Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, “The Hateful Eight,” might be his bloodiest affair to date, but buried underneath all those liters of red corn syrup is one of his strongest socio-political statements to date. At least, that’s how Weinstein Co. Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein sees it.
“I think it’s his most political movie, and at the same time, his funniest movie,” Weinstein says. “So it’s a dichotomy. And it’s very optimistic. But it’s baptism by fire. Even through all that gunfire, the end of the movie — no spoilers here — the idea of the relationships at the end are so optimistic. It’s got something to say that’s extremely important about how people should get along.
The film, releasing Christmas Day, arrives at a flashpoint for race relations, particularly on the heels of statements Tarantino made at an anti-police-brutality rally in October, where he equated police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others with murder. “When I see murders, I do not stand by,” Tarantino said to protesters at the New York event. “I have to call a murder a murder and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”
The comments drew the ire of police unions, particularly the Fraternal Order of Police, whose executive director Jim Pasco issued a vague threat beyond mere calls to boycott the film. “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element,” he said last month.
Weinstein denied gossip column reports that he was “furious” with the director over the controversy and that he had asked Tarantino to apologize and walk them back. “I respect his right to speak out for what he believes in, while at the same time respecting the sacrifices made every day by the overwhelming majority of our police officers,” Weinstein told Variety last month “The two are not mutually exclusive.” Tarantino, meanwhile, says Weinstein told him he was “very proud” of him for standing up for what he believes in.
As for Pasco’s comments, the director finds them almost comically ominous.
“They sound like bad guys in an ’80s action movie,” he says. “It’s like Jim Glickenhaus maybe wrote their dialogue for them, or they’re the bad cops in ‘Thief’ or something. But I wasn’t worried about it because at the end of the day I don’t think of the police as a sinister organization that targets private citizens. I think they got carried away with their own rhetoric and got out over their skis — pretty much what I think they think about me. I think they really think I’m just an out-of-touch, rich celebrity.”
Given that Pasco said his organization will try to “hurt [Tarantino] in the only way that seems to matter to him … economically,” the director assumes it’s a threat to keep police from serving as technical advisors on his films or assisting in his productions and events.
“Now, let’s put that in perspective,” Tarantino says. “In 1973, Sidney Lumet did the movie ‘Serpico.’ Both the Peter Maas book and that movie were very critical and accusatory of corruption inside the NYPD. Nevertheless, Sidney Lumet was able to make his movie in New York City and have the cops work on the movie both as technical advisors and assisting the production — stopping traffic for them and helping control the crowds and stuff. That’s a much stronger movie against the NYPD. So what’s changed? Is my rhetoric worse than ‘Serpico’ or is the NYPD more fragile than it was in 1972? I don’t know the answer to that question.”