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INT: Quentin Tarantino

10.10.2003

Interview #1 Uma Thurman
Interview #2 Lucy Liu
Interview #3 Lawrence Bender
Interview #4 Vivica A. Fox
Interview #5 Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s back, and he’s out for blood. With his frenetic, ultra-violent opus KILL BILL: VOLUME I, the manic filmmaker finally emerges from a six-year, self-imposed exile, and not a day too soon. Inspired by everything from Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns to Knoxville’s JACKASS, Tarantino serves up a tasty bowl of cinematic gumbo, served extra hot.

The director was ebullient as he entered our room at the Beverly Hills’ Four Seasons, clearly enjoying his return to the world of film. Though his voice was hoarse from a day full of interviews, Tarantino was a trooper, providing us with several of his trademark, feverish discourses on everything film-related. Check it out.

QUENTIN TARANTINO

Did cutting the film in half alter the dramatic structure?

Yeah, I guess that it did. Actually, as opposed to a movie where the whole first half is just complete viscera and eye-popping action and just meant to blow you away, and then, the resonance comes in the second half, with more of the depth and resonance coming in, I guess that it did because this is just about the good time, fun movie aspect of the movie and the second one will be the deeper exploration of it. So, I guess that it did, yeah.

There are so many different styles represented in KILL BILL: VOLUME I. How did you throw all of that stuff in and still make a coherent film?

Well yeah, it's one of those things where you get a little bit...you do have a little bit of license when you do such a basic story as a revenge story. Forget the fact that it crosses all of the genres that I'm dealing with; Spaghetti Westerns, Kung Fu, Samurai. It crosses all of those genres, but not only that, it crosses every genre. HAMLET is a revenge story, but the bottom line is that we've all seen this before. So, since you already even know the story before going in: five people did this to her, she's going down the list and is going to wipe them off. You know, it's easy to follow.

So, thus you can go off in all these other directions, but you're always staying on course with the objective of the movie, and the thing was, if anything was to be truthful to Uma's character, which is that she's not flippant. The movie is having fun. You're meant to see it and have a great time and be blown away and go, “Wow, I just saw a movie tonight.” Uma's portrayal never had that luxury. She's never winking at the camera once in the film. I might wink at the camera every once in a while, but she never does. Her journey is for real in this and her pain is for real and she keeps it on course, and she's not asking for any sympathy in this.

I remember one of the first scenes in Volume II will be where we actually see what happens at the wedding chapel and I've had people say to me after they saw this, “Quentin, I really liked it, and I know you're saving the wedding chapel for Volume II, but if I were to have seen that in Volume I, I think that I would've cared and liked Uma's character even more.” And my response is, “You like her well enough. You don't need to like her anymore than you do, she's fine.”

You talk about it being quieter. Is that in terms of the violence?

Well, I mean, it's still pretty fucking violent, but there's not a fourteen minute sequence there. One of the big differences between Volume I and Volume II is that if you remember Sonny Chiba's little speech that he gives at the very, very end where he goes, “Revenge is never a straight line, it's a forest. It's easy to get lost and forget where you came in.” Well, Volume I is the straight line. Volume I, it was hard for her to do what she had to do, but it's like, “Kill old man, take on the army, burn Tokyo to the ground, did that, done that. Kill Vernita, did that, done that.” Now is the forest. Now, human stuff starts getting into it. Now, it's not just killing them all the way down the list. It gets more complicated, it gets complex now. It's not quite as easy.

Do you worry about the high expectations for this?

Well, I mean, personally, I wouldn't have it any other way, alright. I mean, the number one thing that I probably enjoy the most with the lucky situation that I have where I get to live the life of an artist in one of the most expensive, or the most expensive art form in the world, I guess. That's if you don't consider architecture. I don't have to work for a living. I get to be an artist and I get to be respected as an artist and my stuff is viewed that way. It could be bad art or good art, but that's where I'm coming from anyway, and my favorite aspect about having that situation is anticipation of the new work.

How do you deal with the pressure?

Well, that's the name of the game. If you can't handle pressure in directing, then you can't handle it. The equation that I would use is if you're a cook, alright, you can cook a meal for yourself or you can cook a meal for your family who you cook for everyday and they're waiting for it, but if you've got fifty people outside in the kitchen and they're outside, in the kitchen and they're hungry and they're holding the silverware in their hands, and I'm in the kitchen and I'm stirring the pot and I'm adding this, and going, “Just wait, you'll have to get a load of this,” it just makes it all the more exciting. It makes me want to do more. Now, especially with a movie like this, it's almost essential.

I want to top expectations. I want to blow you away. It's that kind of movie. That is the right goal. Now, in the case of something like JACKIE BROWN which was a much more...maybe that worked against me. When I say working against me, I'm talking about the Friday it was released. Not now, but the day it was released. You have to remember, movies are not about the weekend that they're released, and in the grand scheme of things, that's probably the most unimportant time of a film's life, but the thing is, I wasn't trying to top PULP FICTION with JACKIE BROWN. I wanted to go underneath it and make a more modest character study movie.

So, if you were waiting for Pulp Fiction part two, you were going to be disappointed. On the other hand, and not to go too far on that, but it does highlight what you're talking about, I made JACKIE BROWN like the way that I always felt about RIO BRAVO which is a movie that I can watch every couple of years. It's just like, I know those people now. Once I saw it, I got the story line out of the way and now I just hang out with them. Then, it's like, hopefully, if you liked JACKIE BROWN, every three years or so, you can put it in and you're having screwdrivers with Ordel and you're taking bong hits with Melanie and you're drinking white wine with Jackie and it's all good.

How orchestrated were those girl fights?

Oh, it couldn't have been more orchestrated. They went through all of this training and study and everything. But we'd get all of this choreography and everything and then, on the day, we changed it every single day, almost every moment. That's the kind of person that I am, I'm totally going to do that, and actually Yuen Wo-Ping is very much that way too, and the gals got so good, Uma in particular, because everyone else had to get specialized.

Uma didn't have the luxury of specializing. She had to do it all and do it all for months, and Uma got so good that she learn choreography and you could completely change it and just work...she was up in her dressing room, you'd work it out, what you wanted, you'd bring her down and go through it with the fight team about three, four or five times. She'd practice it one, two, three times, and then, you could shoot. Woo-ping was blown away by it. He goes, “Quentin, seriously, most of the Hollywood actors that I work with, some of them are really terrific, but most of them, it's like, one move, two moves, cut. Uma is able to execute six point moves."

How did your discovery of JACKASS influence the film?

Yeah, there's a huge fight between Daryl [Hannah] and Uma that I think audiences have been waiting for. It happens towards the end of Volume II and it had to, in its own way, match the House of Blue Leaves fight. It can never match it in terms of scale, but it can match it in terms of emotion because we're really waiting for these two girls to go at it and all of the fineness that you've seen in the movie, in the snow garden fight and everything, throw that out the window. This is like a brutal bitch fight. It's white trash like you wouldn't believe. It happens in a trailer and it's just banging heads in the wall and such. It was already brutal and they're so beautiful, it hurts all the more actually, it's even more painful.

It was always brutal, but it wasn't ever gross, and then, I saw JACKASS and I saw what I'd been missing and so, I didn't tell anyone, but I showed up on Monday and there's like a character that lives in this trailer that dips snuff. In the south, old women and guys would have coffee cans, and you'd spit the snuff in the coffee can and at some point, Uma grabs the snuff can and throws it in Daryl's face, and now she has to fight with all of this crap on her, and that was Monday. On Thursday, I got a print of JACKASS and I screened it for the whole crew, and Daryl is watching it and she goes, “That's where the snuff juice came from! Oh my God!”

What was it like directing the anime part of it?

Oh yeah, that was so much fun. It was great. I'd had a little experience with anime before, not with anime, but with animation before and that was that I help design the animated opening for FOUR ROOMS and what was really cool about that was that I did it with Chuck Jones. Bob Kurtz directed it and did the animation on it, but Chuck Jones can't work for anyone, but...well, he can't work for anyone now, but couldn't work for anyone but Warner Brothers, but he goes, “But, we can make it through my company, and even though, I can't do it, you get all my ideas.” So, what we were able to do was to do it like a Looney Tunes cartoon where a couple of Bob Kurtz' gag writers showed up. Chuck Jones showed up, his daughter showed up and I showed up, and we just sat around a table and we just created by throwing out gags, one gag after another, and Chuck had one rule. He said, “There's one rule in this, you can never reject an idea.” You couldn't go, “No, I don't like that.”

What a thrill that was, to sit around a table with Chuck Jones and Lilly and just build a piece together from sight gags and stuff, and I still think that that is one of the most effective pieces of the movie. That, and the Robert Rodriguez section in it. This one, because I didn't want to just write a script and hand it to a production guy and say, “Okay, take it and make it.” No, no, this is important to me and I want to have the fun of doing anime and I love anime, but I can't do storyboards because I can't really draw and that's what they live and die on. So, what I did is that I took a script and I wrote it exactly, like shot for shot, because it's all about shots. I wrote it shot for shot for shot, every visual connected with this and this and this.

So, I wrote a big, long, detailed script broken down into shots like you would do with a storyboard. Then, I got together with the animators, and then, proceeded in six hours to act out all of the cartoon. I was like, “Here are all of the shots,” and I acted out each of the shots. “She's hanging on this, tear drops down, and the blood,” and so on. Then, they went away, did the storyboards, gave them back to me, and I went, “Okay, I like this. I don't like this, that's not really what I meant with this, and this, that and the other.” So, they fixed that, and once the storyboards are done, that's kind of done and they go off and do it and they give it back to you.

You were writing this for ten years.  What took so long?

Well no, no, when it came to...I wrote the first thirty pages and the basic idea on the set of PULP FICTION, but then it was put away, and I don't really consider that a ten year process because I mean, that's part of being a writer. You write something, and it's not ready yet, and so, you just put it in the incubator and wait until it's done. So, when I actually take it out of the incubator and really start, that's when it starts.

What’s up with the World War II epic?

Oh, that'll probably be the next thing that I'll do. I might do something in between, but I don't know. If it's not the next thing, that'll be the thing right after that.

Anything with Robert Rodriguez?

I hope so. I really hope so.

Test your Quentin Tarantino knowledge below:
TRIVIA QUIZ #2
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Source: JoBlo.com

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