Quentin Tarantino Interview - KILL BILL And Others (MonkeyPeaches Exclusive)
July 17, 2002

photographer: Feng Ke

photo: SINA.COM

By New Cinema Magazine


We only have a few questions, because we know you are busy. The first one is: which experience has made your today’s success, working at the video store or fighting in the streets? In other words, where do you find your inspiration, from movies or from your life?


(Laugh) I think it’s from both, 50%-50%. Half of my inspiration is from life and the other half is from those movies I watched. Movies bring me passion to create, let me know today’s movie trend, and what happening in the movie circle; life can keep enlightening me and inspire me, and I keep getting ideas from life.


Let’s talk about KILL BILL.


Why not!


You have said KILL BILL would be your greatest work. How is it different from PULP FICTION?


It’s so far the purest action or kung-fu I have made. The movie, with a story about a killer seeking revenge, got lots of action scenes. I I will make it to the coolest movie. Drive people crazy, and make people shaking. Fight scenes in the movie have strong flavor of Chinese kung-fu. This is my attempt of trying new film type, and I will take this opportunity to push me to a new era. In this movie, I will explore my inspiration as much as I like. Meanwhile, the biggest challenge is, I must see whether I can make it to a movie I have imaged and see how high can I reach.


I saw many pigeons in the courtyard outside. Will there be any pigeon scene in the movie?


(Laugh) No, No, No! I don’t know where did these lovely creatures come from. I guess they are just some pigeons, dogs and rabbits being raised there. They are not related to the movie.


Pigeon is John Woo’s trademark.


Right, right! So, there won’t be any pigeon in my movie.


I heard to make those gangster movies look real, you have talked to criminals, drug addicts, and even gangsters. Is that true?


Except filmmakers, I don’t really know too many people. I create a character based on my personal experience. My gangsters are just characters. The so called realism is only referring to the dramatization I did to my movies.


Judging from dialogues and plots of your movies, (I say) you are a specialist of Western Pop Culture.


I love Pop Culture.


What made you decided to work with your Chinese partner, attracted by Chinese culture, or some other reason?


I have very good impression on China. You can say I came here because I was attracted by Chinese culture, but the main reason is there are many kung-fu scenes (in the movie). The Chinese are the authority of kung-fu films. They know how to use stuffs like wires to make exciting fight scenes, this is cool. I love Chinese style of jumping, punching and kicking.


Have you ever encountered any difficulty?


(Weird laugh) I got pretty good relationship with Chinese officials. Our cultural backgrounds made us seeing and understanding movies differently, but I am an excellent diplomat. After all, I am a guest here. When dealing with disagreement, you have two choices: one is clenching your fists to play hardball, the other one is extending your friendly hand to shake with them and communicate with them. I chose the latter and got the invitation.


The character played by John Travolta in PULP FICTION is surprisingly similar to the character played by Jean-Paul Belmondo in À BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS). Do you agree?


Eh… Eh… I really never thought about this question. This question is very interesting. À BOUT DE SOUFFLE is one of my favorite movies and Jean-Paul Belmondo is a great actor. None of  these two characters is able to control his destiny but I never tried to pursuit such similarity.


PULP FICTION is sending a massage of a kind of existentialism – dirty and ridiculous life, and destiny being controlled by random act. Have you ever done any research on such philosophy?


I have never intended to use my movie to show such philosophical thinking. I will never try to think what does this part mean and what is part about. Sometimes, doing so can put me in a very awkward position. I am just telling a story with some of my thoughts burying inside. I don’t want to be the god on the set, telling actors their roles are vessels of some kind of thinking, doing this by this way and doing that by that way. I am just trying to let them give full play to their acting talent, and follow their roles. The existentialism you mentioned is a kind of state of living. It's presented through events and objectively exists in the story.


You are just like a big kid playing with your favorite toys and always maintaining your passion and curiosity about movies.


I agree with what you said. First of all, I am a movie fan. It’s scary if a filmmaker never watching movies.


We are also fans of Oliver Stone…


Who? I didn’t get that.


Oliver Stone.


Oh, I see.


Why did you have disagreement? Because of differences in styles or life experiences?


I think style difference is not the key. He not only stole my NATURAL BORN KILLER script, but also ruined everything. That is not the original story I wrote and the movie was also made to a f**king piece of crap. I have never seen NATURAL BORN KILLER.


Never seen it?




If you were making NATURAL BORN KILLER, how are you going to do?


Definitely will be different, no matter in the content or style. That sitcom looklike opening scene, the male and female leads only know chopping people off … @#$%^& …, the ??? Indian … Ridiculous!


The Chinese folk music.


Right, the background music of the Indian scene is a Chinese folk music.


Eh. (Laugh) Nonsense!


In 1996, you refused to join Directors Guild of America. Why? As a directors’ group, it is really protecting the interest of your directors.


I don’t want to be restricted by those rules. I don’t want let anyone telling me I should do this, should do that. Joining the Guild and too many rules. They even intervene how you arranging the cast list. Inside the Guild, directors will be protected, but I can protect myself.


You enjoy freedom.


I don’t want my thinking and style being distorted too much. Yes, I enjoy freedom.


You like movies by Jean-Luc Godard, Brian De Palma and John Woo, and call yourself “student of the world cinema”.


That’s right.


What have you learned from them?


Everything of mine, movie language or style, is from movies. I have learned a lot from others. I can get to know the trend of movies through them. At the same time, I can use my own experience to absorb from others, change it into something of my own, and present it with my own style. As a filmmaker, I must be open-minded, must study everything, and must be sensitive.


I don’t know whether you have seen YI GE ZI TOU DE DAN SHENG (TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1), it’s done by Hong Kong director …


Johnnie To’s movies. Really great! (translator's note: the movie is actually directed by Wai Ka-fai).


I think it is very Tarantino? What do you think?


(Laugh) It is a amazing movie which couldn’t be better. To say it got my style is my honor. That movie is perfect. It conquered me. It has brand new and unique way to narrate, telling the truth of different choices leading to different consequences. The movie’s narration is brilliant, and the story is appealing, but the most classic is the ending. It brought me a surprise and shock, super cool. Not until the last moment, you can’t understand meaning of the title. The ending is closely tired to the title. Usually, the English title of a Hong Kong movie is just a decor, but this one is different. TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1. Here, “Too” is the key, so smart. Our hero had two choices. First time, it’s a death road and it’s over (?); second time, he really became the boss, but also went lame and got sit in a wheelchair. Controls everything but also lost everything. The ending is so clever, so deep. Too bad, I can't remember some of the details.


What do you think of the exact definition of Tarantinoism really is?


(Laugh) I don’t want to answer this question. Let me ask you.




Yes, what do you think?


Being cool, being different, being forward (?), and being exiting.




Can you give us an evaluation on the actors you have worked with? Like John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and Harvey Keitel.


They are all excellent actors and it's very comfortable to work with them. That's why I am working with them over and over again. Uma Thurman is my leading lady, just like Gong Li to Zhang Yimou or Jean-Paul Belmondo (?) to Jean-Luc Godard.


You have played roles in many movies. Like PULP FICTION, DESPERADO (?) and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, all got you in it. Which role is closest to yourself?


These roles are quite different from myself. To me, a role is something outside of myself. When playing it, I only think about the role, not me. So I never played any role close to myself. The guy in PULP FICTION is not me.


Are you going to making dark movies forever?


I don't think my movies are dark, or dark movies. Really, they are crime movies. RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION are all that type. They got very shocking and terrifying crime scenes. I will try other film types. KILL BILL is an action / kung-fu movie. Later I will try more movies of this type to widen my road.


If adapting your experience at the video store into the big screen, that would be a very romantic movie.


I don't want to make autobiography and don't want to play myself. If asking me to make a movie about those years, I will put the story on a different background and the characters will also be changed. The time working at the video store is very memorable. Several buddies who didn't have much money but was very happily hanging together, just like a family.


What are your favorite Chinese films?


China has a lot of films and filmmakers. Zhang Yimou's works are very good. I think he is cool, and is always cool, even cooler than I thought. Jiang Wen is China's best director. His YANG GUANG CAN LAN DE RI ZI (IN THE HEAT OF THE SUN) is really great. It tells an old story happened in a special period of time, but it shows the general character of young people. Such general character is universal despite races and regions. And, movies from China's new generation director are also pretty good. About last weekend, I watched one called YI BAI GE (100, directed by Teng Hua). The movie is very entertaining, pretty good.


In China, people like you are called "Hooligan Literators" and Jiang Wen is a typical example of them. If you were born in China, you would not make PULP FICTION, because the bigger environment didn't allow it. If so, you might become an "Angry Youth". In China, there are many "Angry Youths" who should become "China's Tarantino". Want to say something to them?


Let me think about it ... This might be a little bit too absolute. If they think they have no opportunity, they will have no opportunity. You know more than I do. Such discouragement is a mistake in attitude and ideal (?). The Hollywood is a giant commercial machine. Why does it allow directors like me who doesn't have much education to exit? If I always think I got no opportunity, I would not become today's Tarantino. I have never given up and always fight for opportunity, never lost my faith. Finally by accident, I got my opportunity, and could do what ever I want to do. Young people should learn to persuade others, should fight for opportunities. A few years back, the Chinese Angry Youth sharing the same personality with me might not have any opportunity to make a Chinese PULP FICTION, but now the policy and the circumstance are good, we all came making movies here. Soon they will have their  opportunities to test their talent. Soon, maybe now, right now.


Maybe it's right now.




One last question: if asking you to make a movie based on the Bible, what would the movie be?


(Surprise) Interesting, interesting. I ... eh ... of course it won't be the whole Bible. I will choose a part of it. Maybe ... eh ... let me think ... I will come out an interesting idea. I will choose the part with the forbidden fruit. Let's call it EVEN AND SNAKE. It's not a bad thing for Eve and Adam to taste the forbidden fruit. On the contrary, it's a good thing. The tree filled with forbidden fruits is the tree of knowledge. If they didn't taste the forbidden fruit, our life today would not be so colorful, so enjoyable. Maybe live like animals, see the rabbits in the yard? (Ha ... Ha ...)


I see.


Just like them. The tree bore the fruits of freedom and the snake gave the fruit to them. He was a messenger of freedom and Adam (translator's note: should be Eve) was a hero.


Who would play Eve?


... I don't have an answer yet. (Ha ... Ha ...) Let Uma try? (Ha ... Ha ...)


Who would play the snake?


Let me give it a shot? (Ha ... Ha ...)