×

Tarantino reflects on ‘Basterds’

Director aimed to finish film in time for Cannes

Quentin Tarantino is so high on the Cannes experience that he worked at a breakneck pace to shoot and edit the 165-page epic-sized WWII drama “Inglourious Basterds” in eight months. And when the writer-director bows his film on Wednesday, he says, “I’m expecting this to be one of the high moments of my career.”

Reflecting on the pic over a hamburger at the Carlton Hotel, Tarantino said it was worth the struggle to debut his third film in competition. (Tarantino won the 1994 Palme D’Or for “Pulp Fiction” and also brought “Death Proof”).

“This is the cinematic Olympics,” Tarantino said. “What an exciting year for auteurs this year, with four Palme d’Or winners. If you’ve done a movie you’re proud of, that you might be defined by, then to me the dream is not necessarily to be there at Oscar time. That’s wonderful. But my dream is to always go to present the film at Cannes.

“There is nothing like it in cinema,” he said. “Nobody has seen your film. It’s a wet print, fresh out of the lab. The entire world film press is here, and they all see it, at one time. The greatest film critics in the world, who are still critics, and they’re all fighting and debating it. When you think back on your career, it comes down to these high moments. That level of excitement is unparalleled.”

Popular on Variety

Getting to the Croisette took discipline. The film had the same 10-week production schedule as “Pulp Fiction,” fast for a period war movie shot in Europe.

And the film came in at a running time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, shorter than some had expected.

“Directors in my situation don’t normally go this direction, especially when they’re doing something really big. If you have three days scheduled for a scene, it’s easy to (add) the fourth day. It’s nice to have all the time you need, but when you slow down, I think that marbled fat is felt in the pacing. I didn’t want easy and comfortable and I do feel that energy is evident on the screen.”

Tarantino flirted with his WWII project for years, once considering it as a miniseries, even a novel, before stripping down to the story of a brigade of brutal soldiers sent to hunt Nazis, and led by Brad Pitt, the biggest star Tarantino has directed.

Said Tarantino: “Once, I was talking to a big actor who said, ‘You’re afraid of stars. You want to be the guy.’ I never feel like I need a star, but a lot of the great Hollywood directors I respect all worked with stars and so there was this aspect in the back of my mind where it was time to do that.

“Brad is an actor I treated just like the other actors, who happens to be this huge movie star. But he is such perfect casting for this character that if Brad Pitt wasn’t famous, I’d have lobbied for him to have the role.”

While he gave several plum roles to unexpected performers — “Hostel” helmer Eli Roth has a large role, Mike Myers plays a British intelligence agent — no actor has a bigger starmaking opportunity than Christoph Waltz, a German TV actor who plays Hans Landa, the cunning SS Colonel who is the primary antagonist of the Basterds.

“Landa is a linguistic genius, and the actor who played him needed the same facility with language or he would never be what he was on the page,” Tarantino said.

Tarantino grew so frustrated at casting that role, he was five days away from calling off the movie when Waltz auditioned.

“I told my producers I might have written a part that was un-playable,” Tarantino said. “I said, I don’t want to make this movie if I can’t find the perfect Landa, I’d rather just publish the script than make a movie where this character would be less than he was on the page. When Christoph came in and read the next day, he gave me my movie back.”

More Film

  • Liev Schreiber Broadway

    Film News Roundup: Liev Schreiber Joins Will Smith's Tennis Drama 'King Richard'

    In today’s film news roundup, Liev Schreiber and retired pro footballer Vernon Davis score roles, Jason Blum will speak at his alma mater, Irish drama “Rialto” finds a U.S. distributor and “1917” hits a box office milestone. CASTINGS Liev Schreiber will portray tennis coach Paul Cohen in Warner Bros.’ “King Richard” opposite Will Smith. Reinaldo [...]

  • AMC theater

    AMC Entertainment Reports Mixed Fourth-Quarter Results

    AMC Entertainment has reported mixed fourth-quarter results, which saw revenues rise 2.4% to $1.45 billion, despite a 4.4% drop in U.S. attendance to 62.3 million. The exhibitor, owned by Dalian Wanda Group, announced a fourth-quarter loss of $13.5 million, compared to a year-earlier profit of $170.6 million, due to $84.3 million of expense related to [...]

  • 'Straight Up' Review: James Sweeney's Gay

    'Straight Up': Film Review

    There’s a tradition in movies, as vital as a hypnotic action scene or a swooning love scene, of dialogue so witty and nimble and rapid-fire that it comes at you like something out of a stylized dream. I first encountered that brand of high-velocity verbal jousting in “A Hard Day’s Night,” and later on in [...]

  • Cahiers du Cinema

    French Film Magazine Cahiers du Cinema's Staff Quits Over New Ownership

    The future of iconic French film publication Cahiers du Cinéma is in question after the outlet’s entire staff quit in protest over the brand’s new ownership. The 15-member editorial staff has spoken out against a perceived conflict of interest posed by the Cahier’s owners — a group of bankers, tech entrepreneurs and film producers that [...]

  • John Singleton Victoria Mahoney Spike Lee

    In Honor of Black History Month, a Look at Black Directors Who Made History

    In 2019, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that 2018 was a historic year for black filmmakers, noting a “record high when it came to hiring black directors.” The report reflected a significant change, showing the push for diversity both behind and in front of the camera. Though the numbers are increasing, the report also [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content