In conversation with Quentin Tarantino
We’re five months from the release of The Hateful Eight. How close to finishing are you?
We’ve got a little bit more than an hour finished right now. I just got back from seeing an hour of the movie cut together.
Are you happy with it?
I’m not committing suicide yet. It is what it is. We’re rushing and trying to get to the end. Then you go through it and try to make it even better. But first, you just get to the end.
Every movie I’ve ever done, there has always been some date we were trying to meet, whether it was with Reservoir Dogs, trying to meet the Sundance date, or Pulp Fiction, meeting the Cannes date. But we always pull it off. And this way you don’t have that situation where you finish the movie and then the people who paid to make it get to sit around and pick it to death.
So you don’t get notes from the studio anymore?
No, you do. Oh, yeah.1
Did that box office change things?
I don’t think so, as far as me making the story I want to tell. But I learned a big lesson with Grindhouse,3 and I try not to repeat the mistake. Robert Rodriguez and I had gotten used to going our own way, on these weird roads, and having the audience come along. We’d started thinking they’d go wherever we wanted. With Grindhouse, that proved not to be the case. It was still worth doing, but it would have been better if we weren’t caught so unaware by how uninterested people were.
You’ve talked at various times about how, when you’re directing, you like to play your audience like a conductor does an orchestra. As time goes on and audiences become more sophisticated and accustomed to your style, does that become harder?
Frankly, sophisticated audiences are not a problem. Dumb audiences are a problem. But I think audiences are getting more sophisticated — that’s just a product of time. In the ’50s, audiences accepted a level of artifice that the audiences in 1966 would chuckle at. And the audiences of 1978 would chuckle at what the audience of 1966 said was okay, too. The trick is to try to be way ahead of that curve, so they’re not chuckling at your movies 20 years down the line. With Pulp Fiction,people were like, “Wow, I have never seen a movie like that before. A movie can do that?” I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I’m not talking ridiculously over anyone’s head anymore. I think people watched Djangoand Inglourious Basterds and thought they were really out there, but they got it. They felt themselves on solid ground. It wasn’t just, “What the fuck was that?” And people understand what I’m doing with genre. They’re not befuddled. They don’t think I’m doing it wrong. They get it.
Speaking of genre, what is it about the Western for you? There aren’t many being made right now.
There are a few coming out. Antoine Fuqua is doing Magnificent Seven,starring Denzel Washington, so that’s one. Django did so well I’m surprised that there’s not even more.
One thing that’s always been true is that there’s no real film genre that better reflects the values and the problems of a given decade than the Westerns made during that specific decade. The Westerns of the ’50s reflected Eisenhower America better than any other films of the day. The Westerns of the ’30s reflected the ’30s ideal. And actually, the Westerns of the ’40s did, too, because there was a whole strain of almost noirish Westerns that, all of a sudden, had dark themes. The ’70s Westerns were pretty much anti-myth Westerns — Watergate Westerns. Everything was about the anti-heroes, everything had a hippie mentality or a nihilistic mentality. Movies came out about Jesse James and the Minnesota raid, where Jesse James is a homicidal maniac. In Dirty Little Billy, Billy the Kid is portrayed as a cute little punk killer. Wyatt Earp is shown for who he is in the movie Doc, by Frank Perry. In the ’70s, it was about ripping the scabs off and showing who these people really were. Consequently, the big Western that came out in the ’80s was Silverado, which was trying to be rah-rah again — that was very much a Reagan Western.
So what is Hateful Eight saying about the 2010s?
I’m not trying to make Hateful Eight contemporary in any way, shape, or form. I’m just trying to tell my story. It gets to be a little too much when you try to do that, when you try to make a hippie Western or try to make a counterculture Western.
Are you nostalgic for the ’90s?
I’m not, even though I think the ’90s were a really cool time. It was definitely a cool time for me. But almost like how Bob Dylan had to survive the ’60s so he could be not just considered an artist of the ’60s, I had to survive the ’90s so that when VH1 does their I Love the ’90s thing, they wouldn’t mention me. I think the jury was out about that for a while. But if I am going to be nostalgic about the ’90s, it’s for the lack of everybody being connected to all this technology all the time.
Do you not stream movies?
No, I don’t. My TV isn’t connected to my computer.
It’s just a generational thing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not depressed by it. The idea that somebody’s watching my movie on a phone, that’s very depressing to me.
I just saw a guy on the subway watching Django Unchained on a phone.
I can’t even make myself watch a movie on a laptop. I’m old-school. I read the newspaper. I read magazines. I watch the news on television. I watch CNBC a lot.
Do you still write your scripts by hand?
Let me ask you a question: If you were going to try to write a poem, would you do it on a computer?
That’s true. I wouldn’t.
You don’t need technology for poetry.