The Director's Chair Interviews
Quentin Tarantino on The
Charlie Rose Show
October 14, 1994
CHARLIE ROSE, Host: Welcome to our broadcast. Tonight, we will spend the hour with the writer and director, Quentin Tarantino. In one of the tensest scenes in any movie this year, a gangster played by John Travolta drives his boss' wife, who is near death after an overdose, to the home of a drug dealer in the middle of the night. She needs an adrenalin shot to the heart, but neither Travolta nor the drug dealer have ever administered one. The men fight about who is responsible for the OD before Travolta plunges a needle into the chest of the comatose girl. Pulp Fiction, which won the top prize at Cannes this year, is the second film written and directed by Tarantino, a self-described movie geek, who spent five years working at a video rental store. Pulp Fiction opened the New York Film Festival in September. It stars John Travolta, Samuel Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, and Harvey Keitel. And we are pleased to have the director right here, Quentin Tarantino. Thank you for coming.
QUENTIN TARANTINO; Director, Screenwriter: Thank you. I've, I've, I was looking forward to being here for-CR: And saying hello to my table.
QT : Yes, exactly. The table.CR: The table. Everybody, when they talk about you, talk about- you get this sense of a, of a young person, a kid early on falling in love with movies. Is that- is- tell me about it.
QT : Oh, that's- well, that's totally true. I mean, the things is I- it's not as, as bizarre as people keep making it-CR: Yeah.
QT : -or as, as special as people keep making it because like, you know, just remember back when you were in school and stuff, you know, and even in elementary school, there's always- you always have kids that have like a natural inclination towards something.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right. Some kids it's sports, some kids it's studies, some kids it's cars, some kids it's drawing. You know, there's always that kid in the back of the room always-CR: Yeah.
QT : -like drawing, doing sketches. With me it was movies. The only difference is I had kind of this like weird tunnel vision, where it's like once I got into it, I didn't have room for anything else, all right, you know, as a kid. And it was like- and it actually even reflected in my schoolwork, you know.CR: You didn't do so well in school, but you could name every character, every plot line-
QT : Oh, exactly, I-CR: -and, and evaluate every movie.
QT : I couldn't spell anything. I couldn't remember anything, all right, but I could go to a movie and I, I knew who starred in it, who directeded [sic] it, you know, who wrote, who directeded it- who directed it, who wrote it, everything. And it was also- but it, but it's also funny, I've had something - and I guess I still have it to this day - that stopped me in school a little bit, quite a bit, actually, where it's like anything that I'm not interested in-CR: Yeah.
QT : -I can't even feign interest. I can't do just this little bit-CR: Yeah.
QT : -to just get by. So what I would do like in school, for instance, I loved history because to me, in a way, history was like watching a movie. Actually, I had the leg over all the other kids in history because I would see- I'd seen Nicholas and Alexandria [sic] or, you know, watching movies about this or that and the other. To me, that was stories, so I was interested in stories, and I was really interested in reading. All right, so I was like getting like, like A's in history and reading, and, and, and failing miserably in, in other things.CR: And, and when- Did you know then that this is what you wanted to do? You knew you loved them, but did-
QT : Yeah.CR: -you say-
QT : It was the only thing that I-CR: -director, screenwriter. 'Just get me in this-'
QT : Well-CR: '-business. I want to be there.'
QT : Well, it was funny. I didn't say director-screenwriter because I mean, I guess I always knew movies were written, but I didn't know what a director was.CR: Yeah, right.
QT : But actually my, my, my parents, all right, said, 'Oh, he's going to be a director someday,' and everything and I didn't know what that was. I wanted to be an actor because when you're a little kid-CR: Yeah.
QT : -you want to be involved in-CR: You identify with the people on the screen.
QT : -movies. So you say, 'Well, I want to do what they do.' And so all through my childhood, all right, I thought, you know, 'I'm going to be an actor. I'm going to be actor.' And I wanted to be an actor, and the- but oddly enough, though, I remember my, my mom tells stories and I remember them; she doesn't have to remind me of them - where I would like see a movie, and I'd like it. And I used to play with G.I. Joes all the time. You know, I had a whole bunch of G.I. Joes, those dolls, and I would always play movies. Basically, I would just kind of like do my version of whatever I saw, you know-CR: Yeah.
QT : -and then I would like be acting out all the parts with all the G.I. Joes, and I would be like, you know, kind of like directing these little plays just for myself with the G.I. Joes. And the same thing is- like, you know, I would and you know, and I'd see some movie - because I saw all kinds of stuff, not just Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, but like all kinds of like- you know, my mom took me to see Carnal Knowledge and The Wild Bunch and all these kind of movies when I was a kid, and so, like-CR: Because you wanted to do it? Because she wanted-
QT : No, she just, like, 'A movie's a movie.'CR: Yeah, right.
QT : 'There's nothing he's going to see in a movie that's going to mess him up,' you know.CR: Right. Exactly.
QT : And it's like, I mean like- and there are some kids that would be-CR: Is she still saying that?
QT : Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, today she's very happy she did that. Yeah.CR: Yes.
QT : But it's like funny, though, because it was like, I would like, you know, I would act them out like I saw in the movie, so I'd have like, they'd go, 'Aw, you dirty ra-ra-ra-ra,' you know, and 'Oh, you mother-r-ra, ra, ra ra' you know, and being like yelling. ' Quentin, what's going on up there?' you know. 'It's not me, mom. It's them!'CR: Them, yeah.
QT : 'It's the G.I. Joes. That's just the dialogue from the movie.'CR: What was your first job you got?
QT : First job I got, actually. Actually, I had some really seedy jobs for a little kid because I was- I wanted to quit school and become an actor when I was about 16, and my, my mom said, 'Okay, if you're going to quit, you've got to get a job.' Now the fir- actually, the first two jobs I got, actually totally had to do with like the porno industry, all right.CR: Yeah.
QT : You know. And I was like, I'm so not interested in porno films, I can't tell you, all right.CR: Yeah.
QT : But the first job I got was working for this guy who had a bunch of, you know, those newspaper racks with all the, the sex rags in them.CR: Right. Right, right.
QT : Well, he owned a whole bunch of newspaper racks, and what we would do is we- he would drive around all night long in his van, and we would just collect the quarters and put in new papers, all right.CR: Right.
QT : So at first, I did that. That was my first, like, official job job, all right. My second official job was I got a job as an usher at the Pussycat movie theater, all right, in, in Torrance, California.CR: Right.
QT : All right, so I was an usher at this porno movie theater at 16. Lied about my age. And the irony of all ironies is when I was growing up, I always thought, 'Man, being an- ' I mean, forget about being a director. Forget about being an actor.CR: Yeah.
QT : To me the greatest job a person could ever have was being an usher at a movie theater.CR: Right.
QT : You know. You get to go to a movie theater all day long, and then you get to see all the movies for free. All right, well, irony of ironies, I end up getting a job at a movie theater that I could care less about the movies and was totally bored by them.CR: Yeah. And then what?
QT : And then, and then I kind of just went through like a bunch of little like, you know, phone sales job and this little stupid job here and that little stupid job there until eventually, like around age 22, I got a job at a place called Video Archives in Hermosa Beach.CR: This is the famous video store.
QT : It's the- the famous video- Video Archives.CR: Right.
QT : And what was funny about that job was the fact that like people said, 'Oh, so that's kind of like your film school.'CR: Yeah.
QT : Well-CR: That's what they're saying now.
QT : That's exactly what they're saying, and it's become this big-CR: So there a whole bunch of kids who want to be you-
QT : Yes.CR: -are rushing to video stores-
QT : We-CR: -to get a job!
QT : Yeah, now, I don't know if it's that much of a film school. A friend of mine, Roger Avery, who - I just produced a film that he, he directed called Killing Zoe - he's been putting out this theory and the press has been eating it-CR: I know, I know.
QT : -up like it was pudding, all right, you know. And I don't think he believes in it in two seconds, and I don't even believe in it that much, all right. What, what that store was, more or less, is not a film school. It was kind of a, it was- a closer equivalent would be- it was like my Village Voice.CR: Yeah.
QT : And I got to be J. Hoberman. I got to be Andrew Sarris at the store, you know-CR: Right.
QT : -be like the little Mr. Critic-CR: Right.
QT : -you know, at the store, putting films in people's hands and, and arguing my points of why this movie was good or why that movie was bad and everything. But the way I got the job was I- it wasn't like I got this job and all of a sudden saw all these movies, and then just decided to- and then became knowledgeable about them. 'Hey, listen. Let me make some of them.' It was like I got the job because I already was a film expert, so to speak. I mean, that's why they hired me.CR: Because you had just studied on your own-
QT : Yeah.CR: -not because you went to school. But what does your success now say? I'm a reporter, journalist. I mean, there is always this argument, people come to me, 'Should I go to journalism school?' What do you say to those people who are getting ready to go to the University of Southern California-
QT : Right.CR: -or UCLA or NYU Film School, and they look at you and there's no school there.
QT : Right.CR: You are, as they say, quote, self-taught. There was a passion to learn-
QT : Right.CR: -a passion to watch, you know. It came out of you early on, falling in love-
QT : Right. That's-CR: -with film.
QT : Well, that's the most important thing that I think-CR: To love the business.
QT : You have to. You have to. You know, I mean-CR: There's nothing- you don't know what you'd do if you weren't in film?
QT : No, I never set up a situation, I never set up a fall-back situation because I didn't want to fall back, you know. I wanted to have to keep eating at it-CR: Yeah.
QT : -you know? Actually that leads me to a point. Let me say this point and then get back to your question-CR: Okay.
QT : -okay? If, if, if there's one thing that I've done that I'm like the proudest of of everything, all right, is the fact that- people talk about, 'Wow. You've had such success, and it's just been so overnight,' and whatever. Well, whatever success I've got has come after like eight years of just nothing working out as- trying to get a job in film.CR: What didn't work out?
QT : Well, it's like basically what I tried to do was-CR: Give some sense of rejection.
QT : Well, what happened basically was I had tried to make a film- I was around 22, 23. I said, 'Well, you know what?'CR: 'I'm ready.'
QT : 'I'm going to make a film.'CR: Yeah, 'I'm ready.'
QT : All right. 'And I'm going to make- ' You know, most- I had actually met a few different directors by saying I was going to write a book and wanted to interview them, all right, and so I ended up like talking to them. And they all said that they had made their first films by the time they were 30, or around 30 years old is when they made their first film. So I thought, 'Well, okay, well, I'm going to beat that. I'm going to make my first film by the time I'm 26.' And that was my thing, all right: 26, 26. So I started making this movie- I just, I came up with an idea for a short film that I was going to shoot. I was going to shoot it on Super-8. Then I ended up getting somebody's 16mm camera. I was going to shoot it that way. And then I, I shot on it for like about a couple of weekends, and I thought, 'Well, hell, film's kind of cheap and everything like that. Why don't I just shoot it like a feature?' And this was before She's Gotta Have It, all right?CR: Yeah.
QT : Not- it was like after Stranger than Paradise, but before She's Gotta Have It.CR: Right.
QT : And so I just started shooting it that way, and I'm like, 'Well, I'm going to make a feature. I'm going to make a 16mm feature, black and white, and it'll be cool.' So I ended up working for like three years on this movie, and this was going to be my feature, and I was like-CR: Right.
QT : -and I was financing it from working at a video store, so which means was like, I would like get like $200 or so, and then we'd go off and shoot for the weekend, and then, you know, we'd run out of money, and then I would like go back to work again, and then like in- eventually, I would just keep piecing it together. And what you would do is when you're rent equipment from a rental house, if you rent it on Friday, you have it all weekend. It's counted as one-day rental.CR: Yeah, right.
QT : And you have to return it Monday morning. So you would just like, just-CR: Shoot like crazy.
QT : -burn your- I mean, you would just like get old before your time trying to like-CR: Yes, I know.
QT : -you know, shoot all weekend long and give the stuff back. The- I, I- we had so- I didn't have- I had so lis- so little money that I couldn't even process this footage, all right, that I was saying, 'That's way too expensive,' all right. So eventually, I ended up, after like about, about three years, I ended up like starting processing some of the footage and started seeing exactly what I had. And guess what?CR: What?
QT : I did not have at all what I thought-CR: You had no movie!
QT : -had, all right? It was really-CR: How was it different?
QT : It was- it was amateurish.CR: Yeah.
QT : It was real- and not in a charming way, either.CR: It had no charm, did it?
QT : No charm at all. All right, and the thing is-CR: No one said, 'Isn't that cute?'
QT : No. No, no, no, no, no, no. It wasn't like that. Now, there were good things about it, all right. You know, I mean, you could tell I made it.CR: Yeah.
QT : People who knew me could look at- 'Well, that's a Quentin- 'CR: 'That's- Quentin made that.'
QT : '-movie.' Yeah, that's a- that has my spirit in it.CR: You've had that-
QT : It has my personality.CR: -from day one, then.
QT : Yeah. But the thing is, though, it just- it was like this was going to be the thing that like set me up, all right-CR: Yeah.
QT : -and I'd worked three years on it. And the, the- I was able to look at it in a, in a realistic way after being horribly depressed for a little bit, but only a short little bit - was the fact that, well, this was my film school, all right, and this was the best film school a person could possibly have. I mean, I actually, instead of like going to school and paying a ton of money to be allowed to use some of their crappy equipment, all right. I actually went out, and I actually tried to make a, make a, a feature film. All right, now I failed. It was guitar picks when I was finished. But when I looked at the footage- Now, all the stuff I did the first year - which was all the story stuff, all right-CR: Yeah.
QT : -sucked, all right.CR: Right.
QT : All right. But the stuff that I did like the last couple of months-CR: Yeah.
QT : -that wasn't so bad.CR: Had something- Yeah. And what di- what made the difference? What had you learned after you got past the story stuff, and is that what is best about even Pulp Fiction, where you got beyond the story stuff?
QT : Well, no, to me, actually- I actually think one of my strongest, my- one of my strengths is my storytelling-CR: Yeah.
QT : -you know, because I actually com- am committing to telling a story. It was just-CR: Because you're a writer?
QT : More as a viewer.CR: Okay.
QT : More be- more the fact that I just like, you know, I like it when somebody tells me a story, and I actually really feel that that's becoming like a lost art in American cinema.CR: But everybody says about you- I mean, there- other than- I mean, there are things that come out about you. One is a video arcade story, you know, and, and growing up with your mother and loving the movies and seeing- they always talk about Carnal Knowledge and- the other thing that comes out is, is when they talk about you - and I want to talk about this a little bit later - but it is that you in a sense have taken novelistic techniques-
QT : Very much so. Very much so.CR: -and translated them to filmmaking-
QT : Yes, exactly.CR: -to cinema.
QT : No, I know, well that's, well that's the thing is because to me, most movies that you see now - I mean, that used to be thing about America was the fact that Hollywood, forget America - Hollywood. Hollywood used to- that's what we did better than anybody else in the world. We told a really good story.CR: Right, right.
QT : You know, Europe was where you had character-based films, or mood-based films, but in America, we told a story. We're the worst at it now as far as I'm concerned. All right.CR: At telling a story.
QT : At telling a story. We don't tell a story. We tell a situation. Most of the movies that you see nowadays - and I'm not a Hollywood basher because enough good movies come out of the Hollywood system every year to justify its existence, you know, but- without any apologies. However, a good majority of the movies that come out, all right, you pretty much know everything you're going to see in the movie by the first 10 or 20 minutes.CR: Yeah.
QT : Now, that's not a story. A story is something that constantly unfolds. And I'm not talking about like this quick left turn or a quick right turn or a big surprise. I'm talking about it unfolds, all right.CR: Yeah, but you don't believe in a linear-
QT : No.CR: -storytelling.
QT : Well, it's not, you know, it's not so much I don't believe in it-CR: Ah.
QT : -it's the situation.CR: It's too-
QT : I'm- well, it's- No, it's just- it's not the fact that I'm like on this big crusade against linear storytelling, all right, but it's, the thing is it's not the only game in town.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right. I mean, the, the bottom line is, all right, my story line jumps all over the place-CR: Right. Back and forward.
QT : -in Pulp Fiction. Yeah, back and forward. And the thing is, the truth of the matter is if I had written Pulp Fiction as a, as a novel, and I was on your show, you would never even remotely bring up the, the structure.CR: Flashbacks-
QT : -of it.CR: -or whatever it was.
QT : You would, you would never bring it up, all right, because it's like, it- a novel can do that, no problem. Novelists have always had just a complete freedom to pretty much tell their story any way they saw fit, all right. And that's kind of what I'm- you know, that's kind of what I'm trying to do. Now, the thing is for both novels and film 75 percent of the stories you're going to tell will work better on a dramatic basis, on a dramatically engaging basis to be told from a linear way. But there is that 25 percent out there that, you know, can be more resonant by telling it this way. And I think in the case of both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction it's- gains a lot more resonance being told in this kind of like wild way.CR: But is it also because that wild way keeps the audience on the edge of the seat? I mean, you have talked about the use of violence.
QT : Right.CR: -and it is, in a sense, you want there to be, you want that viewer-
QT : Mm-hm.CR: -that person watching your film, experiencing the film, to be on the edge of the seat.
QT : Yeah. Oh, oh, definitely. I mean-CR: But everybody does, but, but you believe that the techniques you employ-
QT : Mm-hm.CR: -do that.
QT : Yes, I do. I mean, but the thing is it's not even just so much- I mean, the thing is I know as a viewer, the minute I start getting confused I check out of the movie. Emotionally, I'm severed.CR: Confused.
QT : Yeah. If- when I'm watching a movie and all of a sudden something starts happening where all of a sudden the story line and everything is- I- it, it gets confusing, I don't know where I'm at-CR: Yeah.
QT : -when I'm watching it, my- you know, you- I think an audience has like this, you know, like almost like embil- umbilical cord to the, to the screen, and it gets severed when, when confusion comes in.CR: And therefore you lose them.
QT : Exactly. And the thing is, most of the time when you get confused, when I get confused and that's severed, it's basically because I'm not supposed to be confused. All right, that's like, it's, it's a mistake, all right. However, if you get confu- You ca- there's no problem with being momentarily confused if you feel you're in good hands.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right, and I don't think my movie- and, and, and disagree if you, please-CR: Okay.
QT : -is about- I don't think Pulp Fiction, for all of its goings in and around and up and down-CR: And how many different stories there are and-
QT : -yeah, and how it goes in this big circle, don't think it's hard to watch at all.CR: No, it's not.
QT : You have to watch it. I, I ask for you to watch it. You can't like put this on video and like do The New York Times crossword puzzle and watch the movie.CR: Yeah, that's right.
QT : All right. All I ask is you put everything down-CR: Yeah.
QT : -and watch it.CR: 'Give me two hours and whatever it is, 10 minutes?'
QT : Exactly. And then once you do that, then you know, you can follow it. It's, it's easy to follow.CR: Talk to me a little bit about the virtue of, of writing your own material-
QT : Mm-hm.CR: -and the material that you wrote for other people-
QT : Right.CR: -you know. And, and whether what you are doing now as a director is directly a descendant of- is, is in a direct line of that.
QT : Well, it's funny. I mean, because like people ask me all the times about like my writing and everything.CR: Right.
QT : And the thing is- I mean, and I'm not being falsely modest - I, I'm very happy with the way I write, you know.CR: Yes.
QT : I, I think I do it good. All right, but the thing is, though, I've never really considered myself a writer. I've always-CR: Why not?
QT : -considered- Well, I've always considered myself a filmmaker who writes stuff for himself to do.CR: Right.
QT : If I really considered myself a writer, I wouldn't be writing screenplays. I'd be writing novels, all right. In fact, at one point when it looked like I could never get a film going, all right, I, I even considered, 'You know what? Maybe I should just forget this because to be a novelist, all I need is a pen and a piece of paper.'CR: But if you were a novelist and weren't making films, what kind of novelist would you be? What kind of novels would-
QT : That, that's, that's really hard, you know, that's a, that's an answer that I don't- that's a question I don't have an answer to. I mean, the one- I, I tried to write a novel at one point. I had read Larry McMurtry's All My Friends Will Be Strangers-CR: Right.
QT : -which is one of my favorite books, and it totally like made me want to write like a book about like my Video Archives years.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right, and this is way before I could ever get anything going and everything. And so I started writing- I wrote about two chapters in this book and ended up like spending like about like six months just rewriting those two chapters all the time because it was a whole new form that I was very excited about. But ultimately, you know, I'm a filmmaker, and I just like- you know what? If I'm going to put the work that really needs to be put into this, I'm going to be a novelist, and I, and I think I could get this published, and I don't want to. I want to keep on the road of being a filmmaker. But the thing is with doing my own stuff as opposed to like somebody else doing it, or me doing somebody's else's script or something is what's nice about doing my own stuff- one, I, I, I'm usually happy with my stuff.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right, and it's also very personal, all right. If I was like writing a movie about- I mean, I could have an idea in my head for five, six, seven years, all right. And I've kind of little by little been working out different things about it. The day that I sit down to do it, whatever is going on with me at the time will find its way into the piece. It has to, or the piece isn't worth making, all right. An analogy I always use - because all of my writing techniques - I never took any writing classes or seminars or anything like that or read any pamphlets. My whole thing was everything I learned as an actor, of studying acting for six years, I have basically applied to writing. Now, like, if an actor-CR: But what did you learn then?
QT : Well, it's just like- well, I'll give you, I'll give you an actor analogy that works completely for me as a writer. All right, if, if I'm playing in - I don't know, whatever - Sugar Babies or something, you know, something really crazy, all right- Sugar Babies, okay, on, on- in, in- on- in a theater production, all right, and I'm driving on my way to the theater, and I hit a dog on the way to the theater that night.CR: Yeah.
QT : Okay, now that's- doesn't make you commit suicide after, you know, killing a dog, but it's, it's going to affect you.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right, okay. And, now, I'm affected by that. Now, the thing is when I go out on stage, I have to bring that experience on with me, or what am I doing up there? All right, that is obviously going on with me at that time, and that needs to be. That needs to be on the stage. That doesn't have a-CR: Wait. It needs to be on the stage because it is what's happening inside of you?
QT : Exactly. True.CR: All right.
QT : That's it. It's because it's what's happening inside of me. Now, if I'm doing Sugar Babies or, or Death of a Salesman or You Can't Take It with You, this doesn't mean the play all of a sudden becomes about a dead dog-CR: Yeah.
QT : -all right. But it definitely doesn't- but it definitely- I'm not there unless I bring that on with me and make that work inside of the material. If I'm not, then you could just send a robot out there. That's just good acting. That's what you have to do. You can't deny anything, all right. Well, the same thing with me as a writer. If I was writing The Guns of the Navarone, all right, and then right in the- right at the beginning of writing it or in the middle of writing it, I, I, I break up with my girlfriend, who I'm like madly in love with and then my heart is, is, is shattered, all right, that's got to work into it. Now, the story is still about a bunch of commandos going to blow up a couple of cannons, all right-CR: Yeah.
QT : -but that pain that I'm feeling has got to find its way into the story or else, what am I doing.CR: And translating to writing meaning that whatever you're experiencing as a writer, you've got to put into those characters and you know how to do that.
QT : Yeah. It's a- well, I mean, that's the thing I think that makes- I mean, that's why when people say, 'Well, you're just making movies about other movies,' I go, 'Well, that's bull.' I mean, to me all my movies-CR: Yeah.
QT : -are- I mean, I'm using I'm working in a genre, no doubt about it, all right, and I, and I respect the genre, no doubt about it-CR: And what's the genre, in your own definition?
QT : Well, in, in the ones I'm doing, I'm doing crime films, all right.CR: Okay, crime films.
QT : And then, like in the case of Reservoir Dogs, that's a subgenre crime film. It's a heist picture.CR: Right.
QT : A bunch of guys get together and pull a robbery.CR: Right.
QT : You've seen a bunch-CR: Right, right.
QT : -kind of movies like that before. And the thing is, though- but I respect the genre and I'm jumping off from it, but to me, all the movies are very personal, all right, when I look at them. And I don't mean like I'm some crook, all right, but the thing about it, though, is like, you know, this group of friends will look at it and be like, 'Oh, Quen, I can't believe you talked about that,' you, you know, you know.CR: Right.
QT : And this old girlfriend, 'Oh, jeez-'CR: Because they identify with the experience.
QT : '- Quentin, jeez.'CR: Yeah. Yeah.
QT : You know, it's like, it's, you know, it's- you should be semi-embarrassed about certain people seeing your movie, I think, when you're finished if you're working on a personal level.CR: Or else the work is not authentic?
QT : Well, I mean, I don't want to make that blanket a statement, but, but I guess for me, I guess yeah.CR: Yeah.
QT : Yeah.CR: You're not doing- you're not, you're not extending yourself unless you bring all of that-
QT : You've got to.CR: -in.
QT : I mean, you've- basically I mean-CR: Why do you work-
QT : A writer, a writer- you know, you should have this little voice inside of you saying, 'Tell the truth.'CR: Yeah.
QT : 'Tell the truth. Tell the truth.' All right?CR: Yeah.
QT : 'Reveal a few secrets in here.'CR: And the truth is your life experience.
QT : Exactly. That's the, that's the truth as I know it.CR: Right. Why, why do you work in the crime genre?
QT : Well, it's a genre I've always really got a kick out of-CR: Yeah.
QT : -you know. I always-CR: From the '30s and the '40s and Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett-
QT : Yeah, and then even like-CR: -and all that?
QT : -and stuff from the '70s, and just all kinds of stuff like that. I mean, I've always, I've always- It's a genre-CR: Elmore Leonard, or-
QT : Oh, I love Elmore Leonard. In fact, to me True Romance is basically like an Elmore Leonard movie-CR: Yeah.
QT : -that he didn't write, you know. And like, actually, I actually owe a big debt to like kind of figuring out my style from Elmore Leonard because, you know, he was the first writer I'd ever read - and, but also like Charles Willeford did it as well - but he was one of the first writers I had ever read that just let mundane conversations-CR: Yeah.
QT : -actually inform the characters, you know, and then all of a sudden, 'Boof!,' you know, you're into whatever story you're telling. But the thing is, though, it's just a genre I've always really liked and always had a lot of appreciation for and liked going to, and I thought I would do a good job with it.CR: But you said an interesting thing once. Maybe you were talking about Pulp Fiction, but maybe about Reservoir Dogs and, and others, is that you said that somehow- or somebody said, maybe somebody said about you, I can't remember where I read this- but basically that there was, in a sense, a combination of European art film-
QT : Oh, mm-hm.CR: -and black- exploitation film-
QT : Well not-CR: -coming together.
QT : Yeah, not just blaxploitation films, but just ex- American exploitation films in general.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right. I mean, in the case of like Pulp Fiction, I think like the two biggest descendants that the film has-CR: Yeah. Where did Pulp Fiction come from?
QT : Yeah, well, it's like, it's like, to me, when I look at it and I, I watch it, to me I kind of see like, you know- it was like you, when like the French new wave would do their version of crime films, I mean Jean Luc Godard and Truffaut-CR: Right, right.
QT : -and then like Jean-Pierre Melville before them, would do their kind of like crazy French version of American movies. And then I also see like a, kind of like a, a, a modern day spaghetti western playing there, as well as a blaxploitation movie from the '70s all kind of like mixed up together.CR: I mean, we talk about this lightly, but I mean, you remind me, you know, of someone whose passion was to be a filmmaker. And you have studied the lives of all the filmmakers.
QT : Yeah.CR: You know their lives as well as anyone- as their biographer does.
QT : That's, that's not too far from wrong, I would guess.CR: Looking for what?
QT : Well, one-CR: Just because you love the fact that-
QT : Yeah, starting off as-CR: -they do what you do and therefore-
QT : Yeah. I mean starting out just as interest, I mean-CR: Right.
QT : -I mean, I mean literally-CR: Yeah.
QT : -if, if a guy is a, is a baseball fanatic and everything, you know, you know-CR: Exactly, right, right.
QT : -you know, if his hero is Willie Mays, he's going to follow him.CR: He's going to- He wants to know everything he is about baseball and about Willie Mays. Right.
QT : Exactly.CR: He turns first to the sports page.
QT : Yeah, exactly. And then it's like, and like, you know, a part of that is all just like the function of having heroes.CR: Yeah.
QT : You know, and, and so, like you know, like, like for instance when I was a, you know- still now he's one of my favorite filmmakers, but like in, particularly, when I was in my 20s, you know, I, I loved Brian DePalma, all right-CR: Yeah.
QT : -and I would, just like, obsess about, about like his stuff, the way like any like big fan would obsess about either a movie star or a baseball, you know, star or whatever, is that when his movies would come out, I'd be countin' down the days to like the first show of his movie, and I would collect all the reviews and all the interviews-CR: Yeah.
QT : -and I'd put them in like these DePalma scrapbooks and stuff that I had set up. You know, and then I would go see his film, you know, a movie of his, Scarface or something would open, and I would go see the first show, first day. All right. No one could go with me. I didn't want anyone else to ruin it. It was too like- it was like a religious experience. And I didn't want anyone to share it, you know- I, I didn't care what anyone thought, all right. I'd just sit there and watch the movie. All right. That's sort of like just kind of taking it in, seeing all what the story was and everything.CR: Yeah.
QT : Then, I would go see the midnight show that night. And then I'd kind of like somebody to see it with me. All right, and then I could really watch. Okay, I've got the story-CR: Yeah.
QT : -I've got the film-CR: Yeah.
QT : -now let's see how he did it.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right. And, you know that's-CR: And then, then you could talk about it with that person.
QT : Yeah, then I could talk about it with that person. And I also kind of see it through their eyes and-CR: Yeah.
QT : -stuff, you know. But, now, the thing is, though, also what I would have is- and that was, those dealing with heroes - whether it be Brian DePalma or Howard Hawks or Douglas Sirk or Scorsese or whoever - but, also just as, like a film, more or less like, like, historian or something, even though I wasn't hired by anybody to be a-CR: Yeah.
QT : -historian: a historian in my own mind. All right. I would be very interested in, in following directors' careers and like studying their careers and everything and constantly, you know-CR: In terms of how they made it? Or-
QT : No, no, no, no, no, no.CR: -or the evolution-
QT : No. No, no, no, no, no-CR: -of a career in terms of how they went from-
QT : -no, no. Not a- evolution of a career, evolution of a career.CR: Yeah.
QT : It's like, it's like, you know, you, you- there's many examples when you look at like a, a, a filmmaker who has done, I don't know, 15 films or something like that, you know - forget about the old guys - and then like-CR: Yeah.
QT : -you know, in the last 20 years. All right. Done 10 or 15 films and like, you know, wow, this work here is really exciting, and then, at some point, it stopped being exciting.CR: Yeah.
QT : Either, it was like the same old thing, or else they became hacks, or they may-CR: Yeah.
QT : -have just became, you know- Now, where did that happen?CR: Yeah.
QT : Where did that start? When-CR: Where did it begin to-
QT : -did they stop-CR: -lose-
QT : -caring?CR: -it? Exactly.
QT : Exactly. You know. And, to me, that's very interesting.CR: And the point, you said, is when did they stop caring?
QT : Yes, exactly. I, and I do believe that, all right. You know, I'm not a critic, so I'm not going to use an example on the air because that could hurt that person's feelings. If I was a critic, I would write an article about it-CR: True.
QT : -and it wouldn't be, be just conversation. But, it's like, but, there's, there's quite a few directors where like you can't believe the work that they did in the '70s is the work that they're doing now. You know, you can't believe it's the same man.CR: And what do you think happened?
QT : Well, oddly enough, I actually kind of see what happens, all right. It usually has to do with like one film. One film is either like, I mean, like, you see them growing or, or, or, or building, or whatever, and, and this is- actually there's two ways that this can go. And one way is, they do one film, and usually it's a film that they're very personal about-CR: Yeah.
QT : -that they care a lot about, and, one, not only does it not do well, it's not recognized. Okay, now maybe they did a bad job with it, or maybe they did a terrific job with it, all right, but it's, you know, but they, they get nothing for it. They get slapped in the face for it.CR: Yeah.
QT : And you could tell that the film had a real personal feeling to them.CR: Yeah. They really had put it out on the table.
QT : They really put it out on the table. All right, and- at least as far as they were concerned. All right, and they got neither the press, nor they got- you know, or- and, and it failed horribly.CR: Yeah.
QT : And then, from that point on - and a lot, and, and at least 5 directors that I can think of off the top of my- off the top of my head - you can just see all of a sudden they started doing star vehicles.CR: Yeah.
QT : All of a sudden they just started doing program films, and then, six, seven years down the line it's like, whatever originality, whatever special personality that they had, completely doesn't exist any more.CR: All right. Let me just test this with you. Coppola and Apocalypse Now.
QT : Mm-hm. No. I don't think- he doesn't fit into me at all.CR: Okay. All right-
QT : All right. Because-CR: -I know he's a, he's a legitimate hero for you.
QT : Yeah, but, no I mean, it's not just that. I mean, like- I mean Apocalypse Now was a major success. That was a smash.CR: I, I, I know it was, but at the same time, it was a film that had a huge- I mean all you got to do is watch his wife's documentary-
QT : Oh yeah.CR: -about it-
QT : Definitely.CR: -to know the emotional toll it took.
QT : I know, but the film went on and made $100 million. I mean-CR: But that's not-
QT : -it ended up where, you know-CR: But that's not how he measured it.
QT : And he was ha- I know.CR: Do you think that's how he measured it? Do you think he ended up telling the story, in the end?
QT : Oh yes. No, I do. I mean I, I-CR: Okay. Because a lot of people said it, it worked for two-thirds of the way in-
QT : Uh-huh.CR: -and then it didn't.
QT : Yeah, but you know what? It's funny, though, because I think at the time, you know, with the whole big build up and everything, yeah. The whole Marlon Brando sequence is my least favorite sequence of that movie.CR: Yeah, right.
QT : All right. But, is it a failure? No.CR: Okay.
QT : All right.CR: DePalma and Bonfire of the Vanities.
QT : Okay now. Well, I mean, yeah, well, the thing is it's really funny-CR: I'm not suggesting these people-
QT : No.CR: -lost their talent. Is that the-
QT : No, no, no, no. I know you're not. I know-CR: I'm looking for an example of the kind of thing that might fit.
QT : Okay. The thing is, in the case of Bonfire of the Vanities, is the fact that- actually I go back to Pauline Kael because-CR: Yeah.
QT : -she actually said, like, something perfect for Bonfire of the Vanities in particular. She says, 'The thing that's so crazy about Bonfire of the Vanities is DePalma had made Bonfire of the Vanities better than anybody ever could back in 1969 when he did the movie Hi Mom with-'CR: Yeah.
QT : '-Robert De Niro'-CR: Yeah.
QT : All right, this little, like, you know, hippie kind of movie he did that hit on - even better than, than, than Thomas Wolfe's book - exactly what he was talking about in that movie. So he didn't need to remake. He didn't need to make it any more.CR: Yeah.
QT : Now, but the thing is also - again going back to this thing Pauline Kael said about other filmmakers - is Bonfire of the Vanities is a mess, but it's the kind of mess that only a great filmmaker makes. Hacks never go that far wrong. It's like a very talented guy who's just got the wrong idea.CR: It has to be a genius who lost it.
QT : Yeah. Only it's, yeah, it's this-CR: Or, who went too far because he so believed in himself and he had the confidence-
QT : Yeah, it's more like, it's just like, he had a bunch of bad ideas, and had the, the-CR: They all coalesced on the one-
QT : -the talent of, and, and the truth of conviction of his bad ideas-CR: Yeah.
QT : -in that movie. All right. And I don't think he's, I don't think he's, I don't think he's lost it.I think he felt it hard.CR: I know he did because he told me.
QT : I think, yeah. I think he, I think he took it really hard and he's been playing- scrambling ever since.CR: Right.
QT : All right. But-CR: Scrambling to find his footing again which-
QT : Yes. Scrambling to find his footing again because I think-CR: -which conv- which, is it confidence?
QT : No, I don't know if it's confidence. I think it's more like the fact that, 'Okay, I reached out with Bon-' Well, he reached out with Casualties of War, and even-CR: Right.
QT : -though the film wasn't a, a success, got the best reviews of his entire career. All right, so, it's like, you know, so he'd reached out before. But then, and then so, he reached out even more with Bonfire, and it didn't work. And I think you've seen, when you look at the films he's been doing since, and like, in the case of, Raising Cain.-CR: Right.
QT : -all right, he goes,'Okay, I'm going to go back and do, what I do, all right, what- my thrillers, all right, and that'll be, it'll be a cool ground, all right.' And the thing that's really fascinating about Raising Cain is you see a guy- and I, and I, and I told this to him and he agreed with me. I don't know, I thought Raising Cain was a, was a blast. I had a total blast out of watching it. But part of the fun about the movie - which I don't, you know, if the studio liked it that much - was the fact that it almost, the whole thing works to annoy the viewer because, it, like- you've got a man who like- look, I created, more or less, in these last 20 years, this type of film. All right, and, and I do it better than anybody, but you know what? I'm bored with doing it now. All right, so the only way I can make it interesting for me, is to completely dissect it and not pay you off.CR: Yeah.
QT : You know, so it became like this, like, really almost kind of like filmic experiment on how not to satisfy the audience, all right, which was very interesting to me, okay. I got a big kick out of it.CR: If you had to name - I mean, I, I know you don't want to leave somebody out - who's influenced you the most, filmmakers? You said Howard Hawks-
QT : Yeah. Howard-CR: -is one.
QT : -Hawks is a gigantic influence, but-CR: Because?
QT : Oh, well, he is the single, as far as for, for my money, he is the single greatest storyteller, all right, in the history of cinema.CR: The single greatest storyteller.
QT : Yeah. He- and, and, and probably the single most entertaining filmmaker in the history of cinema. It's, it's so funny, because when you get into this- I mean, when you're talking about people who've like, you know, worked for 30 years and have like, you know, 25, 30, 40 films to show for it, you know, the old guys, the pioneers, all-CR: Yeah.
QT : -right, when you go through their films and everything like that, you know, you're, you're looking at this film and, and like you go, 'Oh, I, I never saw this one, and I never saw this one that I really want to.' And then, like, you start seeing some of their later works or some of like, early minor work that-CR: Yeah.
QT : -you, you had always heard about, but never saw it, you always are, more or less, kind of disappointed. It's like, you know, 'That's okay.'CR: Yeah.
QT : 'It's good to see it so I could say I saw it and everything.' Howard Hawks, except for one movie, never disappointed me. All right, it's like, you know, it's like, even like his, you know, even the ones that didn't get any credit whatsoever, like the ones he did later in his life. like something like, like, like Man's Favorite Sport, which is just basically, this kind of crazy paraphrased remake of Bringing Up Baby, is funny. Is it as good as Bringing Up Baby? No, but it's like really good. It's, it's really funny. Now if I'm going to watch Bringing Up Baby or Man's Favorite Sport, I'll watch Bringing Up Baby. But if Man's Favorite Sport's on TV, I'll watch it in two seconds.CR: Yeah.
QT : If it's playing at the theaters, I'll go see it.CR: Other than, okay, Howard Hawks, who else? A significant influence.
QT : A big significant influence, okay, would be, like Howard Hawks, the director Sam Fuller, all right, who's this like, kind of, one of, he's one of the greatest wild men of cinema. He made a series of films in the '50s. He, he's, he was probably the, he was probably the king of making war films, because he was, he fought in the big red one and everything-CR: Yeah.
QT : -and, and he, he makes really crazy movies. And he also made a lot of westerns and stuff. And, Sam Fuller's just crazy style was a big influence to me. DePalma was a big influence to me. And one of the things about DePalma that people never talk about- and I, I think DePalma is probably the greatest black- satirist of the last 20 years in cinema. I mean his films are, are, are hysterical, biting black comedies. I mean they're- I mean, you know, no one has his wit, at all, you know, great. His wit is just fantastic, even though he never makes official comedies. But like, you know, Scorsese his, just, daring.CR: Yeah.
QT : You know, has always been a big influence to me. I usually never-CR: His daring.
QT : Yeah. I usually never accredit him because everyone, everyone does it for me anyway.CR: Yeah, right.
QT : Or they say, 'Well, he's obviously ripping off Scorsese.'CR: Yeah, well, they don't say ripping off, but they do say, influenced by DePalma and Scorsese.
QT : Yeah. And, Sergio Leone was a big influence on me.CR: Because of the spaghetti westerns?
QT : Oh, definitely because of the spaghetti westerns and also because of like, one, he actually, you know, he was like the first, like, like, you know, director where I, where I when I started like really thinking about becoming a filmmaker, where I was like, wow, I mean well that's a director. That's, that's a film that's directed.CR: That's a director because?
QT : Well, his films are so stylized, they're-CR: Yeah, right, right, right.
QT : -so, they're, I mean, they, they are so directed. I mean that, it's, you know-CR: You could watch that film and you knew who made it.
QT : Yes, exactly. And you could even like watch the whole filmmaking process, you know, I mean, if you're thinking along those lines. If you're just trying to watch an entertaining story-CR: Mm-hm. Mm-hm.
QT : -it's there. All right. But, and then also, a major influence, was, Jean Luc Godard has like influenced me quite a bit.CR: There comes the European art film there.
QT : Yeah, exactly. Basically because his, his inventiveness and his, like, breaking the rules and commenting on cinema while you're watching cinema.CR: Yeah.
QT : You know, phony process shots in the background and stuff like that. The other thing, also, is, there's a French director named Jean-Pierre Melville, who came out in the '50s and basically started doing a whole series- He was like a total, like, entertainment director. He did a whole series of, of crime films. Always like set in Paris or Marseilles or something. They were basically, the Warner Brothers Bogart-Cagney films, all right, but, completely set to this like French Parisian rhythm. And they starred like Delon- Alain Delon or Jean-Paul Belmondo-CR: Yeah, right, right, right, right, right.
QT : -you know. And they're great. And they work very much in the same way that, like, Sergio Leone's films do, where, they take a genre that like we know left, right, forwards, up and down and backwards.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right. But, they've, but they do it with a whole different style and a whole different perspective. And here they've, basically, reinvented the genre. They've created something new that didn't exist before. Now that's what I'm always, kind of, trying to do with my genre films. I don't know if I'm succeeding or not, but that's the attempt.CR: To?
QT : To take something you've seen before. I love it, I respect it, and I'm going to deliver the goods. I'm not-CR: Yeah.
QT : -just going to be some arty guy going off and, you know-CR: Right.
QT : -but I'm, I'm delivering the goods, but I'm also trying to, you know, reinvent it, in a way. All right, do something, you know, do it in a much different way you've ever seen before. Like in the case of Reservoir Dogs, again, it's not trying to just be a clever boy. It's not just like, clever-CR: Right, right.
QT : -ideas, it's got to work dramatically. All right. But, like, you know, do a heist film. Deliver the goods as a heist film, but it's a heist film where you never see the heist. That's just my goofy way of doing it, all right, you know. You know I always say like, if I was going to do like, you know, a hunchback movie, the guy'd get like- you have an operation at the beginning of the film. The guy used to be the Hunchback of Notre Dame.CR: How much credit to, to Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs? Did he have something to do with that being made?
QT : Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean it's, it's funny, because like that's one of those things that's like, it hasn't been blown out of proportion, but, like, you know, there were like, you know, three people that were very, very instrumental- four people that were very instrumental in getting it made, and Harvey's one of the four, but Harvey's the one who always got the credit for it, you know.CR: Right.
QT : My partner, Lawrence Bender, deserves a tremendous amount-CR: Right, the producer.
QT : -of credit for it. He's the producer of the film. Monty Hellman, who, a wonderful-CR: Right.
QT : -filmmaker from the '60s who, who helped us with the film, he deserves a lot of credit. And so does, one of the executive producers on the film, Richard Gladstein, who was the guy at the company, at Live Entertainment, that, like, said, 'I'm going to take a chance on this kid.' You know-CR: Yeah.
QT : -I really owe my career to him.CR: And he took a chance on you because of what he-
QT : The script.CR: The script.
QT : The script.CR: Because of that script.
QT : Because of that script.CR: Now had he seen the same thing in True Romance and-
QT : He never read True Romance.CR: So he didn't know anything about those.
QT : He, he, he was like, it was a situation, he loved the script so much-CR: Yeah.
QT : -all right, that it was like, he said to me, 'Unless this kid is just a complete jerk-'CR: Yeah.
QT : '-I'm going to make this movie.'CR: You wrote the script for-
QT : But let me, let me just make-CR: Okay, go ahead.
QT : -let me just go back to what like, but, but, Harvey, Harvey Keitel's contribution was he, he read the, he read the script of Dogs and just completely loved it, completely believed in it, and, and, and, committed himself to it. Now, Harvey's career has changed so drastically since-CR: Yeah.
QT : -the days before Dogs. I mean, you know, Dogs was a good- and Bad Lieutenant were good launching pads, and The Piano took him to the moon-CR: Yeah, right.
QT : -I mean, like, overseas, Harvey means as much now as Jack Nicholson because of The Piano.CR: Is that right, now?
QT : Oh, he's huge in- overseas.CR: In Japan, France. In-
QT : Yeah. I mean, it's like, I mean, I mean, The Piano - The Piano did well for him here in America but-CR: Right.
QT : -I mean in, in Europe, he is a superstar.CR: Yeah.
QT : All right. Now, and that couldn't happen to a better actor, I-CR: Yeah.
QT : -mean, he deserves it. But the thing is though, Harvey committing to the movie at the time, all right, didn't all- doors didn't just fling open. All right, but, he gave us legitimacy.CR: Yeah.
QT : All of a sudden, two guys who had never done anything before, well, we, we had Harvey Keitel, we had a good actor involved. And, I'm sure the only reason that Richard Gladstein- and I know, the only reason Richard Gladstein at Live, who had the power of the pen, all right, that said, 'Yes, I'm going to go with it,' the only reason he read the script in the first place was because Harvey Keitel was attached.CR: Did you have any moment of doubt that you could deliver, that you were ready to deliver?
QT : I think you always do have- like, as far as like, like, when okay, you've got the job.CR: Yeah. That's right.
QT : Oh, now I've got-CR: -you know. I mean-
QT : -to do it, okay.CR: And, and almost a little bit like the thing that Churchill said at the beginning of World War II: 'All my life has prepared me for this moment.'
QT : Yes, well, that's definitely the case. That, that was-CR: You know. 'I'm ready to go. I- whatever I can learn, I've learned, I've learned.'
QT : Yeah.CR: 'I've read, I've read, studied, I've talked, I've written. I've done everything I can.'
QT : Yeah.CR: Boom.
QT : Well, it's funny because it's like, yeah, I remember at one point when we were getting ready to get the like, you know, the go-ahead on the movie, I remember thinking to myself, 'Well, you know, you know, writing's kind of easy because if I do what I do as a writer, and it doesn't work out, I can throw it away,' all right, but it's like, you know, now the whole thing about being a writer is if I do it on the page and I give it to somebody else and they screw it up, well, you know, I can like, have righteous indignation about it and everything. But now, if I do it on the page and I screw it up filming it, well then-CR: Yeah.
QT : -who do I get to blame?CR: Would you do it differently, that film, today? I mean, did you say what you wan-
QT : Not a-CR: It's the film you wanted-
QT : I mean, I'm-CR: -frame by frame by frame by frame.
QT : -so proud of that movie. I mean-CR: Yeah.
QT : I would do, I mean, maybe little things- you know, I would extend this shot a little, but except for that-CR: But essentially, it's the film you-
QT : Oh, I'm-CR: -wanted to make, yeah.
QT : I'm, I, I adore Reservoir Dogs.CR: And how do you-
QT : And not because of what I did. I'm just saying-CR: What did it say to an audience, the film, about you, about Quentin Tarantino?
QT : Well, you know what-CR: What's the-
QT : Well, you know what it ended up doing, which was very interesting, was the fact that- people ask me from time to time, 'Do you make a movie with an audience in mind?'CR: Yeah.
QT : And my answer is, 'Yes, I do.' All right, but the audience I have in mind isn't some faceless blobs that I'm trying to second-guess.CR: Right, right, right.
QT : It's me!CR: It's not like a focus group.
QT : Yeah, it's me. I'm the audience. I'm the guy that goes out and pays $7 or $8 in New York, you know, to go and see a movie. All right, I go see, if I'm excited about seeing a movie, I see it on opening day. All right, I am the audience, all right.CR: Yes.
QT : And I know what I want to see, you know. And I was betting - and I was a little surprised at how many there were - I was betting that there were other people like me out there, all right. Now, true, I'm making specific films. And if you make a specific film that's not everything for everybody. You're going to turn some people off, all right, but you're going to turn some people on, too. And the, you know, now, the thing is, the film got a lot of remarks because of the violence in it.CR: Right.
QT : All right. And in a way, there were kind of like- I always kind of took it as a big compliment because I know the film isn't that violent, all right. It's like-CR: Why is it a compliment?
QT : Because I did it well. I mean-CR: Yeah.
QT : -I got the scenes; I got the-CR: Oh, in other words, they thought it was more violent than it was.
QT : They thought it was far more violent than it was, all right. Now in, in actually, you know, quoting DePalma, DePalma has said that when you, when you do violence, you actually get penalized for doing it well.CR: Yeah.
QT : Hacks don't get penalized for, you know, showing anything because it doesn't mean anything.CR: Right.
QT : All right. So in a way, they're saying, 'Good filmmaking.' All right, especially since like the movie is a talking heads movie, it's these people talking to each other for like the entire 90 minutes with like three acts of violence in the movie. The most notorious one you don't even see on screen. All right, so it's like, 'Well, thanks.'CR: Yeah.
QT : But, but I- but, you know, the, the thing is how did it introduce me. It's like, you know, I'm always kind of weird about actually answering a question like that because it's almost like I'd rather you tell me.CR: Yeah. Well, but it- all of a sudden, it said, 'This is a guy-' for, for the lack of- for- 'There is a new filmmaker,' it said-
QT : Yeah.CR: '-who has exploded and who is unique. Who has a signature that is distinctly his own.'
QT : Yeah.CR: You could take a lot of films made in America, and you can say, 'That's a well made film,' but I could name three or four directors of talent who could have made that film.
QT : Right.CR: I don't know of anybody else who I think automatically could make Reservoir Dogs, or would have made it.
QT : Yeah.CR: Same thing about Pulp Fiction.
QT : Yeah.CR: Don't you think?
QT : I completely agree. I completely agree.CR: Yeah, I mean, there is such a signature - and that's what I was asking you to do is to define the signature. I've got to move to Pulp Fiction, and we're going to see a couple of scenes here. Oh, it's the 'Big Mac' scene. Set it up-
QT : The 'Big Mac' scene. The Big Mac.CR: -for me before we take a- roll the tape.
QT : What's going on is in this scene, this is like the- It's John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.CR: Right.
QT : They play two hit men, Jules and Vincent-CR: Right.
QT : -who are on their way to blow away a couple of guys. But the thing is, they're just going to work. So they're like having like a car pool conversation that you might have-CR: Yeah.
QT : -all right, on your way to work. And the thing is, Vincent has just come back from- after three years in Amsterdam, so he's just musing on, on the things that he experienced in Europe for the first time.CR: Roll the tape. Here it is. Pulp Fiction
[Clip from 'Pulp Fiction']
JOHN TRAVOLTA, Actor: [portraying Vincent] You know what the
funniest thing about Europe is?
CR: Why, why Travolta?
QT : Well, I've always thought that John Travolta is one of the greatest movie stars Hollywood has ever produced.CR: Movie stars?
QT : Yes. I mean, well, he's a wonderful actor, too, but I mean, like he was also, he was a great star when he came out.CR: Yeah.
QT : And I mean, people tend to forget. In fact, it's actually very scary how people tend to forget because-CR: I know what you mean.
QT : -John Travolta was so huge-CR: Yeah.
QT : -when he came out, and it was like- and he actually shared something that only Brando had had before him and only Julia Roberts has had since him, since him, is that any part it was even remotely halfway conceivable that he could play was-CR: He was offered.
QT : -was immediately sent to him.CR: Right.
QT : And, and he did wonderful work in that time, in Saturday Night Fever even, and wonderful comedy work on that TV show that made him a star, Welcome Back, Kotter.CR: Yeah. Right.
QT : Urban Cowboy, and particularly for my money in Blowout, the Brian DePalma film, which is one of my three favorite films of all time. His performance in that is great.CR: Wait, the other two are Urban Cowboy and what else?
QT : Oh, Ur- and Saturday Night Fever, you know, and- He was nominated for an Oscar for Saturday Night Fever. And also, actually in the movie-CR: No, but what are the three- your three favorite films of all time?
QT : Oh, um, duh! I'm sorry. My three favorite films-CR: Urban Cowboy.
QT : No, no, no.CR: No. Okay, I, I thought.
QT : I, I get screwed up. Okay.CR: Okay.
QT : Whatchamacallit, Blowout-CR: Blowout.
QT : -Rio Bravo.CR: Blowout was made by-
QT : Brian DePalma.CR: Brian de Palma.
QT : -Rio Bravo by Howard Hawks-CR: Right.
QT : -and Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese.CR: And they, they share- if they share one thing, what is it?
QT : I don't know what they share.CR: I don't know, either.
QT : Other- you know what? Other than the other, I guess, probably other than- a, a, a major directorial vision.CR: Right. Vision of a director.
QT : Yes, exactly.CR: Yeah. Talk- comedy in Pulp Fiction. People say, one, it has comedy about it.
QT : Yeah.CR: Is it black humor? Is it something else? And how far can you go - with you wanting to combine comedy with violence with storytelling, with all the elements that are going into this film - how far can the comedy go because of the seriousness that's also there?
QT : Right. Well, I mean, as far as like how can the comedy go?CR: Yeah.
QT : Well, as long as it's funny, as far as I'm concerned, is as far as it can go. I mean, like, you know, George Carlin does this really wonderful routine where he talks about the fact like anything can be made funny.CR: Yeah.
QT : You know, anything can be- you can make a joke out of anything. You name me any horrific thing, and I can make a joke out of it, all right, because you know, and a joke is a joke.CR: But I thought-
QT : It has construction.CR: -I read somewhere where you said that some of this stuff is so serious we can't joke about it. You never said that. You never-
QT : No. No, no, no, no, no. I've ne- I've never said that.CR: No, you wouldn't believe that.
QT : Yeah. I mean, the thing about it is, though- I mean, it's funny because-CR: It's almost the reverse of it. We can find humor in almost everything.
QT : I mean, humor is a magnifying glass, all right, for us to look at society, ourselves, our personalities, our problems. You know, I mean, you know, humor is what we need to actually observe things, all right, and actually put them in perspective, all right. And it's like- but again, you know, the answer is like, you know, well, if it's funny, then it's acceptable. But the thing- you know, if it's not funny, then you've, you've, you messed up. But the- one of the things that's very interesting, though, is- I've actually, I've actually come to this in a very- just fairly recently. I try not to get, when I'm writing something, I try not to get analytical about it as I'm doing it, as I'm writing it.CR: Right.
QT : And I try not to get analytical about it as I'm doing it, all right. Now, this is kind of fun at this stage of the game-CR: Right, right, right.
QT : -you know, is seeing exactly what it is I did do. And when people talked about Dogs being as violent as it was and everything - again, part of that, 'Well, I guess I just did a good job,' you know. I was afraid people would be bored because it's people talking to each other all the time. But the thing is, is- I actually realized something about four months ago. I was watching this film from the '30s, Back Street, with Irene Dunne.CR: Right.
QT : I mean, it's a wonderful melodrama, absolutely terrific melodrama. And I'm sitting there watching it, and there, there was a- the thing is because I think Dogs is really funny, too. That's a really funny movie. But the thing is, I'm watching Back Street and tragedy is almost like another character in the movie. It's hovering over every scene. You know this is going to end horrible for her, all right. And, and so even when a light moment happens, and you laugh, you only laugh so much because it's just tragedy is like this other thing in the room. And in a way Reservoir Dogs, that was the relationship violence had to Reservoir Dogs. Even though there was only- like you could count the number of scenes of there's actually a violent incident happening in it. Violence was like another character in the room. It hung over the proceedings. You kept waiting for every conversation to break out into it. So even if it was funny, the audience might have laughed, but when they get out of the theater, they don't remember laughing.CR: I've got two minutes. Is Pulp Fiction a better film than Reservoir Dogs?
QT : Well, some people might like this one; some people might like that one.CR: No, no. You. What do you think?
QT : Me. I like it more. I like it more.CR: You like it more.
QT : I think it's-CR: Why?
QT : It's more ambitious. It, it, it was harder to do, and it's like a- God, why, why, why? You know, I think it's the ambition involved in it.CR: Okay. This is the clip-
QT : It's, it's, it's a jumping off point.CR: Yeah.
QT : I'm, I'm starting with Dogs here and then I'm going somewhere else, and I'm really reaching for it.CR: Is the next film going to be a- in the crime genre?
QT : I don't know what the ne- There's a lot of kind of different genres I want to do-CR: Yeah.
QT : -but right now, I don't know what it's going to be.CR: Yeah, and you want to take seven months off and break somewhere-
QT : Yeah, exactly.CR: -and just, you know.
QT : And just-CR: 'The Twist.' Set it up for me.
QT : The twist. Well, in this case- in this- in this scene-CR: We'll see some dancing here.
QT : Yeah, exactly. Now, and this scene is funny because it's a situation is happening in the film where John Travolta and Uma Thurman-CR: Right.
QT : -are at this like '50s restaurant-CR: Right.
QT : -and then all of a sudden, they have this twist contest. And the thing is everybody thinks that I wrote this scene to have John Travolta dancing.CR: Yeah, right.
QT : But the scene existed before John Travolta was cast, but once he was cast, it was like, 'Great. We get to see John dance.'CR: Roll the tape. Here it is.
QT : All the better.CR: Where do you go now? I mean, you- do you have any sense- you, you've made the film, and people are describing you as the hottest film director in America. There's nobody, but- look, you got Bruce Willis here, and there are people saying, 'I'd work for-' just to work with you now. I mean, this- it has come to where you wanted it to be. Is there some game plan in your head? Is there some-
QT : Oh, yeah.CR: -sense of- because you've studied the lives of the best. You know how they evolved you know.
QT : Right. No, I've always had kind of a game plan and everything, but it's like, right now, I don't know what it is I want to do ne- I don't have a story that I'm burning to tell. And also, making a movie is really hard. I mean, when I was like, when I was like a film geek and everything, I'd look at like, like Fassbinder's career and go, 'Now, that's a career to have.'CR: Yeah.
QT : Like, you know, 30 films-CR: Yeah, yeah.
QT : -in 10 years is the way to go. Then I made a film and go, 'You know what? Life's a little too short to do that,' you know.CR: Right.
QT : It's like, it's like climbing a mountain. I don't want to climb another mountain right after I get through with Everest. I want to like rest a little bit and then get up again. But it's like, you know what I want to have: a career - and I'm not going to even use an example of somebody else because I don't really know anybody else who does this completely - but I would like to be able to move completely back and forth inside of an independent system and a mo- and, and a studio system, or a bigger movie or a smaller movie, just depending on the story that I'm trying to tell. Like in the case of like- say I didn't do Reservoir Dogs. All right, say I did something else that was the first film, got the same attention, and now I came up with the idea to do Reservoir Dogs. Should I do it for $12 or $15 million just because I can, all right, and cast Sean Connery in the Lawrence Tierny part-CR: Right, right. Right.
QT : -and you know, Robert De Niro and all these other people. It's like, well, I mean, if they're the right person for the part, yes. All right, but actually, no, because Reservoir Dogs is a small film, and part of its charm was that it was a small film, all right. And I should, now, I wouldn't consider making it for $1.3 million. I'd probably make it for $3 million now so I'd have more breathing room. But I know the film will be a success at that. All right, to me, it's very important that every movie I do makes money just because I want the people that had the faith in me to get their money back. Even if it's at the end of the day, I want them to get their money back. Now, if I come up with an idea where my esthetic and a commercial esthetic meets, then make the, the $20 million-CR: You bet.
QT : -the $30 million movie, but I'll make it look like a $60 million movie, all right. But like, you know, go for it. You know-CR: Yeah.
QT : -when DePalma did The Untouchables, that was a situation where his esthetic and a commercial esthetic met like that.CR: I, I've got to get out of here. Last question. Will it be something you write?
QT : Yeah. You know what I'm thinking about doing now, though. I mean, again, this could change in seven months, so I'm predicting the future, which I'm not good at. But I'm th- I'm a little concerned about this- my voice thing getting old hat, you know.CR: Mm.
QT : My dialogue getting old hat, all right. So what I'm thinking I might end up doing now is maybe what would be cool, it would be like taking a novel and adapting it. That still requires me to write; still requires me to put it in my voice, but it's also coming from somewhere else.CR: Great to have you on the broadcast.
QT : It's wonderful to be here.CR: Thank you very much. Quentin Tarantino. Pulp Fiction is being honored and praised everywhere. We thank you for joining us this evening. We'll see you next time.
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