Tarantino explains ‘Basterds’

Project is director's contribution to war film genre

In a raucous press conference to introduce The Weinstein Co./Universal Pictures release “Inglourious Basterds” to the Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Quentin Tarantino called the film — about a rogue group of mostly Jewish soldiers who wreak havoc against Nazis in France — his contribution to the war film genre, one that had aspects of “a fairy tale and Jewish wish-fulfillment fantasy.”

Eli Roth, the “Hostel” director who played the bat-swinging Basterds member Donny Donowitz, took that sentiment a step further.

“I’m Jewish, and to me this was kosher porn, something that I fantasized about since I was a child,” said Roth, who in addition to starring, directed the pseudo-Nazi propaganda film “Nation’s Pride” that figures prominently into the plot.

Tarantino brought most of his international cast, including Brad Pitt, Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Mike Myers, Daniel Bruhl and producer Lawrence Bender.

Pitt, whom moderator Henri Behar introduced as “main basterd,” said his commitment came after a visit with Tarantino last summer that led to a lengthy chat about films. Sometime during that meeting, Pitt signed on to play Lt. Aldo Raine.

“When I woke up, there were five empty bottles of wine and I guess I committed because six weeks later, I was in uniform,” said Pitt. He hailed Tarantino’s decision to cast actors who matched the ethnic origins of their parts…mostly.

“There was Germans playing Germans, French playing French, and Canadians playing British,” he said, the latter a reference to Myers, the Canadian-born thesp who plays British general Ed Fenech. Myers said the role allowed him to realize a fantasy forged during childhood breakfast table chats as his British-born parents reminisced, dad about his days in the Royal Engineers and mom about her time working for the Royal Air Force.

“I am honoured, with a “u” in there,” said Myers, betraying his Canadian roots.

Tarantino, who waxed on about his love of the pressure of opening a film at Cannes before a rabid core of international press and reviewers, was so effusive about his cast that both Waltz and Bruhl walked over and kissed the filmmaker.