Quentin Tarantino: The Movie Buff

Quentin Tarantino is a living legend, yet his career is based on very simple principles, as the fifty-nine-year-old director explains. It’s an interesting mix between wanting to do everything on your own and relying on people who know how to do their job.

  • Interview
    Rüdiger Sturm
  • Photos
    Trunk Archive / Francesco Carrozzini
Critics and fans sing your praises, you’re seen as one of the greatest directors of our time. How do you still manage to keep your feet on the ground?

It’s actually quite simple. Part of why people respond to me is because I do the work. And the work keeps you humble.

Can you elaborate on that a bit?

What I mean is this: It would be easy to give somebody else the script and have them develop it for me. But I don’t do that. I write from scratch. When I have a hit, that’s great, but when I face all these white pieces of paper and I have to write a new script, I’m right back at square one again. It’s all about doing the work. Then, when I’m making the movie, I have to see that I get what I want. It’s a challenge, and there are only so many hours in a day. That keeps you humble.

“I don’t want to be an old man filmmaker, making old man movies, who doesn’t know when to leave the party.”
Haven’t you ever just wanted to take a break and bask in your success?

Let me tell you a story: I was at this party after Inglourious Basterds came out. The film had already been a success. And I bumped into director Richard Kelly, who is a friend and a big fan of my work. We were drunk in the kitchen, and he corners me against the stove and says: “Quentin, you worked really hard on Inglourious Basterds, and you’ve been to the Oscars and all that. And maybe now you want to hibernate. Don’t do it! You are where you wanted to be and where so many people are trying to get to. This is not the time to go to sleep. You’re in a creative phase right now. This is the time to put pen to paper. I want you to fall in love with an idea and do it right away. Don’t make us wait.”

And?

I thought about what he said. And then I started writing the script for Django Unchained.

People expect a lot from your films. How difficult is it to live with all those expectations?

I like people expecting a lot from me. I like having a very solid filmography and each new film has to fit into that chain and not be a weak link. Because I’ll be going to my grave with that chain. So I expect you to expect a lot from me.

You’ve been saying for years that you’ll stop directing after your tenth film. So now there’s only one more to go . . . ?

There’s a simple reason for that: I don’t want to be an old man filmmaker, making old man movies, who doesn’t know when to leave the party. I don’t want to fuck up my filmography with a bunch of old man’s stuff. I want to leave the ring triumphant. When I’m old, I’d rather just write and be a man of letters. Have more children. But I don’t want my older self to be a guy who makes movies anymore.

All of your films are perfectly done, but you never went to film school. Is learning by doing the better approach?

Most cinema schools don’t teach you that much aesthetically. They will show you some movies and they might teach you how to synch soundtrack with picture, they might teach you a few editing tricks and what you can do with the camera, but they can’t teach you how to become an artist. 

And how do you become an artist?

Part of becoming an artist is discovering your aesthetic. Finding your aesthetic is actually quite simple. I start it off with: I like this, I don’t like this. Then you have to start realizing the difference between good work and bad work. That helps you to you fine tune your aesthetics so you can put them into practice.

That does sound very simple.

One of the people who influenced me the most was the film critic Pauline Kael. I read her reviews and I can tell you, her reviews were better than anything I could have learned at film school. She taught me an aesthetic and I appreciated her opinion. I’m not saying I agreed with her all the time, but it was a way of cinema that affected me to this day.  

But to make a movie, you also need to know the technical aspects.

I disagree. Before I did Reservoir Dogs . . .

→ Read the whole interview in rampstyle #25 "Keep It Simple and Smart".

Rüdiger Sturm

Rüdiger Sturm

Freelance Author
Rüdiger Sturm is a film critic living in Munich. As a film journalist, he researches the industry at home and abroad - and talks to Hollywood stars as well as all other interesting personalities.
rampstyle #25 Keep It Simple and Smart

rampstyle #25 Keep It Simple and Smart

Wir erleben unsere Welt nicht nur als ziemlich kompliziert, sondern auch als äußerst komplex. In komplexen Systemen ist alles unvorhersehbar. Und wir sind mehr oder weniger fröhlich mittendrin.

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