Photo: Maya Robinson and Kelly Chiello and Photo by Northern Lights Films
Quentin Tarantino has spent most of 2015 making a movie of his own, so he hasn’t had time for many other ones: “I didn’t see anything this year,” he told me in our interview for New York’s Fall Preview issue. “I loved The Kingsman. I really liked It Follows.” The latter, David Robert Mitchell’s thriller about a young woman who contracts a sexually transmitted curse that has her pursued by a slow-walking supernatural villain that assumes random human forms, features “the best premise I’ve seen in a horror film in a long, long, long time,” says Tarantino. “It’s one of those movies that’s so good that you start getting mad at it for not being great. The fact that he didn’t take it all the way makes me not just disappointed but almost a little angry.” So, how would Tarantino have made It Follows better? Allow him to explain — and then stick around for a few more bonus questions and answers from our interview that didn’t quite make the print edition, including Tarantino on what he’s reading, his plans for retirement, and whom he’s not friending on Facebook. (And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our full interview here.)
How could It Follows have been great? Would you have done something differently?
He [writer-director David Robert Mitchell] could have kept his mythology straight. He broke his mythology left, right, and center. We see how the bad guys are: They’re never casual. They’re never just hanging around. They’ve always got that one look, and they always just progressively move toward you. Yet in the movie theater, the guy thinks he sees the woman in the yellow dress, and the girl goes, “What woman?” Then he realizes that it’s the follower. So he doesn’t realize it’s the follower upon just looking at her? She’s just standing in the doorway of the theater, smiling at him, and he doesn’t immediately notice her? You would think that he, of anybody, would know how to spot those things as soon as possible. We spotted them among the extras.
The movie keeps on doing things like that, not holding on to the rules that it sets up. Like, okay, you can shoot the bad guys in the head, but that just works for ten seconds? Well, that doesn’t make any fucking sense. What’s up with that? And then, all of a sudden, the things are aggressive and they’re picking up appliances and throwing them at people? Now they’re strategizing? That’s never been part of it before. I don’t buy that the thing is getting clever when they lower him into the pool. They’re not clever.
Also, there’s the gorgeously handsome geeky boy — and everyone’s supposed to be ignoring that he’s gorgeous, because that’s what you do in movies — that kid obviously has no problem having sex with her and putting the thing on his trail. He’s completely down with that idea. So wouldn’t it have been a good idea for her to fuck that guy before she went into the pool, so then at least two people could see the thing? It’s not like she’d have been tricking him into it. It’s what I would’ve done.
Are there any filmmakers you don’t think get enough respect?
When people in America talk about the great writer-director auteurs, they don’t talk about Pedro Almodóvar enough. For 30 years, he has dwarfed almost all of his American peers. He went through a slightly weak period around the time of Kika and All About My Mother. I didn’t get Broken Embraces, but it was still okay. But the things he’s been doing the last seven years, he’s been on a magnificent roll. He’s a fantastic director. His scripts are wonderful, and he’s just money in the bank. And he’s so specific, but as opposed to a lot of these specific art-film directors that you’re going to get tired of, like Wong Kar-wai, you never get tired of Almodóvar. Because as much as he has these recognizable elements, it never just seems like the same movie over and over again.
I loved The Skin I Live In.
That was him doing a horror film, and it was fucking amazing. I totally got the impression that — and I’m fairly sure I’m right about this — Pedro was watching The Human Centipede and thinking, You know, I know how to do this. I could do something really special with this. And that was The Skin I Live In.
What have you been reading lately?
I just finished Five Came Back, by Mark Harris. I think Mark Harris may be the best film writer ever, when it comes to these historical, slightly critical books that he does. They’re fantastic. Pictures at a Revolution is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. I really wasn’t into the subject matter, but because he wrote it, I decided I’d give it a shot. I brought Five Came Back and that Harper Lee book with me when I went to Prague, and I ended up voraciously reading his book. I actually have a lot of those war documentaries at home, so I came back and watched the Why We Fight series and The Memphis Belle. It got me on a big William Wyler kick, too.
You’ve talked about making a sci-fi movie. What would it be like?
I’m not really interested in doing a sci-fi film, but there’s one thing in particular that I would be interested in. I can’t tell you what it is, though, because I would literally be telling you exactly what it is. And then I wouldn’t be able to do it, because everyone would talk about it, because it is one thing in particular. It might be science fiction, but it wouldn’t involve spaceships.
You haven’t made a movie set in the present since Death Proof in 2007. Is modern life not that inspiring?
No, it’s not that. I would really like to do a movie set in the present. It just keeps working out that that’s not the case. I do feel that I need to do at least one more Western — I think you need to make three Westerns to call yourself a Western director. But it would be really great to do another movie where a TV’s on in the background, or somebody turns on a radio, and then I can score my scene that way, and then turn it off when I want the music to stop. Or they get into a car and drive for a while, and I can actually do a little montage of them driving to some cool song. That would be really great. I haven’t done that in a long time, and I’m really looking forward to it.
In Django Unchained, the villains were slave owners. In Inglourious Basterds, they were Nazis. If you were to make a similar movie in 2015, who would the bad guys be?
Those two movies are very specific and kind of stand alone from the rest of my filmography, so that question is jumping from the assumption that it would be something cut into that mode. I think it would be something closer to either Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, or Pulp Fiction, or something even realer than that.
Ennio Morricone wrote the score for Hateful Eight. How does it sound?
It’s horrible. What do you expect me to say?
Well, I’m excited about it. Yours is the first Western he’s scored since 1975.
I know, and I’m not going to say shit about it. You’ll hear it when you see it. It’s absolutely abysmal.
Is Morricone bringing back his whistler for this one?
No. There’s no whistling in this score. That guy is still alive, though.
This is the first time one of your movies has had a score. Does that mean there won’t be any pop songs on the soundtrack?
I didn’t say that.
Film directors like Steven Soderbergh and Cary Fukunaga have defected to TV. You’ve been making noise about doing a mini-series. Are you jealous about what directors can do in that medium now?
No, I’m not jealous at all. I’m in a lucky situation. However, no writer-directors have taken that mini-series format and really done what could be done. You don’t have any writer-directors that write all six episodes, and then direct all six episodes. You have a guy like Soderbergh or Fukunaga who directs everything, or you have somebody like Aaron Sorkin who writes everything, but you don’t have the guy who does everything. If ever there’s been a chance for somebody to truly do a filmed novel, it’s in this area. I always write these movies that are far too big for any paying customer to sit down and watch from beginning to end, and so I always have this big novel that I have to adapt into a movie as I go. So to actually be able to take one of my stories and just do it as long as it is, the completely unfiltered manuscript, that sounds really, really exciting. And unless we can turn back the tide on digital projection in movie theaters, then I might as well go to television.
How serious are you about retiring when you’re 60?
Well, if film goes away, I might not even make it to 60, so we’ll see.
What would you do in retirement?
It would probably be split between writing novels, writing film criticism, and writing and directing theater.
Theater? Have you seen any good plays lately?
Not really, but that’s because I haven’t gone to the theater a lot. The last big play I saw was — I just happened to be in New York — the revival of You Can’t Take It With You.
Do you spend much time on the internet?
Not really. Like everybody else, I’ll get on the internet, and the next thing I know I’m clicking on something, and clicking on something else, and clicking on something else, but it’s not like I have websites that I check. It’s not like I check the Huffington Post every week, or I check — this is an old reference — Ain’t It Cool News, or the Daily Beast. I don’t do that. I’m definitely not on Twitter. I do have a Facebook page and Facebook friends. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you don’t just start friending people you don’t know. I got into Facebook late, and I think if you get into Facebook late, you tend to use it the right way, as opposed to the people who got into it sooner and friended everybody and now have a thousand friends. I keep it at about 80 or so, and they’re all people I know. Just because I do a movie doesn’t mean I friend everybody in it.