead of machinations and bending over backwards.

But the movie also include a discussion about Mexican standoffs, and a Cinderella scene, your typical ladies’ shoe scene. This don’t happens anywhere else than in Tarantino movies?

QT: Again, that came organic when writing the script. That was one of those things I didn’t plan on, and also one of my staples. I’ve used the Mexican standoff many times in the past, it’s my equivavelent of the Sergio Leone showdown. I didn’t know that this movie would have any, but all of a sudden it happened, they all had guns under the table pointed at each other, but I didn’t know that this would happen before it happened. I didn’t try to push my themes into the movie, my themes just organically rose, and I felt very excited.

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  3. […] You’re using your scenario as the main road, but many times you’ll meet a fork or a roadblock in the road. So now I’m doing this movie, and history itself was the roadblocks. What the hell am I doing? My characters don’t care. … Like The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” out of a 1944 radio. However, any music that I put in the movie, that’s not source music, but over the soundtrack, that’s score. That’s my choice, I could have rap music, anything I want. …Continue Reading […]

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