Quentin Tarantino on race, Westerns and why he will only make eight movies
At 52, Quentin Tarantino might be America’s number-one auteur, the rock star director who put a shot in cinema’s veins with Reservoir Dogs back in 1992. But even now he’s still the goofy video store clerk – the big kid with an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema who is living out his movie-making dream.
Today the Pulp Fiction director is as quick as a round of machine-gun fire on the subject of his latest film, The Hateful Eight, a western set in post-Civil War Wyoming where a snowstorm traps a group of people, including bounty hunters played by Kurt Russell and Samuel L Jackson, under one roof and challenges their politics and prejudices.
Tarantino has always vowed he’d call it a day at ten films. The Hateful Eight is his number eight. The big question is, when a man loves cinema this much – how can he stop?
The Hateful Eight explores a very topical theme – racial division in America. Are you surprised by how relevant your film has become during 2015? “If you talk to someone in a black neighbourhood in America, they’ll tell you this conversation has been relevant for the last 20 years. But as far as the purchase it’s had in the mainstream press as something that ‘must be dealt with’ – that really has happened since we’ve been making the movie. One good thing about the first draft of The Hateful Eight leaking on the Internet a while back, as distressed as I was, is that I’m on record as having written this script long before the recent events in the news which conspired to make this film as relevant as it now is.”
Why use the Western genre to explore race in America? “The Western has always been pretty precise when dealing with the decades in which the films were made. Vietnam or Watergate hung over all the Westerns that came out during the late 1960s and the 1970s. I am a big fan of those. They were cynical to their core. When you’re making a Western, you can’t help deal with the American zeitgeist. Ten or twenty years from now, hopefully you’ll be able to look at The Hateful Eight and get a good picture of the concerns of America at this time.”
You’re billing The Hateful Eight as “The Eighth Film From Quentin Tarantino”. Are you sticking to the idea that you’ll make only ten? “That is the idea. It usually takes me about three years to make a movie anyway.”
What about television, does that count? “I might do a TV thing in between and that wouldn’t be part of the ten.”
So other than TV, we only have two more Tarantino films to come? You’re only 52! “I don’t want to be the guy that’s doing this forever. There should be an end. And I should take responsibility for that. I’ve gotten more solid on that idea. “I think a lot of directors, if not all directors, think they have more time than they do. By time, I mean either mortality or changes of fortune in the industry. You never know what will happen. And so I think every director walks around, thinking, even when they have only one more movie to go, that they have six left.”
You’re going to have to choose your next films carefully then… “Certainly the reasons for making a film become sharper. It’s not about making a movie to pay for your alimony, or for your second house. “You don’t make a movie just because ‘blah blah blah’ wants to work with you and it would be nice to work with ‘blah blah blah’.”
Is there a kind of film you’re burning to make? “There is not a genre left where I have that same burning desire that I had to do a World War Two movie or a martial-arts movie. I think maybe the one genre left might be a 1930s gangster movie, that kind of John Dillinger thing. I’m interested in doing something contemporary, where I can have a character that gets in a car, turns on the radio and I can have a cool driving montage.
“And if I had all the time in the world, I would love to make a really, really scary horror film, like The Exorcist. But I don’t know if taking my sense of humour and putting it in there is the best use of my talents or my time.”
You think it would be hard to make a Quentin Tarantino movie that wasn’t funny on some level? “I don’t know if I could let go of that humour and be able to keep that tone of dread all the way through. Although a case could be made that The Hateful Eight is the closest I’ve ever come to a horror film.
“And more than any other Western, the film that influenced this movie the most is John Carpenter’s The Thing, way beyond just working with the same composer, Ennio Morricone, and that film’s star, Kurt Russell.
The Thing also hugely influenced Reservoir Dogs of course. And in it’s own way, The Hateful Eight is also influenced by Reservoir Dogs. So you could say everything is already starting to come full circle, and that umbilical cord is there, linking my eighth film back to my first.”