“Because they have good taste, they appeal to a mass audience,” he opines.
The film that is the vehicle of their honors, “Grindhouse,” happens to be a double bill that harks back to some wonderfully tacky exploitation pics of the 1970s. One half of the bill is the Robert Rodriguez-directed “Planet Terror,” a zombie thriller with Freddy Rodriguez; the other half is Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” a deadly virus thriller that features Rosario Dawson, the ShoWest Supporting Actress of the Year.
Maybe the actor’s good-taste comment comes from the filmmakers’ bold decision to cast him as Wray, the ex-beau of Rose McGowan’s one-legged go-go dancer. It’s a character that should banish any thoughts of Rodriguez’s mortician turn in HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”
“I’ve taken films that were the opposite, and it doesn’t get more different than Wray,” he says.
Wray recalls such other Robert Rodriguez action studs as Antonio Banderas (“Desperado”), George Clooney (“From Dusk Till Dawn”) and Clive Owen (“Sin City”).
“Although I’ve always wanted to play those action guys, I was taken aback when Robert saw me in that light. I don’t fit into the stereotype: I’m not six-three, and I don’t look like Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger,” says Rodriguez, who clocks in at 5 feet, 6 inches.
While he applauds the “Grindhouse” filmmakers’ taste level, Dawson, who performed in Rodriguez’s “Sin City,” takes a more conventional view of their aesthetic.
“Robert’s ‘Grindhouse’ feature is more horror and crazy, with infected people melting, and it’s just gross,” she says. “It’s storytelling you don’t believe can really happen, while Quentin’s half is more of a terror film: It actually could happen. That’s scary to me.”
Having now worked with both men, Dawson can easily itemize what they share and how they disagree.
“They’re very passionate guys who are huge fanboys,” the actress reveals. “It’s great to watch them together and see them argue. They go on and on for ages. It’s just a geek-out. It’s also amazing how Quentin won’t start (shooting) a script until he’s put the last period on it, while Robert moves very quickly.”
Acting under Tarantino’s direction was especially meaningful for Dawson since he’s the director who changed her life.
“I hadn’t thought about acting when my dad gave me ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ I was 16, and I ended up watching it five times that week, which would have made any other parent nervous,” she recalls. “But my dad realized I was really studying the acting.
“Here were a bunch of five guys, all in the same black outfit, in one room together and just being phenomenal. That’s always been Quentin’s genius. He lets the actors develop the characters. On the page, they may sound the same, but onscreen they differentiate themselves so strongly you can’t imagine anyone else playing those roles. It’s amazing to see that so early in his career.”