Quentin Tarantino Explains the Link Between His Hateful Eight and #BlackLivesMatter

Quentin Tarantino lives up in the Hollywood Hills, in the same house heís had since 1996, with a movie theater built into one wing of the house and a terrace with a swimming pool and an orange tree and a Planet of the Apes statue out back. Thatís where heís sitting one night in October, glass of red wine in hand, watching the sun go down. Heís still got to finish the sound mix and work on the colors, but his newest film, The Hateful Eight, is otherwise pretty much done. He shot it on 65-millimeter film, like Paul Thomas Anderson did with The Master, and then he had his studio buy up pretty much every existing 70-millimeter projector in the country so he could personally equip 100 theaters with them and show the movie the way he thinks it should be shown.

He describes The Hateful Eight as ďa claustrophobic snow WesternĒóa chamber piece, like Reservoir Dogs or The Iceman Cometh, but set in the wintry postĖCivil War 1800s. Itís about a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) escorting a prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to justice, only to be diverted into Tarantino-landóa.k.a. a tavern of sorts called Minnieís Haberdashery, which doesnít sell hatsówhere six other men are waiting out a snowstorm, and nobodyís who they say they are. It also stars Sam Jackson and Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern; everyone wears giant furs. ďI think it could be my best movie,Ē Tarantino says. ďIf not, at least in my top four.Ē Which is a hilarious qualifier, since heís only made eight. People count Tarantino movies because heís maintained for a while now that heís only making ten. Maybe not even ten. ďIf film projection goes the way of the dodo bird, well, then, maybe I might not even get to ten,Ē he says.

He sounds weirdly at peace saying thatóanticipating the end of the work heís given his life to. He seems, frankly, weirdly at peace in general, holed up with his costume-designer girlfriend, every memorabilia-crammed room here like some exhibit in a future Tarantino museum, with a Charro! poster on the bathroom wall and a couple of muscle cars out front and a glittery view of the Valleyís fading light. Heís still the antic, emphatic, maniacally gesticulating guy of í90s popular imagination, but he also turned 52 recently. ďI tend to always think of myself as perpetually 35 or so,Ē Tarantino says. ďSo, you know, itís a bit of a drag, in certain regards. And in other regards, Iíve really enjoyed it. I meanÖa lot of shit that used to really be on my mind is kind of gone now.Ē

He sits up in his chair, tries to explain. ďIím over a whole lot of stuff,Ē he says. He places his finger at the precise center of the table weíre sitting at. ďIf the universe was this table, Iím right here where I wanted to be at this point in time, at this point in my life, at this point in my filmography. Iím right where I wanted to be.Ē

How did you spend your time off between Django and The Hateful Eight?
Quentin Tarantino: Usually, when Iím done, I want to spend two months on my couch. I want to just pretty much nail the door shut, fuck the phone, and just go to sleep whenever. I have a completely erratic sleeping schedule. I fall asleep whenever I want. I get up whenever I want. Just two months of just watching movies and doing cinema writing and just vegging out that way. And I start emerging and just start, you know, getting back into the swing of things of life.

The people in your life must want to murder you during that sleep-whenever-you-want phase.
One of the privileges you have of living the life of an artist and creating your own world and everything is the fact that, in-between times, you can kind of spend them however you want. Because, you know, once you open up your candy store again, youíre open for business. And you have to be responsible. You have to be available. But, you know, that in-between time, I get to really live the fun life of a graduate student.

The legend is that you wrote Pulp Fiction in Amsterdam with no phone. Are those the conditions you need to write?
No, I donít need to go anywhere to write. It can be fun. I have a cell phone, and the only person who has the number is my girlfriend. Because I donít need anyone to call me as Iím walking down the street or driving from hill to dale. You know, my landline is my phone. And so I unplug it, or I donít listen to it for a while. Iím good. Iíll play some of the messages. Iíll hear them when they come in. Okay, fine.

And that doesnít cause you anxiety?
No, no. My problem is the opposite. It causes me no anxiety whatsoever. A lot of people figure thatís my problem: I have no anxiety about shutting the world out at all.

How does something like The Hateful Eight emerge from that process?
I liked the idea of creating a new pop-culture, folkloric hero character that I created with Django, that I thinkís gonna last for a long time. And I think as the generations go on and everything, you know, my hope is it can be a rite of passage for black fathers and their sons. Like, when are they old enough to watch Django Unchained? And when they get old enoughó14 or 15 or something like thatóthen maybe itís something that they do with their fathers, and itís a cool thing. And then Django becomes their cowboy hero. And so I like the idea of maybe like a series of paperbacks coming out, Further Adventures of Django, and so I was really kind of into that idea. And then I started writing it as a book, as prose. And thatís what ended up turning into The Hateful Eight. The number one thing I had to do was get rid of Django. [laughs]

Django felt like a political turn for you.
You know, it was very political, as opposed to, say, Inglourious Basterds, which was not necessarily political. Itís a little bit more wish fulfillment. All right? Django is still a bit of wish fulfillment, but I was trying to show America itself, you know? Django was definitely the beginning of my political side, and I think Hateful Eight is theÖlogical extension and conclusion of that. I mean, when I say conclusion, Iím not saying Iíll never be political again, but, I mean, I think itís like, in a weird way, Django was the question and Hateful Eight is the answer.

What do you mean by that?
Well, I mean, in the way of, like, talking about Americaís culpability in their past is what Djangoís about. The white supremacy that has existed since and that is rearing its ugly head again, to such a degree that itís being dealt with by the Black Lives Matter movement and all that stuff, is where we are now. And thatís what The Hateful Eight deals with. The thing that was really wild is, I wasnít trying to bend over backwards in any way, shape, or form to make it socially relevant. But once I finished the script, thatís when all the social relevancy started.

Youíre referencing the fact that Hateful Eight is in part about the tension between Sam Jacksonís postĖCivil War bounty hunter and the various Confederates and Confederate sons he faces off against in Minnieís Haberdashery. Do you think youíre just reading patterns subconsciously, or is it a coincidence?
No, I donít think itís a coincidence. I think I was tapped into the Zeitgeist. That is the issue I was dealing with. All right? And now all of a sudden, itís such a real issue that itís now not under the surface anymore in American life, and people are having to deal with it.

Django came out at an interesting moment, when you also had Spielbergís Lincoln, and then, a year later, Steve McQueenís 12 Years a Slave, in theaters, dealing with the same material.
There literally was a moment where Lincoln was playing in one theater in the multiplex and Django was playing in another one. Which was actually kind of fucking groovy.

I interviewed McQueen around the time his movie came out and asked him about Django, and he said, ďIím just happy to see black actors on-screen who actually get work.Ē That sounded like a shot to me.
Yeah, Iím sure it was.

What did you think of his movie?
I never saw it.

Is that because it was too close to what you were working on?

No, I just spent a year and a half in the antebellum South. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was go back. I was so not the audience for that movie, after I literally created the worst possible decade of the last 200 years and lived in it every single solitary day. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was visit it in any way, shape, or form. Thereís no shade going toward his movie when it comes to that. I just didnít want to subject myself. I was in a depression a bit. Even though it was my biggest success, I was in a depression for about nine months after the film came out, because I couldnít really allow the pain and the misery that I was orchestrating to get into my inner fibers and those little pockets of your lungs, and it all got there when it was done.

Django made $425 millionówhat do you chalk that success up to?

People liked the movie. I mean, [laughs] I take a little bit of pride about the fact that Westerns arenít supposed to work, black-lead movies arenít supposed to work, and if theyíre not supposed to work, slavery movies are really, really, really not supposed to work, and I made almost a half a billion dollars around the world and was actually even more of a success and greeted with more open arms in other countries. But ultimately, I think it was the movie. People just responded to the movie.

Do you have high expectations for the new one?

No. If anything, I have the opposite. Itís like, Iím hoping that my movie will do well, but itís not the third in line to Inglourious Basterds and Django. Itís a different beast. And I love the fact that, like, people are so excited about it and theyíre talking about it and everything at the end of the year, and it seems a little crazy that, like, my movie Hateful Eight, this claustrophobic snow Western, all right, that owes more to Iceman Cometh than anything else, you know, is being talked about at the end of the year in the same sentences as Star Wars. [laughs]

And presumably the Oscar conversation.
Well, that is understandable. I think we are a contender. Weíll see. But it is one of those weird things. Wowóhave I gotten so popular that I can do weird-ass shit like this, and it actually is a commercial entity? Well, that remains to be seen. But if thatís the case, that would be fucking awesome.

How do you feel about going out and campaigning for Oscars?
Well, you know, it depends on what you call campaigning. Sitting down with every chucklehead that has a podcast, because, well, why not? Canít hurt! No, Iím not going to do that. You know, but Iíll go to an event. Iíll go to a party. Iíll go to this screening. Iím happy to do that.

The real turnoff for lots of people is when their film doesnít win.
Iíve felt that way a little bit on Inglourious Basterds. You know, it was likeÖI didnít shamelessly promote Inglourious Basterds in any way, shape, or form. But I did what was asked of me. I did a genuine campaign, all right? And maybe I did a little too much. And yeah, we won Supporting Actor, but I was a little pissed off by the results. And I probably wonít ever do that much again.

Are you competitive as a director?
Iím not competitive as a director. But the thing about it is, if I win a third screenwriting Oscar, I will tie with Woody [Allen]. I canít beat Woody until I tie with him.

But you want to beat him?
I want to have more original-screenplay Oscars than anybody whoís ever lived! So much, I want to have so many thatófour is enough. And do it within ten films, all right, so that when I die, they rename the original-screenplay Oscar ďthe Quentin.Ē And everybodyís down with that.

Tarantinoís girlfriend emerges from the house: ďYou are insane. I just heard that. Thatís the most ridiculous thing youíve ever said.Ē

I just find it hard to believe that youíre down to see other people go up there and get Best Director.
Iím just telling you what I want. I want that third one. I want to tie Woody. All right? Look: When itís your time, itís your time. And actually, you can barely do anything to stop it from being your time. Thereís almost nothing Danny Boyle could have done to stop the success of Slumdog Millionaire. Thereís almost nothing that the Coen brothers could have done to stop the success of their Shermanís March through Hollywood for No Country for Old Men. So if I end up getting lucky and having one of those ones, then all things will be taken care of.

Youíre such a scholar of the medium. You know the history. No offense to Danny Boyle, but arenít you like, ďHow the fuck is Danny Boyle winning Oscars when Iíve directed eight films?Ē
Itís whatever. You know, I donít make Oscar kind of movies. So the fact that Iím invited to the party when I donítóand Iím not saying heís pandering, I mean, it was hardly pandering doing Slumdog Millionaireóbut, you know, thereís no pandering to mine. I mean, actually, the idea of winning three screenplay Oscars, maybe four, all right, with only ten films, and never doing it for that purpose, only following my own museóthatís about as great a testament to an artistic career as I can imagine. But Iím also keeping it in perspective, because I actually think, you know, Preston Sturges is maybe a better writer than all the guys who have ever won before, and he didnít win shit. [Sturges did win once, for 1940ís The Great McGintyómake of this slip what you will]

It surprised me that you reacted so angrily to the leak of the Hateful Eight scriptóyou know youíre a good writer. So why sue Gawker over posting a link to it?
Well, it was a mistake to sue Gawker, and the mistake wasóI was just pissed off at the time, and, like, ďThey canít do that! Okay, let me sue them!Ē And it got kind of exciting for a second, because it looked like, you know, even though there was no precedent for it, it looked like it might be one of those things that could create a precedent. And that became very exciting. Well, it didnít happen. So I dropped it. But I regret it now, because it actually took the spotlight off where I thought it deserved to be, which was on Hollywood practices of passing out stuff by artistsí representatives.

Did you sue Gawker before or after they posted about the girl who went on a date with you?
No, that [post] was before. I had no idea. If Gawker was involvedóI donít think Gawker was involved with that. I think they hired her after the fact. So I donít think they were involved with her. But if they were, I wouldnít even have known about it.

So it wasnít aboutó
No, no. Theyíre putting my fucking scriptóthereís a copyright issue going on here, you know, and if the judge had saw it our way, maybe things would be different now. But they didnít.

Ennio Morricone did the sound track for The Hateful Eight, but he also was in the news in 2013 for saying that you place music in your films ďwithout coherence.Ē
I think he was talking to a class, and he was just saying that he didnít care for my all-over-the-map approach in the case of Django and some of the other things that Iíve done and whatever. But it wasnít necessarily a criticism of me, per se. Itís just not his cup of tea. I think itís kind of a generational thing, and that I completely understand. He apologized. And he said nothing he needed to apologize about. He later clarified it, because it was blown out of proportion. Some asshole nimrod who wants some sort of power thing leaked it to whatever thingy so he can just have the fun of watching it in three hundred outlets. I felt [Morricone] was betrayed by that person. I knew that was where he was coming from! I knew thatís how he felt about my shit! It was nothing new to me. And almost in a generational way, he was left out to dry. He is such a great artist, he can say any fucking thing he wants.

Twenty years ago, would you have worked with that guy after he said something like that in public?

Well, people made a bigger deal out of it than what, you knowÖyou know, there used to be a time where I could go to Austin and have my QT fest and sit there in front of the audience, in either a question-and-answer session about my own shit, or introducing some movie that Iím a big fan of that Iím talking about, and I could be honest and off the cuff and funny and profound and whatever, and complicated, and it was fine, because it was just for the people in that room. That world doesnít really exist anymore, and thatís not Ennioís fault.

Do you mourn that?
I mourn it terribly. Yeah. But where Iím coming from is they donít deserve it. If the only way they can experience it is by filming it so they can put it online, then they donít deserve my candor. They donít deserve a special moment that we might be having amongst us. They donít deserve it. And if thatís what they ultimately want, well, then, okay. Iíll clean up my act. [laughs]

Youíre on film number eight. How could you plan to make only two more after this?
Hopefully itís like Iím getting down to the tip of the arrowhead. Iím getting better and better. And that means I still have two more to go. All right? And two more to go is gonna be six years, at least. But weíll see what happens. And, you know, if that tenth film is a stinker, well, maybe the plan goes into the house fan. You know, in shreds. But so far so good. And I love the idea of taking my vitality to its furthest point, and then stopping, leaving you wanting a little bit more. Not staying too long at the party. Not working with dulled senses. Not working with dulled intentions. Not working with compromised intentionsói.e., age, vitality, wealth, wife, kids, you know, all those kind of things that get in the way.

That seems like a bleak thing to say, that last part.
My filmography comes first. My artistic journey comes first. Iím not saying I canít have kids. But the last two movies, canít have kids, canít have a wife, you know. Thatís the deal. Now, now itís not so scary. You know, conceivably, I could have a kid tomorrow, and by the time Iím done with a career, theyíre six. And I have the whole rest of their life to dedicate myself one hundred and twenty percent. Well, not the rest of their life. The rest of my life. And if I have a kid two years from now or three years from now, then theyíre age three or age four. Now Iím, boom, that guy. And thatís okay. But there is an excitement when youíre hanging on the next film of a director as theyíre doing their climb to immortality. I felt that way about De Palma in the í70s and the í80s. I felt that way about Scorsese in the í70s and the í80s, and I felt that way about Spielberg in the í70s and í80s.

Who do you think is currently working at your level?

I think my real filmmaking peer is probably David O. Russell right nowói.e., his ability to write, the movies he does, and his relationship that he has with the actors that he likes to work with. And I think along with myself, I think he is the best actorís director out there. And I feel heís pushing it. I actually think, as terrific as Robert De Niro was in Silver Linings Playbook, I think his cameo in American Hustle is maybe the best work heís done in the last seven years. Itís a small little thing, and he was a diamond bullet in it! He was perfect. And you would think, Oh, you never need to see De Niro ever play a mob guy again, but you never saw that guy. And that was a fucking cameo! But no one treated it like a cameo. And the fact that, like, they have that trust and that relationship is just such a lovely thing. I think [Russell] and Jennifer Lawrence are the closest thing we have to Bette Davis and William Wyler. I mean, itís fucking exciting.

Can you still access the person that you were at the beginning of your careeróthe guy who went to jail for parking tickets and whoíd never left Los Angeles?
Oh, very much so. I meanÖ [pause] I still touch base with that person all the time, and I still have their thoughts. I still have their perspectives. I mean, you know, the way the police are killing black males out there, unarmed black males, shooting them down, umÖyou know, itís a different story for me now. All right? The police protect this house. And I need them to do that. And I want them to do that. If I have a problem here, if I think somebody jumped my fence and is fucking around on my property, Iím gonna call the cops. But Iím rich now. Iím rich and white now. All right? When I was in my twenties, I wasnít rich. They looked at me, and they saw a criminal. They saw a scumbag. They saw someone to be fucked with. I went through a county-jail system four different times. I saw how the county sheriffs talk to you when youíre down there. I saw what itís like when you have absolutely no power and youíre on the wrong side of the social strata, and what they think of you, and the judgments they make of you. I see that, and I see that now. So when I watch this stuff, I say, ďGod, shit, that, you know, that could have been me in 1984. That could have been me in 1986.Ē Now, I have white skin and they have black skin, and thatís a huge difference.

Back in the í90s, you used to approach the press cycle like an actor would, and you became famous in your own right. Did you later regret that decision?

I joke Iím not really that famous, Iím just that recognizable. If you know what I look like, youíre gonna know me when you see me. But noóI wanted me to be enough when Iím making a movie. I didnít want to have to go and get a star who respected my movies. I wanted to be enough to get it made, and if I get a star, well, thatís all great. Okay, now weíre talking Hitchcock and Cary Grant. Awesome! All right? But, you know, Hitchcock and Farley Granger is okay, too.

So many people in your industry have early success and then burn out. How did that not happen to you?
I worked too long to be here. I mean, I had such incredible good luck and fortune to make Pulp Fiction and just, in this weird pocket of time, that it could be appreciated for what it was. If Iím gonna fuck that up, I donít really deserve to have any of this. But I was never afraid of the burnout scenario that you described. I was more afraid of likeóI didnít want to open up a shingle and a shop and now Iím a factory. You know, I do my movie that I do every two or three years, but then I produce a bunch of stuff, and my nameís always out there, Quentin Tarantino Presents this movie, that movie, and Iím rewriting this, because theyíre paying me a lot of money, I do a two-week dialogue polish on Transformers 3, this and that and the other, and I keep making money and money and money, and Iím, like, you know, giving my special magic well water away to these peopleóand now all of a sudden my name doesnít mean jack fucking shit.

Have you seen The Wolfpack, the documentary about the kids who love and reenact your films?
Yes, I have. Those kids are fucking awesome, man. I think theyíre fantastic. And, like, you know, and literally, watching acting out the scenes, that was so entertaining and lovely and glorious. But watching them writing the script, i.e. just jotting it down, but the way they talk about it, itís as if they wrote it. ďIím working on the script. Iím writing the script.Ē And I know exactly what they mean! I got it. Watching the kid writing the dialogue down word for word on a yellow legal pad was fucking fantastic.

Thereís still a lot of random Tarantino floating around in the culture in 2015ówhether it be in film dialogue or nonlinear storytelling or the basic eternal persistence of the Reservoir Dogs suits. Where do you most encounter your work or your influence in the wild?

In the í90s, from like í97 through í99 or 2000 or something like that, it would be going in young peopleís apartments and seeing the Pulp Fiction poster up, or seeing the head shot from Pulp Fiction, which is Jules and Vincent pointing their guns. Or seeing their cinder-block used-video libraryóyou know, that they bought for $9.99 from the local video storeóand they have Godfather 1, they have Godfather 2, they have Scarface. And then they have Reservoir Dogs and they have Pulp Fiction.

Source: GQ