Italian pop culture expert, programmer and director Luca Rea first became acquainted personally with Quentin Tarantino in 2004 when he curated the “Italian Kings of the B’s” retrospective at the Venice Film Festival that Tarantino “godfathered.” They hit it off and stayed in touch. So when Rea was approached by producer Nicoletta Ercole about a year ago to make a Sergio Corbucci doc, he immediately hoped to be able to tap into Tarantino’s insight about the late great Italian director whose Spaghetti Westerns they both love. But, of course, Rea wasn’t sure he would get Tarantino on board for his doc “Django & Django,” which launched at Venice out-of-competition. He spoke to Variety about how he pulled off that coup and what Tarantino’s insight revealed. Excerpts.
I hear Tarantino is pretty reclusive these days. Was it tough to get him on board?
The first time I met with the producer, who was close to Corbucci’s wife Nori, I told her: ‘You have to dig up materials like on-set footage Super 8 reels. We have to find a narrative approach with the time machine effect. And when I first wrote to Tarantino, I immediately used as a selling point the fact that we had footage of Corbucci on set. Even though we didn’t have it. The Super 8s hadn’t surfaced yet!
Only at the start of this year, these reels that contain a total of roughly two hours of footage – from the end of 60s to the start of the 70s of Corbucci on set – finally surfaced.
So what was his reply?
He replied saying: ‘Okay, I’ll do it. Let’s figure out when and how.’ And then at the start of the year, I got an email from an assistant in which he said he could do it at the beginning of April.
How did the interview go?
We had a crew in L.A., but Steve Della Casa (who is co-writer on the doc) and I were in Rome on Skype. But before we did it for roughly a month we prepared the interview on email. We singled out some points and there were things that he suggested that stemmed from the book about Corbucci that he had started to write, but never finished, so in a way his book became this doc. I thought of the mockumentary part at the start, which makes the doc a spin-off of sorts of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” I thought: ‘Let’s give that a shot,’ and see what he says. On the day of the interview Tarantino arrived with a thick pile of papers on which he’d taken notes. Then of course there were things that came up on the spot. But the bulk of it was prepared in advance. And the interview was so thorough and well prepared that naturally it provided the backbone of the documentary.
How would you describe the gist of Tarantino’s take on Corbucci’s Westerns?
Tarantino’s analysis is best described by him. I know he likes to drill down meticulously on directors that he likes, and it’s hard to sum up his thoughts on Corbucci in a few words. But the way in which he breaks down and illustrates Corbucci’s Westerns, it all holds up when you see clips from the films. And then we also found Corbucci interviews that corroborate Tarantino’s thesis.
So what’s Tarantino’s thesis?
The basic premise is that Corbucci’s Westerns germinate from a combination of his personal life growing up in Italy during Fascism and his passion for comic books. These are the two elements that generate Sergio Corbucci’s Westerns. As a child he develops two passions: one is his political sensitivity, the other is his passion for comic books.
Growing up during Fascism was formative for Corbucci in terms of his [leftist] political idealism that he never hid; it’s just that nobody had established the connection between his political passion and his Westerns, even though we found proof of this in archive interviews in which he says as much. And this can be read clearly in his films. In the doc, if you hear Tarantino talk about this and then see clips of the films, you can read it as well. The other thing is that his Westerns are the films in which Corbucci was truly an auteur. He made roughly 70 films, but the ones that really define him as an auteur are only his Westerns. That is crystal clear.