"Acting is out there, directing is out there. Writers go into cabins in the woods and they write." - Q.T.
Quentin Tarantino is a handful during an interview. Transcribing him is even more so. If you've ever seen or heard an interview with him, you know how fast he talks, how many thoughts fit into a single sentence without pause, and how he says "alright" and "okay" in between every clause. In presenting this interview, we've tried to maintain his colloquialisms as much as possible, while editing for readability's sake.
When Kill Bill: Volume 1 hit theaters in October, it was highly anticipated because we had not seen a Tarantino movie since 1997's Jackie Brown. It was also controversial, because many questioned why it should be split into two movies, when it could be just one long epic. Fans and critics still debate that point, but as Volume 2 hits theaters, everyone wants to know how the story ends.
Uma Thurman plays The Bride, assassinated by her own hit squad on her wedding day. We've seen her kill Vernita Green and Oren Ishii, but we still need to see her get Elle Driver, Budd and of course, Bill. The end of Volume 1 also gave us a vital piece of information that may change her entire quest. We'll preserve that secret in case you have yet to see the first part.
Did cutting the film in half change 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, alright, and then, the resonance comes in the second half. And the second half, with more of the depth and resonance coming in, I guess that it did because [Volume 1] is just about the good time, fun movie, movie aspect of the movie and the second one will be the deeper exploration of it. So, I guess that it did, yeah.
And you would have had to cut a lot to make it one movie, right? Right, and the thing about it is, if I truly thought it would be better or there would be too much of the emotional aspect in the movie lost by splitting it in half, then I would've done that. If it would've been a better movie at a smaller thing, I didn't think so. The way that I wrote the script, the things that I would've lost in Volume I would've been the Texas Rangers, the anime sequence would've been cut way down and to me, that's what makes it special. It wasn't some long, uncontrolled epic, uncontrolled film. I'm telling a very simple story, but it had a very big canvas, and it needed all of those little moments in the canvas to make it work.
Is Volume II less violent then? 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 in. 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. The best way to describe it is that Volume I is, for lack of a better term, my eastern with a western influence, a spaghetti western influence. Volume II is my spaghetti western with an eastern influence.
The dialogue in Volume 1 was very different from your usual style. Well, like I said, Volume II has much more of the dialogue that you've known me for, but there was not a decision like, "Okay, I'm going to really blow people's mind. I'm going to cut down on the dialogue." It was just indicative of this kind of movie.
Are there more pop culture references then? No, it's not about pop culture. If you think that all my dialogue is pop culture, then you probably are going to be disappointed, but no, it's just more dialogue. In my other movies, characters get to a place and hangout there for a while as they talk, and there are a few more monologues and stuff, but the thing that I actually love about my dialogue in this movie is like, that is my dialogue. It's just in Japanese this time.
Where would the story pick up if you hadn't split it up? Where it would've ended more or less if I hadn't had broken it up, okay, if I was just going to have an intermission, the intermission would've happened right before where you saw my credit happen. Uma [Thurman] giving that speech, Sofie in the trunk of the car, "And soon, they will all be as dead as the rest." That would've been at intermission. So, I added the tag just to give you a little something extra, a little idea of what we were going to have for you. I didn't want to show you a little trailer even though I always liked that like in the Three Musketeers because I didn't even know that there was going to be a Four Musketeers when I saw it. And you watch The Three Musketeers and all of a sudden, "Coming soon, The Four Musketeers," and you see scenes and go, "Wow, that was cool." I tried to do that with this, but it just didn't seem right emotion-wise. I didn't want to break the emotion that I'd already set up. I wanted to deepen it. So, yeah, that little tag was added in there for this, but I think that it works very good. I'm very happy with it.
How did Kill Bill originate?It's coming from, in it's basic form, all of these different revenge genre movies that I was jumping off from. The Bride could easily be this cowboy character from this spaghetti western. She could easily by Angela Mao character Deep Thrust or Broken Oath. There's two characters that Japanese actress Meiko Kaji played. One was a character named Scorpion. She did about four movies with that, and she did a great revenge samurai movie called Lady Snowblood. She could be that character. You could keep going down the whole list, but she falls in that whole long line of hell bent for revenge characters.
How much did you revisit these movies when you were writing?Well, they had a tremendous amount of influence because I own all of those movies. Not these beautiful, Technicolor restoration prints, but like, my seventh generation bootlegs from New York's 42nd Chamber of Shao Lin in Time Square. That's where I had them all, and when I was writing this movie, I had the fortunate fun of being able to watch at least one Shaw Brothers movie a day, if not three, and the reason I was doing it is that I wanted to immerse myself so much in that style of filmmaking so that the things that they did would be second nature to me. It would be my style of filmmaking as far as this movie was concerned. I wouldn't have to think about it. I wouldn't have to be self conscious about it. I would've just known exactly how they woulddone it and I would decide do I want to do that too? Get that comfortable with the zoom because no one does zooms anymore, not like that. I wanted to get that comfortable with it and it worked so well that, to me, during that entire year, the movies that were coming out of Hollywood were like these weird artistic, fringe movies. I was like someone who lived in Hong Kong in the ‘70's. When you thought of movies, you thought of Kung Fu movies. The Shaw Brothers, the Shaw Scope Logo and then, the Feature Presentation thing which I grew up watching, I always hear that tune before a movie starts. That just lets you know right away where I'm coming from and just sit back and have a good time and know from whence this came.
Does that make this a compendium of all the movies you've watched in your life?You know, pretty much. The expression that I've used, and I'm not trying to over use it, but it just worked really good because it's pretty precise in describing it is it's like taking 30 years of my favorite grind house movies and genres and sticking them into a press and that's this movie. The thing is, if you're a film geek and you like this stuff, then you're going to see it on one level and you're going to appreciate it and enjoy some of these touchstones and references and elusions. And hopefully, you'll enjoy what I've added new to it, and the way that I've taken all of these things, and the way that I use it is what makes it original or different. The spaghetti western music and the anime and the thing is, if it only worked that way, it would be a rather limiting experience. You need to see this movie and if you see this movie and you've never seen any of those movies, maybe you were too young to see them or maybe they just weren't ever your cup of tea and you watch it, conceivably, those people could like it even more. They don't have any reference for this. So, it's all new to them. They're taking it all in. Where, if you understand where I'm coming from, your feet can be more firmly planted on the ground when my fastballs come at you, but if you don't know at all where it comes from, then you can really be taken off of your feet and you can also reject it and that's fine as well.
Why did it take so long to write this? 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.
Did you need six years since Jackie Brown to develop the story? There might actually be something to that to tell you the truth, but not that I was ever thinking about that at the time. I mean, what I was doing during those six years is that I was writing. It's like, I mean, people are like, "You were in seclusion?" I just wasn't on talk shows and when I was on them, everyone was complaining that I was on them. I didn't think that I would be missed, but the thing is that I was writing and writing is a more solitary experience. Acting is out there, directing is out there. Writers go into cabins in the woods and they write.
Were you writing other scripts simultaneously? Oh, yes I did, yeah. I got lost in a beautiful way, but I got lost writing this big World War II, a bunch of guys on a mission thing that was turning into a gargantuan novel, not a movie and probably into three movies, not like this, but three separate things. I was trying to juggle them all for a little too long, but also, I was loving just going back to complete writing where it's just me and a pen and a blank piece of paper. That was wonderful, but one thing to remember though is that when I came out with Reservoir Dogs, I already had True Romance written, I already had Natural Born Killers written, I already had From Dusk Til Dawn written. Within about seven or eight months after Reservoir Dogs coming out, I had Pulp Fiction written and lo and behold, it all came to pass. Everything got produced. The thing about it is, I don't like Natural Born Killers, but the point being is part of the reason that you're sitting here talking to me. Maybe my body of work feels like more than [just what I've directed] because you've gotten a good sense of my voice, my writing talent or the lack thereof depending on who you are. All of that stuff, you got from that and that's because I was able to do a whole big body of work. The reality though is that once you become a writer-director, after you finish your next movie, if you're a writer- director, it's always start from scratch all over again. And you start the whole process all over again and you're going to get a little bit more precious about it each time, so much so that if you think about it – I'm obviously not talking about John Sayles or Woody Allen – but a lot of writer-directors, what will happen is at a certain point, they stop being writers. They just become directors. It's just easier to buy a script that you like or you like something in it and then you kind of rewrite it which is not as hard and sometimes, they don't even rewrite anymore, they just hire people to do it, and then, they guide it. Oliver Stone was a writer-director. He's not really a writer-director anymore. There's like nine people on all of his scripts. Robert Zemeckis used to be a writer-director, he's not anymore. I like their films better when they were writer-directors. So, coming back to all of this is the fact that now I have a lot of stuff to do. I now have close to the same stock pile of stuff to do that I had before when I came with Reservoir Dogs and that was a good six years, and that was a good six years of living life too. I was in the best part of my thirties. I didn't want to spend all of that time on a movie set, all of that time in a mixing stage. I mean, it's fun, but if it ever gets to be too much, it can never be a job for me. It's got to be a calling. It's got to be the most important thing in my life.
What's the biggest misconception about you do you think?I guess the biggest misconception about me is that I never live life. All I do is watch movies and that's all that I know from life, what I've watched, from watching movies and that's all I have to offer, you know, having seen this, that and the other.
How do you deal with the critics? Well I mean, there are few directors who have been treated as well in their time by the critics as I have. I can't really complain about my perception as far as that stuff is concerned because I mean, I always thought that I'd be the director like all the directors that I admired that, yeah, some people might like my stuff, but people would catch up with it. It would be rejected out of hand because it's too lurid, but then, five years later or ten years or twenty years, "Oh, this guy is fantastic." Sergio Leone didn't get these great, glowing reviews in America when his stuff came out and now, he's considered to be the man.
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