“Westerns are really fun to make”

Quentin Tarantino

Interview

  • INTERVIEW PATRICK HEIDMANN

Talkative types, silent types, killers: Quentin ­Tarantino has assembled some familiar faces for The Hateful Eight, his new film. In our interview, he talks about violence, likes and dislikes, and Ennio Morricone

Mr. Tarantino, You have said that The Hateful Eight is your most political movie. Could you elaborate a little? It is a Western, after all …

But not just any Western! It’s set right after the Civil War, when the polarization of the two Americas, North and South, was still firmly anchored in people’s minds. That pretty well mirrors the current state of our country. So if you like, the film is a metaphor for the present.

So why not just make a film about the United States today?

That would be too simple, wouldn’t it? We filmmakers like to use and cross different genres. A friend recently called The Hateful Eight my “first post-apocalyptic movie.” I liked that. Only instead of Mad Max in the Australian outback, it’s this brutally cold American winter wasteland.

You have a thing for Westerns. Why?

Westerns are really fun for a director to make. And I feel very lucky and privileged that in a time when that genre has supposedly died out, I get a chance to make this kind of film. For a while, I had a Kubrickian kind of thing, where I touched base with one genre and then moved on to another. I had only just taught myself how to make martial arts movies, when I began teaching myself to do car chases. Then I’d move on to another genre … But after Django Unchained, I knew I wasn’t done. Perhaps that was also because within the Western genre, I was constantly dealing with the problems between blacks and whites, and the issue of slavery, which was unheard of until then.

Racism is a major issue in the film. It discusses what needs to happen when the Civil War is over before everyone really can exercise the same rights. In keeping with this, you recently took issue with the American police force and denounced the violence some officers use against African Americans …

There is a connection, but let’s not get too carried away. A black man’s life was worth far, far less in the 19th century than it is now. We’ve come a long way since then, although it has to be said that we’ve gone backwards in the last 30 years, especially when it comes to institutional racism. It should at least be acceptable to question why many white officers are often far too quick to reach for their weapon when dealing with young blacks.

The biggest digital refuser in ­Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino

The biggest digital refuser in ­Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino

© Leon Bliss/Contour by Getty Images
Kurt Russel and Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from The Hateful Eight

Kurt Russel and Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from The Hateful Eight

© ddp images

How do you decide on the amount of violence that’s right for a film?

I don’t think I’ve considered that actually. I realized it was pointless when I wrote my first script, True Romance, which I actually think is a romantic comedy – although it’s as violent as anything I did later. It’s just the story. If the story calls for violence, then violence is what I show.

Where does the urge to tell these kinds of stories come from?

It’s probably helpful to recall that the eighties were my formative years. That was probably the most repressive time in American cinema since the fifties. Every film had to have a happy ending! But you’d read novels, especially violent genre-type novels, and they could go anywhere, and anything could happen. My idea was to break that wall down and actually make use of the same freedom that a novelist has. And I think I’ve accomplished that!

Let’s talk about your “comrade-in-arms,” Samuel L. Jackson. He’s like a kind of talisman, isn’t he?

He is. It’s been like that since Pulp Fiction; exceptions prove the rule. Ever since then I’ve written for Sam, and I write in his voice so much that sometimes it’s hard not to turn every character into Sam, because I’m just comfortable writing that way.

Nothing can compare with cinema and the big screen

What about the legendary composer Ennio Morricone, who wrote the score for The Hateful Eight. Didn’t he grumble about how you used his music in Django Unchained?

I think that was blown a little bit out of proportion, but I know he loved Inglourious Basterds. And I think he also really likes the fact that people at his concerts now like to hear the music that I use in my movies.

Collaborating with him must have fulfilled a dream.

Absolutely. I had toyed with the idea before, but didn’t dare to ask. I had the script translated so he could read it. He and his wife both did, and I heard she loved it. That was probably a good thing.

Unlike many other filmmakers, you shoot on celluloid film and refuse to switch to digital. Does it bother you that many people will watch your work on laptops and cell phones anyway?

I think people tend to exaggerate here, at least as far as cell phones are concerned. Of course kids watch YouTube videos on their phones, but entire movies? I don’t like watching movies on my laptop. Admittedly, I saw many of the great films on television – even with commercial interruptions. I can watch them on an airplane, too. But nothing can compare with cinema and the big screen. That’s why I aim to make my work as cinema-friendly as possible – and that includes shooting on celluloid.