Hey, Quentin, congrats on The Hateful Eight. What made you want to do a post-Civil War movie?
Thanks. I don’t know if I sat down and thought about doing a movie about the post-Civil War. It was more a situation where I picked a post-Civil War time and then took a bunch of nefarious characters and trapped them in a room during a raging three-day blizzard. Some of them to some degree or another had some experiences with the Civil War as I just explored what would happen to these characters and for that situation these concerns came out.
How did you cast the actors for this movie?
It was a pretty easy movie to cast because for the majority of the characters I ended up writing for specific actors in particular. And this is kind of the attraction to the movie — basically writing a real dense piece of material that really would be actor oriented and then writing it for what I refer to as the Tarantino Superstars — you know, Sam Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen… they are all Tarantino Superstars.
The Hateful Eight is your sixth collaboration with Samuel L. Jackson. Is there a clause whereby he needs to appear in any movie you do?
It’s not so much a clause but he just does my dialogue er… fairly well. I’m actually very lucky when it comes to this and it’s wonderful because he’s the real actor. Whether it’s Jackie Brown or The Hateful Eight, he’s one of the elite. In the case of Django Unchained he was happy to play Stephen and practically steals the show in the second half of the movie — and that was a really tricky character but he had no qualms about it. He just jumped in with both feet and gave one of the best performances in any of my movies ever. That’s where I’m, in particular, writing for him but he also actually just likes my movies. Like, he’ll get the script for say Inglourious Basterds and call me up and say, “Ah, why don’t I be The Narrator.” And I’m like, “You want to be The Narrator?” Then he’s like, “Well, it’s the only part I can play, so I’ll be The Narrator. I can’t be that French brother so let me be The Narrator.”
So he basically picks and chooses what role he wants?
If there’s not an obvious part for him he looks for other parts. I told Jamie Foxx this and he was like, “What, you mean that shit works?” I said to him, “Well, when it’s Sam it works. It doesn’t work for everybody.”
What did you think of Sam’s work in Snakes On A Plane?
Oh, I can’t imagine Snakes On A Plane without Sam Jackson. You need him as much as you need the snakes.
You sometimes include some Australian flavour in your films and without giving away too much, there’s a scene in The Hateful Eight where Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character sings an Australian folk song. Tell us more about this.
Well there’s a big section in the film where Jennifer Jason Leigh sings, in its entirety, the Australian folk song “Jim Jones at Botany Bay”. It’s a big sequence in the movie where she just grabs a guitar and sings the whole song. I’ve always liked it, it’s a terrific song, and I wanted her to sing a song from that era that would be appropriate for her character because she’s grounded — she’s been brought by bounty hunters into a town where she’ll be hanged. And “Jim Jones at Botany Bay” is written about the British convicts sent to Australia when it was just a penal colony. So, it matches her dilemma in a very interesting way.
Speaking of women, what lessons, over the years, have you learned about theM, AND, in particular, about love?
Ah… well, if you ask the people who are really close to me, they would probably say not a whole hell of a lot. I guess I’ve learned very well that love is something that one can easily do without.
Do you think any of your past or present work has ever been under-appreciated?
Ah… not really. As time goes on that’s kind of the hope. You make a movie and it does what it does when it comes out but then you hope there’s a deeper understanding of that. And I also realise that my movies play all over the world so the perception is not always the same. For instance, the film I did that was part of the Grindhouse double-feature, with Robert Rodriguez’s Death Proof, is not really well thought of that much in America. People think a little bit better of it now, particularly young girls who have just discovered and appreciated it. But it’s BELOVED in France. It was on the cover of Cahiers du cinéma — TWICE — and they think, as far as script structure is concerned, it’s one of my audacious films.
What is your favourite Quentin Tarantino movie?
It is hard to pick one just because I like different ones for different reasons. Like, it’s hard not to choose Reservoir Dogs, when you ask a question like that, because it was the first one and because I did a good job on it and was then able to make all the other ones. At the same time, I think Kill Bill is probably my most cinematic and most visionary movie. At the same time, The Hateful Eight and Inglourious Basterds are my most literary. So you know, it all just depends.
Would you ever like to do a reboot of a movie?
Well, I have a weird aspect about what constitutes a reboot versus a remake. I’m still a little unsure about that to some degree, but here’s the thing about that — it sounds like a great idea, and I’ve thought of different things that would be real fun to do that with, but at the same time while it would be fun, I don’t really see myself dedicating a year-and-a-half of my life to it. When compared to me just looking at a blank piece of paper and coming up with my own original stories I think this is more or less why I was put on Earth. You know, as opposed to doing another Star Trek movie.
Do you still collect a lot of movies on the VHS format?
Oh yeah. You see, VHS is a terrific format for saving things. In particular, it’s wonderful for archival purposes. I bought the inventory for video archive so I still have all those and watch them a lot. I’ve got ones from WAY back — a couple from the very first days of video dating back to 1978/1979. But even when I tape movies off the TV I keep them on VHS to save.
What would you say is your greatest achievement?
Hmmm… well, I’m still really proud of having won The Palme d’Or for Pulp Fiction at the Cannes Film Festival back in 1994. But I’m not sure if it’s my greatest achievement because I guess the actual work is the achievement. However, as far as a career marker it’s a very good trophy.
Finally, you’ve done a lot of fight scenes over the years. What’s one thing to always remember in a fight?
Go with the law of averages and basically this is — whoever punches who in the face first usually ends up winning the fight. So, if you feel there’s a fight about to go down, punch first. And make if count. ■
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