Like the movies he creates, Quentin Tarantino is larger than life. Any real cinephile needs no introduction to the auteur. I’ve had the pleasure twice now to talk with this genuine top bloke.
You always shoot your movies on film. How was the step up experience and challenge of shooting in 70mm format?
Quentin Tarantino: You’re right; it was a step up. Shooting it on 70mm was the big trick (I would never shoot on digital), but I never had any reservations about that choice whatsoever. Rather I felt so fortunate I was able to do something like this.
The last time we spoke you mentioned you had a print of my favorite western Soldier Blue. Is it still in your archives?
Yes, indeed but it is a beautiful 16mm print, not 35mm. I would love to have a 35mm to screen at New Beverly. Curating the program is one of the best things I do in life.
The old style film company logos are a highlight at the beginning.
Yes exactly, funny story, on Django Unchained, I used the 1970s Columbia Pictures logo that doesn’t look like Annette Bening, and when I showed Columbia President Amy Pascal she said, “I don’t know why we just don’t use that one all the time.” Now, for Hateful Eight, the Weinstein Company does not have an old logo, so I actually created a vintage-like 1969 era logo as if the Weinstein’s would have been around that long.
Harsh conditions must have proved difficult in the shoot; the blizzard became its own character. Did the snow fall on cue?
No, it didn’t. We had to juggle scenes in editing to keep things consistent, but like you said, the blizzard, snow and weather are characters. That’s why we went all the way to Colorado to capture that. Although what happened upon arrival was we could not really predict the weather more than three days in advance. When it came to that beautiful snowfall such as the opening sequence, that happened but did not occur again for 2 weeks, so often it meant we had to wait two weeks before shooting the other side of the scene. If it was foggy or cloudy, then we were in the stagecoach shooting. It wasn’t about shooting with gorgeous snow on one side then fake it with phoney snow on that side, I don’t operate like that. Challenging, but worth it.
The close ups are crisp and long takes are equally as riveting throughout.
Panavision came up with unheard of until now 2000 foot mags so we could shoot for up to 11 minutes at a time.
Your screenplays are awash with nasty shocks of violent acts laced with unexpected black comedy.
It is the way I write; I can’t really quite help that there is a dark sense of humor, which runs through my work. I do hear laughs when I am writing a movie, imagining watching it with audiences with laughter here or there. The laughter in the auditorium is part of the rhythm of the soundtrack, to me almost like the music, the dialogue or sound effects. Whenever I watch a movie with an audience that do not know they are supposed to laugh, that’s excruciating for me. However having said that, Hateful Eight is the first movie I pulled back on some of the humor, not in the writing but in the editing. I left certain really good jokes out and I NEVER leave really good jokes out, if I got a good joke I’m using it alright! (laughs) I pulled back to keep the suspense stretching.
I have no issue with the length of your films. Does producer Harvey Weinstein?
No not on this one, he may have in the past. This one was always meant to be that way, the experience, he has probably never read any of my scripts more than he had read this one. This was the material, so it was not a situation of let’s take this material then mould it into a movie. It was let’s make a movie about this exact material.
Do you have an alternate version when someone else put poison in the coffee?
No, but I did have a couple of different versions of the breakdown at the end of who’s left standing in some degree or another, actually nobody is left standing but you know what I’m trying to say, left lying. (laughs)
Courtney Hoffman created amazing costumes. Did you outline all the characters signature looks?
I had a huge idea about what I wanted, some of those were written exactly into script, others I was very open wanting her to deliver. For instance Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) is my conception of the red tie, black suit with the army coat and so forth is how I wanted him to look very much like Lee Van Cleef while his character becomes Columbo. However Courtney came up with a buffalo coat on John Ruth that’s as much of his character as almost anything I wrote, same with Mexican Bob, that coat of many cats that was completely Courtney’s.
I couldn’t imagine anyone else other than Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy, though did you consider any other talent, maybe Uma Thurman?
Didn’t consider Uma, I didn’t see her as Daisy. I would look for almost any excuse to work with her but simply did not see her as Daisy. She did actually ask me and I said “I just don’t see you as this character; you’re not like this character.” Then her eyes beamed open responding “I am not like the Bride either.” Then I told her her she has the huge benefit of looking like the Bride (laughs). In the case of Jennifer, I did have a couple of actresses that came into audition that we seriously considered, but Jennifer nailed it. By seeing her read for Daisy, it made me go back to watch a bunch of her films from the ’90s, my own little Jennifer Jason Leigh film festival. I knew then I wanted that kind of big strong performance playing Daisy.
I’m assuming she actually remained chained to Kurt Russell throughout most scenes.
She certainly did for the most part, maybe she never had more fun in the freezing weather covered in blood wearing a costume weighing 100 pounds. (laughs)
Was I dreaming at a certain point, John Ruth showed a glimpse of respect to Daisy?
Part of his brutality is based on the fact he brings people in alive. Not a spring chicken, he has been doing this for a long time so there is a reason that Major Warren exclaims, “Forget about us; this guy does this thing when none of us do that!” The only reason he is able to do it is to beat the hell out of his prisoners all the way until they get to the hangman’s town so they don’t try to escape or kill him, keeping them subjugated. So, yes, Shane, you got it, over a course of time they became a sort of George and Martha, the dysfunctional couple.
Your movies are mostly a type of historical view. Have you thought about going forward and writing a movie set in the future?
Great question, Shane, I’ve never really thought of that; it’s profound thinking. Spaceships and galaxies I do appreciate, but it is not the dramatization I look at, so in other ways maybe.
The term Hitchcockian came out for many ’80s or ’90s thrillers; Hand that Rocks the Cradle comes to mind. How do you feel about a movie described as Tarantino-esque?
Huge compliment. Humbling, I am always very excited about that, also feel a little sorry for whoever they are referring to because it means they might be slagging them off a bit (laughs). Seriously, to have a style that people recognize or like was one of the dreams when I started off.
How do you feel about the other end of the spectrum of filmmaking to you where an iPhone can be used to shoot a movie, such as Tangerine?
I don’t want to do it that way, but it’s incredibly clever what they ended up doing on that. You see there is 70mm over here, then somebody making a movie with an iPhone over here, I have a problem with the middle ground of shooting movies with cameras that should be used to make game shows or soap operas with. So when you come to that level of iPhones, it can be a magnificent thing that’s democratizing film in a way it has never been done before. In a world where basically any kid can get an iPhone to shoot their story and get it out there in a way they may have never before been able to, it’s a wonderful democratizing aspect to our entire industry. However, I think this middle ground is a detriment to craftsmanship before our very eyes; we are losing the skills you had to have when making movies when using film.
What talent have you not worked with but would like to write for on a future film?
There are a few, but I don’t know about next, as I have to write the correct character for them, in particularly to work with Al Pacino, hear him say my dialogue. Also would love-love-love to work with Kate Winslet, she is one of the greatest actresses of our time.
Was the narration in Hateful Eight a way to suddenly introduce Channing Tatum’s character?
No, just a nice little thing after the intermission to catch you up again. People keep saying, it was weird this narration popped in and wasn’t all the way through… you know I just don’t think like that. It’s a film device that you can use when you want to, not constantly. When Uma drew that square in the middle of Pulp Fiction, we never did that again because we never needed to.
Forecast for the next film from Quentin Tarantino? Possibly Kill Bill Volume 3?
No idea as of yet, but I do like the idea of Kill Bill.