Interviews


Quentin Tarantino


Occupation: Actor, Director, Mass-media phenomenon, Producer, Screenwriter, Script doctor
Date of Birth: March 27, 1963
Place of Birth: Knoxville, Tenn., USA
Sign: Sun in Aries, Moon in Gemini
Relations: Ex-companion: Mira Sorvino (actress)
Education: Dropped out of school at age sixteen; got his movie education at Carson Twin Cinema, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Video Archives, Manhattan Beach.

 

IN this age of rampant computer literacy, it is noteworthy that Quentin Tarantino, the much-ballyhooed point man for '90s filmmakers, still writes the old-fashioned way  using a pen (to be precise, he ritualistically purchases three red and three black felt-tip pens before commencing a new screenplay) and a notebook. The director-screenwriter-actor has fondly compared his feverish scribblings to the diary of madman Richard Ramirez. Many would concur with this self-estimation, as Tarantino has been startling audiences with his frenetic, comically violent worldview since Reservoir Dogs premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992.

Whether you revere or revile this rock star of filmmakers, no one is better at creating an amoral, anti-intellectual cinema of viscera than Quentin Tarantino. Dubbed "the new Martin Scorsese," Tarantino emerged not as a product of the film school generation, but from that pantheon of filmmakers past and present: the video store. He penned his first screenplay, True Romance, while working at the well-stocked Video Archives  Manhattan Beach's answer to the Left Bank. When Tarantino failed to raise the necessary financial backing to direct the project himself, he sold the script, and then did the same with his next venture, Natural Born Killers, which eventually wound up in the hands of director Oliver Stone. Tarantino took the money from his testosterone-fueled True Romance script and commenced pre-production of his next opus, Reservoir Dogs  for which he received significant financial backing from LIVE Entertainment after actor Harvey Keitel committed to starring in the film. No matter that his only actual filmmaking experience was a short gig working as a production assistant on a Dolph Lundgren exercise video.

The anecdote behind the naming of this career-making cult film provides an interesting metaphor for Tarantino's filmmaking  a puree of conventions from cheap thrillers and Westerns mixed with the odds and ends dug up by his auteurist pop-cultural strip-mining. Apparently, the title was derived from a peculiar bastardization of Au Revoir Les Enfants (a French classic that Tarantino referred to during his days as a video store clerk as "the reservoir film" to avoid butchering the pronunciation) and Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Like the name, Tarantino's scripts offer a cultural-hybrid vision: art-house cinema meets syringe-in-the-heart splatter-toon.

At 15, Quentin was arrested in a K-Mart store for a botched attempt at shoplifting a copy of Elmore Leonard's The Switch  a novel in the genre of cheap groundwood paperbacks to which Tarantino paid homage in his next work, an audaciously lurid display called Pulp Fiction. The film catapulted Tarantino from the cult status generated by Reservoir Dogs into the celebrity-director stratosphere; it swiped the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival prior to its release and went on to score seven Academy Award nominations. (It won only for Best Original Screenplay.) The movie's runaway success suggested that Tarantino's self-education in pulp may well have been a productive way to pass his adolescence after all (the film grossed over $100 million domestically and scored numerous critical awards). Hollywood subsequently enshrined the boy wonder as the emblem of a new generation of young "videostore" auteurists; his flavor-of-the-year status had the attendant benefit of revitalizing John Travolta's ailing career. For a time, Tarantino seemed content to rest on his fast-won laurels, by pulling acting duty in (thankfully) small roles in various independent features like Sleep With Me (1994), Somebody to Love (1994), and Robert Rodriguez's Desperado (1995).

Tarantino returned to the production side of filmmaking for 1995's poorly received anthology Four Rooms; for 1996's slightly-better received hipster gore-fest From Dusk Till Dawn (based on his screenplay); and for the appropriately titled feature Curdled (also 1996). Jackie Brown, QT's predictably long-winded, lightning-paced, well-cast 1997 adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch, rekindled to a certain degree his reputation as the savior of American moviemaking, and yet, the jury is still out as to whether the video geek turned wunderkind will pan out or bottom out. Tarantino's real-life antics in Full Tilt Boogie  a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of From Dusk Till Dawn  did little to dissuade those critics who've accused him of possessing an unchecked ego. But one thing is for sure, Tarantino, the consummate Hollywood dabbler, will no doubt keep very busy in the years to come: working as executive producer, he is currently juggling Red Rain, Dark Passion, Bandits, Hangman's Daughter, Freaky Deaky, and Texas Blood Money; he is also writing an as-yet-untitled screenplay for director John Woo.

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