EXCLUSIVE: Quentin Tarantino, sitting in the shade on the terrace of the Carlton Hotel, revealed to this column that his new film will indeed be about a film critic from the 1970s but he stressed that it will not be about New YorkerThis is Pauline Kael. Instead, it will be based on a man who wrote for a porn magazine.
Tarantino was speaking to this columnist before announcing a special screening at Directors’ Fortnight this afternoon of John Flynn’s 1977 film rolling thunder with William Devane. Today’s event is billed as a “Date with Quentin Tarantino”.
The filmmaker devotes an entire chapter to Flynn’s revenge thriller in his book Cinema Speculation.
His new movie happens to be film critic, which goes into “pre-pre-production” next month, also takes place the same year as rolling thunder has been freed.
The film critic is set in California in 1977 “and is based on a guy who really lived, but was never really famous, and he used to write movie reviews for a porn rag.”
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One of Tarantino’s jobs as a teenager was loading porn magazines into a vending machine and emptying cash machine quarters. “All the other stuff was too skanky to read, but then there was this porn rag that had a really interesting movie page.”
The filmmaker did not want to reveal the name of the magazine but for The film critic it will be called The Popstar Pages.
I ask if the critic in question was “known”. Tarantino throws his head back: “Well he was known if you read the Popstar Pages!!”
He explained, “He wrote about mainstream movies and he was the second channel reviewer. I think he was a very good reviewer. He was as cynical as hell. His reviews were a cross between the early Howard Stern and what Travis Bickle [Robert DeNiro’s character in Taxi Driver] maybe if he was a film critic.
Sipping his juice, he added, “Think about Travis’ journal entries.
“But the porn rag reviewer was very, very funny. He was very rude, you know. He swore. He used racial slurs. But his shit was really funny. He was as rude as hell.
Tarantino has researched the critic’s life. “He wrote as if he was 55, but he was only in his early or mid-30s. He died in his late 30s. It was unclear for a while, but now I did more research and I think it was complications from alcoholism.
No one has been cast. He acknowledged that there were no actors in his repertoire company in that age range. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, he conceded, are too old for the role.
“I haven’t decided yet, but it will be someone in the 35-year-old ball park. He will definitely be a new leader for me.
I pushed him on who it might be but he refused to say. “I have an idea of someone I can imagine doing really well,” but he’s not sure if he should give it to that person.
After Cannes, he will find his wife and two children in Tel Aviv. Then later next month he’ll be moving to Los Angeles for “pre-pre-production and then I want to start seeing who else is there.”
I ask if he can’t find his leader in the US, would he look somewhere else like the UK?
“No,” he said empathically. “The truth is, yes, obviously a Brit could pull it off, but I don’t want to cast a Brit.
“Obviously nothing against the British, but we’re living in a really weird time now. I think when people look back at that era of cinema and all these British actors claiming to be Americans and all these Australian actors claiming to be Americans, it’s is like ghosts Nobody acts with his own voice.
Asked why this happened, he said: “We’re just in a time of really, really good British actors who, for the most part, can pull it off.”
Sure, but what does that say about the American movie actor? “I would say that for the most part the Americans gave up their own ground. I think it’s just a case of one group of Brits becoming more famous than the others. The Americans ceded their own ground. When I watch 70s cinema, I want to see Robert De Niro, I want to see Al Pacino, I want to see Stacy Keach, you know, I want to see people like that reflecting the culture to me.
He added: “There are just a lot of good British actors out there and they’re pretty good at it.”
I submit that Barbara Broccoli would never consider casting a non-British actor to play James Bond.
Tarantino fired back: “But then she considered James Brolin at some point when they cast Roger Moore. There was a consideration for James Brolin.
He sat down and then clarified: “By the way, I am not xenophobic. The Brits would have a lot more trouble if a group of American actors came there with their Dick Van Dyke [Mary Poppins] accents playing famous Britons. They don’t want to see this shit.
Return to rolling thunder which has William Devane returning to his Texas home after eight years in a Viet Cong prison camp. “I’ve always been a champion of this film,” says the filmmaker.
“We will screen a 35mm print of rolling thunder. And so the idea being that I’m responsible for bringing rolling thunder in Cannes is a very, very cool thing.
“I saw him the weekend he came out with a double function of Enter the dragon; I saw it with my mother and her second husband.
Tarantino was 14 or 15 at the time. “I thought to myself, wow, this is like the best combination of character study and action movie I’ve ever seen.”
At the time, he noted that “movies were leaving theaters and that was it. But he left and all of a sudden he was playing the bottom half of a feature with something else and then he would reappear in Long Beach and I would take the bus and go see him. I was seeing it over and over again and then I started having little theories about it and then I started having theories about what William Devane’s character was going through and the war and how he felt about it and how the country was falling apart when he returned home.
“It was just the first time that I started looking at something other than the narrative on the screen. I started to build around the narrative, the film before the film started, what happens before it finished. Then I started going to see the director’s other films.
He estimates that he has seen it “several times, probably 15 times over the years”.
Tarantino first came to Cannes more than three decades ago. reservoir dogs played at Sundance in 1992. And it had a special screening at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. “It was playing at the Palace, it was like an official selection out of competition.”
“They came up with something for our screening that they had never done before, they put an orange sticker on the ticket that said, ‘This movie may be too violent for you to watch. And they never did this before and they ended up putting the same sticker on it pulp Fiction when he played here in 1994,” he laughed.
“And then at some point with Lars von Trier they stopped putting the sticker on.”
He “absolutely” knew what Cannes was when he was growing up, he said, ordering an Americana and an orange juice.
“I knew perfectly what Cannes was. I had heard of it forever,” and he had seen the 1979 Michael Ritchie film An almost perfect deal with Keith Carradine and Monica Vitti”, and this whole film is set at the Cannes Film Festival and I had always heard of the Palme d’Or and I had heard of the Directors’ Fortnight and it was literally a dream of get out here.”
Come back later for part II of our chat…