Quentin Tarantino: Report From Dunhill's A Life In Pictures Event
Posted on Tuesday January 12, 2010, 14:19 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Quentin Tarantino braved the cold snap to spend the past weekend in London, culminating in a talk at Bafta last night as part of the Dunhill's A Life In Pictures series. Hosted by Francine Stock, a literally well-heeled Radio 4 presenter who began gamely and trailed off as her interest in QT's output seemed to visibly diminish (much like the host of Tarantino's Lecon De Cinema in Cannes two years ago), the evening offered some fascinating insights into the director's life and career. Particularly good were the nuggets from Tarantino's early life: how the movies were a cheap babysitter for him, his stint as an usher in a Boogie Nights-style 35mm porno cinema, and his attempts to write a book of director interviews that he intended to publish under a provocative French title. After that, of course, came Reservoir Dogs, and Tarantino embarked on a lengthy anecdote about veteran actor Lawrence Tierney, whose craziness actually landed him in jail after a violent on-set row, forcing Tarantino to rearrange the shooting schedule around Tierney's parole.
One surprisingly honest section found Tarantino recalling how poor he'd been in the early days, surviving on minimum wage – around $10,000 a year – which made the $50,000 he made from Dogs seem more like $500,000. He explained how the money took him to Europe, where his experiences fed directly into his follow-up film's classic “Royale With Cheese” scene. Kill Bill was then set to be his next film, but because of Four Rooms and from Dusk Till Dawn, QT was sidetracked. It's interesting to wonder what that version of Kill Bill would have looked like, since the martial arts element hadn't yet been in added to the mix. We then moved on to Jackie Brown, with Tarantino telling his oft-told anecdote about being caught shoplifting Elmore Leonard's The Switch from K-Mart. More significantly, he revealed that he once thought every other movie he made would be an Elmore Leonard adaptation, citing the writer as a major influence on his dialogue.
The revamped Kill Bill films followed, with Tarantino revealing that the decision to shoot Beatrix Kiddo on her wedding day came from Uma Thurman herself. The director also had some harsh words for the logistics team on that film, who grossly underestimated the production schedule, although he painted Harvey Weinstein in glowing colours when he revealed that the angry exec, who many feared would pull the plug on the over-budget film, called to say, “Keep going,” after editor Sally Menke showed him the fight scene in the snow between The Bride and O-Ren-Ishii.
By now, QT was in full flow, and the host was starting to panic over time, which meant that the Grindhouse/Death Proof saga wasn't really addressed in any detail. We did, however, get to rake over the dull old 'movie violence' debate before galloping on to Inglourious Basterds and an even more boring question about the curious spelling. This left about 15 minutes for audience questions, of the usual, rambling kind, before Stock decided to end with a clearly improvised question that she hadn't really thought through. Riffing on accusations that QT is a pastiche artist, something that famously rankles with him, Stock put it to him that being so referential suggests that the best of film culture is already behind us. For a second thinking she was saying HIS best work was behind him, Tarantino rallied to defend himself and cinema in general, talking about the disparity between films that are popular at the time and the ones that are later deemed masterpieces. Philosophically, he decided that if cinema produces just one masterpiece a year, that ought to be enough.
And with that, Tarantino was gone, flashing the peace sign, bowing, then jumping into a cab back to his hotel. As for future projects, Stock didn't get a chance to ask. Empire did, however. In the afternoon, the director spoke to us for an exclusive, top-secret article that will appear in our 250th issue. Perhaps predictably, he declined to commit himself. “I can't talk about it,” he said. “I can't tell you, I've got to start writing it first.” However, he did suggest that is a grain of truth in rumours that the film after the next one will be the third volume of The Bride's adventures. “[After Kill Bill Vol 2] I said I would do Kill Bill 3 ten years from now,” he grinned. “And we're not there yet!”