|'Basterds' Tarantino, Pitt Take on the Nazis|
|By NADINE SHUBAILAT||Aug 21, 2009, 12:42 PM|
Quentin Tarantino, the once l'enfant terrible of Hollywood, is now one of its most influential directors despite having made only six movies, including "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill."
His newest film is the violent World War II fantasy "Inglourious Basterds," whose title Tarantino intentionally misspells with no explanation. There is a correctly spelled 1978 film "Inglorious Bastards" by Enzo Castellari, which he said has no connection to his film.
Tarantino's movie revolves around a hillbilly from the South, Lt. Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt, who starts a resistance movement with eight Jewish American soldiers who are dropped behind enemy lines.
Their goal is to terrorize Nazi soldiers by gruesomely killing them "Apache" style including scalping, said Tarantino in an interview with ABC News Now's "Popcorn with Peter Travers."
"Basterds" is essentially a spaghetti western with World War II iconography.
"I like spaghetti westerns because of their very brutal bleak landscape," Tarantino said. "It's not a good world to be trapped in; life is totally cheap. You die brutally and quickly, which is a good description of Europe in World War II."
He said he finds war movies and westerns very close in genre.
"Westerns and war films always exist by themselves in video store shelves -- symbiotically mixed," he said. "John Wayne did as many war films as Westerns, if not more."
In his role as Raine, Pitt has a very strong Southern drawl, which Tarantino said he thought could only work with someone of Pitt's stature.
"The hillbilly dialect could be some actor we know who throws on a twang, but you buy it coming from him," he said. "There aren't many actors of my generation who can pull it off."
Tarantino and Pitt first worked together on the 1993 release "True Romance," which was written by Tarantino with Pitt as a pot smoking supporting actor.
Since then they had been wanting to collaborate on a project. So, when Tarantino was three weeks away from finishing the "Basterds," script he called Pitt's agent.
"Now I'm dealing with the most popular dude on planet Earth," said Tarantino, who was shocked when Pitt's agent immediately said that Pitt is "ready and interested, so as soon as you're ready send it to us."
'Inglourious Basterds' Brings Brad Pitt, Tarantino Together Again
Pitt read the script, liked it and invited Tarantino to his vineyard in France, where he was living with Angelina Jolie and their children. They discussed the film over three bottles of wine.
Pitt, who according to Tarantino, is a "big World War II" buff was concerned by the ending of the movie, when "history went one way and I want another way," Tarantino said.
Pitt leads a star-studded that includes Diane Kruger as German actress/secret agent Bridget von Hammersmark, "Hostel" director Eli Roth as Donnie Donowitz aka the "Bear Jew", and Mike Myers in a cameo as a British general.
Myers came on board because he was "a big fan of mine" and a "huge World War II fan whose parents worked in the war agency," Tarantino said.
"I had the feeling when I was shooting Mike's scene that's how [director Stanley] Kubrick must have felt when he was directing Peter Sellers [in 'Dr. Strangelove']," he added.
Despite the impressive cast, the actor who has elicited most attention and who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival is Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who plays the charismatic Nazi Colonel Hans Landa.
"Hans Landa was one of the best characters I have ever written and probably will ever write. Because he wasn't written for a particular actor, he grew on his own," Tarantino said. "There were no limitations on this dude."
However, the problem was that before Tarantino met Waltz, he said he wasn't able to find the perfect actor for the role. The actor had to be not only fluent in at least three languages (the film was shot in English, French and German) but he also had to have a unique mastery of the English language.
"My dialogue is not poetry but kinda," he said. "It's not music, but kinda. It's not rap, but kinda. It's not stand-up but kinda."
Tarantino said he got so nervous he nearly pulled the plug on the entire movie until "Christoph, pardon the pun, waltzed into the room," he said.Tarantino Says 'Inglourious Basterds' Not Violent
Tarantino quickly added that Waltz is "not a Nazi. His son is a rabbi, but like Landa, he's very erudite and he's very witty."
The importance of dialogue to Tarantino was the subject of criticism at Cannes.
"I've always had my champions and my defilers and they're pretty much down the middle. The thing that gets me is 'talky.' Talky is not a bad adjective. If it's good dialogue then it's a good adjective," he said.
"Even if I do a martial arts film, they're going to talk in it," he said. "The 'talky' stuff bothers me because what do you expect. When I didn't do it in 'Kill Bill 1,' they criticized me. If you go to a Tennessee Williams play, do you complain it's talky?"
Violence on the other hand doesn't bother Tarantino. Despite the graphic slaughter of the Nazis, Tarantino doesn't believe his film is that violent since it's a war movie.
"There are no battle scenes. There's no tank. There's not even a jeep," he insisted.
However, still feeling the sting from the criticism he added, "At Cannes they didn't know what to expect. They were thinking my version of 'Dirty Dozen' or 'Apocalypse Now' -- not that they would have embrace that!"
In the unlikely event that Tarantino decides to give up on filmmaking, he may have a future with the hit show "American Idol."
"The second season of 'American Idol,' I watched it a couple of times but I wasn't super into it. Then I made good friends with three black girls, we watched it and had such a good time," he said.
When the news reached "American Idol" producers that he was a fan, they asked him to be a guest mentor, a role he took up this past season.
"The girls backed me up," he said, adding that they waned him: "Don't go up there and be the nice celeb."
As for the idea of replacing Paula Abdul as a permanent judge, Tarantino playfully demurred, saying it's "too much of a commitment."
From the over-the-top torture to the tune of "Stuck in the Middle With You" in "Reservoir Dogs" to John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing to "You Never Can Tell" in "Pulp Fiction," music has played a central role in the development of Tarantino's films.For 'Inglourious Basterds,' Tarantino Chose Spaghetti Western Composer Morricone
"The first step before I start writing is to dive into my record collection and find something to inspire me. I try to find the rhythm and beat of the movie. If I get the opening credit sequence right off the bat, that grounds me," he said.
"I can pace around my little record room. I'm really able to fantasize myself watching it on the screen," he added.
For "Inglourious Basterds," he chose Ennio Morricone, the Italian Academy Award-winning composer who has written scores for many spaghetti westerns, including "A Fistful of Dollars" and "The Good, the Bad, the Ugly" as well as for "The Mission," "The Untouchables" and "Cinema Paradiso."
Tarantino has been associated with many actors, whose careers he either revived or gave a new spark, including Travolta, Thurman and of course David Carradine in the "Kill Bill" movies.
When Carradine was found dead in a Thailand hotel last June, Tarantino said it was a wake-up call for him.
"One of the things that happened with David was a reminder there isn't always a manana," he said sadly. "I hadn't spoken to David in a year and a half, but I was going to call him in the next two weeks but didn't make it."
If Tarantino were told that he could no longer make movies, would he be satisfied with the six he has made so far?
"Completely," he said. "I still think have much more to do, but I don't have gigantic stories hanging over my head. You don't climb Mr. Everest and think of Fuji in the back of your mind or you'll die. Only when you reach the top of Everest do you think about Fuji."
"Inglourious Basterds" opens in theaters on August 21.