Days of Gloury

Film still for Days of Gloury

After S&S covered the Cannes premiere of Inglourious Basterds [July 2009], Quentin Tarantino took exception to our accusation of pastiche. He explains to Ryan Gilbey why his film is really all about language

What a curious time to be Quentin Tarantino. The days of uncomplicated adoration - which spanned precisely two films (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) - are over. Compliments about his maturity and wisdom, with which Jackie Brown was greeted in some quarters, seem now like poorly thought-out gifts that Tarantino never wanted in the first place. The two-volume Kill Bill and the mammoth, ill-fated Grindhouse project have contributed to a reputation for self-indulgence. This can scarcely have been helped when Harvey Weinstein, expressing undying gratitude for Pulp Fiction, said: “Miramax is the house Quentin Tarantino built. Because of his stature he has carte blanche.” That can't be good for an artist. Any physician would have to recommend a move towards frugality after so much cinematic excess.

That Tarantino's new movie, Inglourious Basterds, is no understated chamber piece will surprise no one. It is, in its creator's estimation, a western. Its title is adapted from Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards (tagline: “Whatever the Dirty Dozen did, they do it dirtier!”), but it is in all other respects an original, if reference-laden, work. The movie assembles a ragbag of character types from movie history. Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is the snarling leader of the Basterds, an American unit which inflicts Apache punishments on Nazi soldiers; Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), whose Jewish family is massacred in the opening sequence, runs a Parisian cinema that becomes central to a plot to kill Hitler; and Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz, named Best Actor at Cannes) is the polyglot Nazi who keeps popping up at inopportune moments posing awkward questions. Throw in a former film critic called Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), the glamorous actress/double agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Krüger) and a heroic German sniper-turned-actor, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), and you get a taste of the wealth and wildness of material here. Then there's the soundtrack, an aural jigsaw of other film scores, which also rescues from neglect another movie's theme song -  David Bowie's “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)”, from Paul Schrader's high-gloss 1982 Cat People.

When we meet in a London hotel, Tarantino is in the mood to talk. He's dressed in the black shirt with white zigzags on the shoulder which he wore as Warren the bartender in Death Proof. He expresses excitement over the fact that I'm recording our conversation with a chunky Dictaphone: “I gotta say, I dig the analog. I have respect for that.” And he cheers the gift from the Sight & Sound office of a poster of our July 2009 Inglourious Basterds cover.

“I remember when Tim Roth was on the cover for Reservoir Dogs,” he enthuses. “It was my first cover and I was so happy because it was Sight & Sound.” But, as he makes clear below, he's not so delighted with everything we publish.

Inglourious Basterds

Ryan Gilbey: The last line spoken in 'Inglourious Basterds' is Lieutenant Aldo Raine saying: “I think this might just be my masterpiece.” Is it yours?

Quentin Tarantino: My normal hubris aside, it really isn't for the chicken to speak of his own soup. That's up to you guys to decide. It's not for me to call it my masterpiece. And definitely not yet. That'd be more of a three-years-down-the-line kinda thing. Let me give you an example. I'll always choose Reservoir Dogs as my favourite of my movies because it was the first time I got the chance to be an artist, and it changed my life. But right now my favourite of my own movies is Kill Bill Vol 2, though I wouldn't have said that when I was doing promotion for that film. I just saw it recently and it kind of blew me away.

RG: In what way?

QT: It's so achingly personal - not that that should be a criterion that makes one film better than another, I'm very big about that, all right? But what I thought was so entertaining about it was that, because it was Vol 2, there's no set-up about anything. I mean, I literally don't have to set up anything. It's just [claps hands]: “All right! You're on!” Right into it. It has that opening sequence in the chapel which I actually think is one of the best scenes I've ever done. But then there's the fact that the Bride doesn't show up again till she's underneath Budd's trailer, and then she's buried alive. So I didn't have to follow any of the rules of normal film-making; I was liberated from all the normal things that are part and parcel of that

RG: My favourite film you've made is 'Jackie Brown', and I was sorry to hear you were cool on it.

QT: I have never talked bad against Jackie Brown!

RG: But you said it was the film you felt most distanced from while you were making it.

QT: That's true, but that did not mean that I don't love Jackie Brown. No, no, no, no, not at all. This comes up, and I couldn't love Jackie Brown more. However - when I was making it there was a slight… Let me put it like this. With Inglourious Basterds, every aspect of it is a product of my imagination. Until I filled up those 160 pages, there was no Inglourious Basterds, it was completely created by me: the characters, the backstory, mythology, even the stuff that never finds its way into the movie but which I know about. Now, Jackie Brown is not that way. As different as the movie is from the book, there is a second-hand quality to it. It is Elmore Leonard's. I completely made it my own. Having said that, it did already exist. And I didn't know I'd have that feeling until when I was in post-production, and I found myself losing patience with the process. And that's the hardest part for me, when you're kind of over it, and you still have to do colour timing; the sound mix gets wonderful and sounds like a proper movie, but it's also hard work getting there.

RG: Is there a sense in which a person whose favourite movie of yours is 'Jackie Brown' could be said to not really 'get' you and what you're about?

QT: No. I love Jackie Brown. Although I do actually think, truthfully, that it's easy to call Jackie Brown my best movie. It's easy.

RG: How so?

QT: Well, there's a maturity to it that you can very officially hang your hat on. It's dealing with older characters. And the three-dimensional aspects of the movie… well, it's become almost revisionist among critics to love that. I was not given that much credit for the long, three-dimensional aspects at the time. When the movie came out, it was like, “Get fucking to it. Get on with it.” Now everyone seems to feel differently about it. That's not me being a smartass. The thing about Jackie Brown is that it gains a tremendous amount upon second, third, fourth viewings, and people had to go through that. And now they're there.

The thing is - and I'm being a bit of a smartass here, but in a fun way - that was literally what I always intended. I always intended Jackie Brown to be like Rio Bravo, which I feel is a great 'hangout' movie. Jackie Brown is a hangout movie. And that was always intended. I'm sincere about this. I thought that, if you liked Jackie Brown, then maybe it'd be a movie you'd watch every three years or every five years, and when you did, it would be almost like Jackie and Ordell and Max Cherry would be your friends, and you'd hang out with them every time you watched it. Dazed and Confused is a movie like that. So I always knew it'd take years for people, if they liked it, to get a sense of what I was doing.

At the same time, you know, if you watch Pulp Fiction tomorrow, you would go, “Wow, look at what he did here.” I mean, the experiments I did in that movie are still very bold. My point being: it's very easy to say Jackie Brown is your favourite. Look, I'm not trying to talk you out of that, but take a look at some of the other ones again and… you know, it's easy to take the others for granted.

Inglourious Basterds

RG: Let's talk about 'Inglourious Basterds'. Structurally, it's interesting in two ways: the division of different segments of the story into chapters, instead of using crosscutting, and also the shift between styles - the spaghetti western, the World War II movie. The scene in which Shosanna puts on her make-up is like something out of 'The Moon in the Gutter'.

QT: You know, I don't know if this film does that quite so much. When I read Nick James' piece in Sight & Sound [in the July issue], obviously I didn't agree with where he was coming from in a lot of the aspects of it, but that's all well and good. The thing I took exception to - and he's not the only one to do it - is that there's this aspect when critics write about my work, partly it's because they know I'm such a film aficionado, where they try to match wits with me and show their own cinema knowledge. I give them a licence to show off their knowledge, and they apply that to me. So the part I don't like about Nick's piece is, like, “Oh, here's a big slice of Leone, and a dollop of Cimino, and a side order of Tinto Brass.” I take exception to that! I don't think like that.

Now, I'm going to address what you're saying. In the case of Kill Bill, that completely applies. Uma Thurman isn't just fighting her way through her death list, she isn't just fighting her way through the Deadly Vipers, she's fighting her way through the annals of exploitation cinema from all over the world. That actually is part of it. I don't think that's necessarily what I'm doing with Inglourious Basterds. Having said that, there definitely is, in the first two chapters, an idea of doing a spaghetti western with World War II iconography. I thought that would work its way through the whole movie, but it actually doesn't. I think it ends after the second chapter and it becomes something else.

But one of the hooks I had to hang that on, as opposed to it just being a groovy idea, is this: one of the things I always enjoyed about spaghetti westerns was the brutal landscape, the brutal world in which they took place. It was much more unforgiving and hostile than most American western landscapes. It's very violent, life is cheap, death is around the corner at any moment. Well, that describes Europe during World War II - right there in the 20th century, a very close approximation of a spaghetti-western landscape. And something I find very, very interesting about the opening chapter of Inglourious Basterds is that, even with the Nazi uniforms, even with the motorcycles and the car, it doesn't break the western feel. It almost adds to it in a strange, shouldn't-work-but-does kind of way. It just feels like a western. And not even just a spaghetti western: it could be Shane.

RG: The shot through the doorway of Shosanna fleeing can't help but recall 'The Searchers'.

QT: I'll take slight exception to that too - and I'm having a good time clarifying this - in that I think it's safe to say that if John Ford's mother had never met John Ford's father, I'd still have figured out that shooting through a doorway like that would make for a cool shot [laughs loudly].

RG: But when we watch films, we do so through other films we've seen.

QT: I understand that, it's true, but I seem to get it more than everybody else!

Inglourious Basterds

RG: You encourage it: your soundtracks, including 'Inglourious Basterds', are made up of excerpts from other film scores, so the viewer sits there thinking: “Which obscure movie does this music come from?”

QT: Sure, you're right. It does become that, and the more cine-literate you are, the more you want to play that game. But to go back to the whole western idea, I think it's fascinating that during the making of that opening sequence - it was the first week of shooting, and we were doing all the exteriors - my script supervisor [Martin Kitrosser], who's worked with me on every film I've ever directed, said: “Quentin, this is your first western.” And it did feel like we were shooting a western. The second chapter feels even more like a spaghetti western insofar as it has that comic brutality, black humour, gallows humour, the bloodthirsty jokes, the Morricone music. Then the third chapter becomes something else. But to me, as much as it's filmic, it is also novelistic. The third chapter is this little French movie, with a touch of Lubitsch, especially in the Goebbels lunch scene. And there is this aspect with the fourth chapter, where it's as though the movie, the story, really begins. There's something about that exposition scene, with Mike Myers and Michael Fassbender, that is like the first scene of a mid-1960s bunch-of-guys-go-to-war movie. So I'm not necessarily contradicting what I said earlier, but as much as you can have fun with different touchstones of genre, this chapter versus that chapter and so on, to me it's equally novelistic. This chapter introduces these characters, then I lose them and I introduce these other characters, then I lose them and introduce some other characters, but it's all building toward the fifth chapter, where it all comes together.

RG: It's slightly disorienting for the audience, as it was to a lesser degree in 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Death Proof'.

QT: Yeah, because you're constantly starting again. Some people like it and some don't. I've been criticised over this movie by people who say it would have had more dramatic momentum if I picked a small group of characters and kept building on them. Now, I don't agree. I've always appreciated a novelistic structure, and I like the fact that some characters aren't in some chapters, then they show up in other chapters. One of the things that's different about this movie - actually, Death Proof has this but in a completely separate way… But talking just about my 'big canvas' movies, which would be Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, one interesting thing is that something I've never done in those movies is to give you a big giant climax. I've always undercut the climax, hopefully not in a disappointing or unsatisfying way. But I don't give you the climax you think you're going to get from having watched a big movie.

RG: You're right. In 'Pulp Fiction', we're left hanging. We know what lies ahead for Travolta, but he doesn't.

QT: Exactly, and it ends with this kind of black comedy of manners, as opposed to the climactic thing you'd think you would get. And that's definitely the case with Kill Bill: the final confrontation between the Bride and Bill is not the big thing you've maybe been led to believe it will be. What's different about Inglourious Basterds in this respect is that, as much as I love dealing in genre and sub-genre, and going my own way with it, I knew that if I was actually going to commit to doing an adventure film, which this ultimately becomes, then this was absolutely the time I had to give you a big ending when it came to the fifth chapter. Or else it would be unsatisfying. I can break the rules all I want along the way, but I had to stick to the rules for the climax.

Inglourious Basterds

RG: The climax centres on what will be, for cinephiles, something of a taboo. You set fire to a cinema. You blow the place up. You must know this is sacrilege.

QT: [laughing] Oh yeah! It's a beautiful theatre. And using all that gorgeous old 35mm nitrate film, which was highly flammable, as your explosives. It was like, “What films are they going to destroy? Could that be… no! Is it Grand Illusion? The only print?” [laughs]

To me, there are so many interesting connotations in just the ending alone. On the one hand, it's a really juicy metaphor, the idea of cinema bringing down the Third Reich. On the other hand, it's not a metaphor at all, it is actually what's happening: 35mm film is bringing down the Third Reich! I can honestly say that when I conceived of that ending, it was one of the most exciting moments of inspiration I've ever had as a writer. I was like [voice drops to a breathless, excitable whisper]: “Use the nitrate prints to blow up the theatre!” Because it could do that. And when I came up with that idea, it was one of the eureka moments of my artistic life. It really was. “Oh my God, how come nobody ever thought of that before?”

Also, it's practical. It could work. The number-one job of cinema owners back then was not showing the movie - their number one job was to keep the fucking theatre from burning down. It's almost shocking to think we have film as an artform when you remember all the theatre fires that happened, particularly during the silent era: 200, 300 people just dead - boom! - in six fucking minutes. Because it was just so fucking flammable. It was dangerous. A 35mm nitrate print can explode just 'cause it feels like it.

So there's that, but there's also more there in that ending. For instance: let's contemplate that pile of film stock for a second now. What if that pile of film - and I don't talk about it in the movie, but let's think about it now - what if it is Shosanna's collection of 35mm films that've been banned by the Nazis? Let's say that's Grand Illusion. Let's say that's Mayerling. Duck Soup. The Kid. Let's say it's all those. If that's the case, then it's almost as if Papa Jean Renoir himself is helping to bring down the Nazis! OK. But now, let's look at the other possibility. Let's say those are all Goebbels' films. You're looking at 300 prints of Nazi propaganda, so now it's Goebbels' own creations that are bringing down the Third Reich.

RG: It's a win-win situation.

QT: Exactly! The point being that there's a lot of food for thought there, the more you dig into these metaphors of cinema, the use of the cinema itself, the film stock and so on.

RG: How did your usual approach to staging and shooting violence change when that violence had a broadly factual basis? I'm thinking of the Jewish family being machine-gunned through the floorboards in the first chapter. Those sorts of things must really have happened.

QT: I guess in another scene it could've been different or problematic. It wasn't in that particular scene. I always knew what I wanted to do there. And it didn't have anything to do with the points you're bringing up. I knew I never wanted to show the blood, the bullets hitting the people under the floor. I wanted the sawdust from the wood to stand in for blood and flesh. I thought that would be much worse. To know they're there, and yet the only effect you're seeing is on the floor itself. And anyway, you get the idea when you see Shosanna come out; you know she's got to have been caught in a shitstorm under there.

RG: What about filming with those giant swastikas all around you on the set? Is that something you become inured to?

QT: Strangely enough, yes. It's similar to when we made From Dusk Till Dawn, where we were shooting for three weeks in a titty-bar, with naked women all around. At some point, you just stop thinking about it.

RG: Then there's the killing of Nazis, which provides the most graphic violence in the movie. Were you conscious of not pandering to some kind of bloodlust or some need for cosmic vengeance?

QT: Where I'm coming from is this: obviously the Basterds don't have any concerns. They're not there to do any straight-up fighting - they ambushed the Nazi soldiers in the first place. They're not about to give them a fucking chance. They should get the fuck out of Europe if they want a chance. So, they ambush them, and their whole modus operandi is to desecrate them, so that when other Germans come across them, they'll say, “Oh my god!” You know? You'd kill yourself before you get caught by the Basterds so that you don't have this happen to you.

Now, where I bring in, to me, some resonance to the piece is… Look, I'm not changing what the Basterds are doing at all. But there's my portrayal of the German sergeant. He's not a cringing coward. He's very brave. He's actually heroic if you consider his point of view on the subject. So I'm not making it easy for you. And I never make it easy in this movie. You can enjoy what the Basterds are doing, and I set it up for you to enjoy it. But I don't make it that easy. The Basterds don't have any problem killing everybody in that theatre - the wives of the officers, the girlfriends. The Basterds' view is: Fuck those consorting-with-the-enemy bitches. That's where they're coming from. Maybe you don't feel that way. Maybe you have a problem with it. The Basterds feel: Fuck 'em. How you feel about it is how you feel about it. But it is not easy. The same thing again with Fredrick Zoller. Under any criteria of heroic action in war, Zoller meets those criteria. If Audie Murphy is a hero, Fredrick Zoller is a hero.

Inglourious Basterds

RG: It's further complicated by Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who's the most charismatic person in the film. I went in expecting Brad Pitt to be the star, but surely it's Christoph Waltz, right?

QT: To me it's a three-way star thing. Aldo, Shosanna and Landa.

RG: But Landa is in that time-honoured movie tradition of the show-stealing nasty Nazi, like Malcolm McDowell in 'The Passage' (1979).

QT: [laughing] He doesn't quite have the swastika jockstrap.

RG: I'm sure he's wearing it underneath. But would you say Landa's charisma - the way he dominates the film - represents another example of you not making it 'easy' for the audience?

QT: There are a couple of reasons, aside from Christoph's magnetic performance. There are some things in the writing that kind of allow you to feel that way about Landa. One is that, maybe not right off the bat but at least into the movie a little bit, you realise Landa is not a dyed-in-the-wool party member. He's doing his job. He's not a rabid Third Reicher. The Nazis aren't a religion for him; he's a very practical man. As he says, he's a great detective. “My job is finding people, so naturally I work for the Nazis, finding people. That's my job.” The way it was in the Third Reich, whether you were an actor or engineer or whatever, you did whatever you did before the war. For you not to do it for the Nazis was like the equivalent of desertion in battle. Now I'm not saying he's an innocent in any way, but he's obviously not Goebbels. Patriotism and fidelity to the party are not his strongest objectives. But he's a detective, and it's obvious he's a damn good one. He can't help it, he's disturbingly charismatic. It's not so much that you're rooting for him. You're not. When he shows up behind Shosanna in the restaurant, you're scared. But he sets himself up as such a great detective that you don't want him to disappoint you. You want him to be as good as you think he is.

RG: He uses words so skillfully that I felt disappointed when he loses control and attacks Bridget.

QT: I do actually like the fact that he loses it there. One thing - and, again, I don't super-explain it in the movie, but it's something you'll notice - is that as soon as any German realises that Bridget von Hammersmark is working for the enemy, they lose their fucking mind. Again, I don't go into detail about it, but I do have a whole backstory and mythology behind it. One of the things about Bridget as an actress is she's a bit like Greer Garson was in Mrs Miniver - but to the Germans. And part of her reputation is she was the Dietrich who stayed. So she is this poster girl for the German soldier: the darling, the sweetheart of the Third Reich film industry. To find out she's been lying to them all along just makes them go nuts!

Inglourious Basterds

RG: I kept wondering throughout the film how sincere Landa is, and how much of him is an act. What did you and Christoph discuss about that?

QT: He's a very complicated character. Landa is always sincere to himself, and he's sincere about where he's coming from. But in every situation, whether he's carrying out an interrogation or doing something for effect to get something, it is an act of pure theatre. If I were Landa and you'd come in here to interview me, I'd know all about you before you even sat down. And I would introduce things that would catch you off guard, make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Not inferior, but not on solid ground either. Whereas he is always on solid ground. He feigns that his French is only so good when he's talking to LaPadite, the farmer. Well, we know that's bullshit, his French is fucking fantastic. But he wants LaPadite to speak in English because that won't be a solid footing for him. There's also another reason: he doesn't want the family under the floorboards to understand what's being said. But it's just as much to put LaPadite at a disadvantage during the interrogation.

In the script, I had written the moment in that sequence where Landa pulls out the calabash pipe, the Sherlock Holmes pipe, and smokes it. I'd also written two other moments in the film where you saw him with the same pipe. Christoph and I were having dinner at a restaurant in Germany called, oddly enough, Austria. Best schnitzel in Berlin. We were sitting there talking and I proposed something to him. I said: “You know, in script, I've made it that this is Landa's calabash. But let's talk about it for a second. What do you think, Christoph? Maybe Landa doesn't smoke a pipe at all, but he knows LaPadite smokes a pipe. So the pipe is simply a prop to bring out at the right time. And what pipe do you bring out? You bring out the Sherlock Holmes pipe. And you let him know: I've. Got. You. I know what's going on. So it becomes a prop for his interrogation.” And Christoph said, “That's it! That's exactly what I choose!” We worked that way through the entire script.

RG: Right from 'Reservoir Dogs', much of the attention and acclaim you've received has focused on the kind of crackling dialogue you write. But 'Inglourious Basterds' is more about language than dialogue, isn't it? I mean the ability to master different languages, as Landa has. That's where the power lies. It's also crucial that all the dialogue is in the correct tongue, with subtitles.

QT: Oh, a case can be made that the entire film is about language. That's not even a subtext, it's one of the texts of the movie. Obviously I don't like those contrivances where everyone is speaking English, or the Nazis are played by members of the RSC or Christopher Plummer or whatever. I don't like that. Look, I don't mind it in 1960s movies; it is a contrivance, and we accept it from back then. Actually, it's one of the things that makes those movies, and any movies that use that technique now, look old-fashioned. Those are, like, your Dad's World War II movies, and I actually don't think someone of your generation buys that. It actually makes you take it less seriously. Can you imagine an Iraq war movie where the Iraqis are speaking English? You wouldn't buy it for a second.

So that's one thing. Let's move that aside. But there's something else. Look at a movie like Where Eagles Dare. In that movie, Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood speak German so magnificently - and I'm not making fun of them - but they speak it so beautifully that all they have to do is put on German officer uniforms and they can hang out in any fucking tavern they choose with a plethora of officers, and have absolutely, positively no concern that they will ever be caught. Well, they're using the contrivance that English is actually German, so of course they'll never be caught! And you just have to assume that their German is that great. A massive suspension of disbelief required there.

The thing about it, though, is that what has been jettisoned is what should be [incredulously] the most suspenseful aspect of that whole fucking movie! I mean, the reality is that your ability to speak languages in Europe in World War II could be the difference between being shot and thrown in a ditch, or living to see another day. World War II was the last time white people were fighting other white people; you could actually integrate yourself in with the Nazis or the French or whoever, if you could speak the language. It is all about language. It wouldn't be the same thing if we were dealing with American and British soldiers fighting, say, Koreans. It's not the same thing with Iraq.

So there's the sequence in La Louisiane, the tavern, which is not drastically different, I have to say, to the tavern in Where Eagles Dare, except that Archie Hicox has to pull off the language. It all hinges on that. And it's not just fluency: he is fluent in German. It doesn't just come down to that. It comes down to dialect, and to whether or not it's your first language.

It's funny, because that goes all the way to the making of the movie. For example, when I wrote Landa, I knew I had written one of the greatest characters I will ever write. And one of the things that is certain about Landa is he is a linguistic genius. So I knew if I didn't cast an actor who was himself a linguistic genius, Landa would never be on the screen what he was on the page. I could've cast another actor who might've been terrific, but I would know that there had been compromises.

When I started casting, it was different casting in Germany because I don't have the knowledge of their actors that I have of British and American ones. Actors would come in and obviously they can do German wonderfully, maybe even do French beautifully. They could be - and this is the key - fluent in English. You could talk to them for the next nine hours in English and we would have a wonderful conversation, but that doesn't mean they could read my poetry in English and get every ounce of bounce. Doesn't mean they could get the lines in that poetic way, or sell my jokes or my wordplay. And it doesn't mean they weren't fluent. It just means English wasn't the language they spoke poetry in. And when Christoph came in, he just had it. He can read poetry in my language. He could go toe-to-toe with Sam Jackson when it comes to taking my language and turning it into poetry. That's the practical aspect of casting that actor. But that goes straight to the heart of the dilemma of the characters in Inglourious Basterds.

RG: I wanted to ask you about 'Grindhouse', and the way it got carved up outside the US into two separate films (Tarantino's 'Death Proof' and Robert Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror'). How did you feel about that? Because it's a completely different experience in its original form.

QT: I'd agree with what you said. My feeling is this: I don't mind it being split in Japan, Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, any of those other countries. It was a horrible mistake to split it in the UK. It was bad. A bad, bad idea. The decision was made out of panic because Grindhouse did so badly in America. And like most ideas made out of panic, it obviously wasn't sound. I guess there were two aspects. One is the fact that England comes from a tradition of having double features. In my own movie-poster collection, I have a separate little section set aside for the British quad double-feature posters which are fantastic. So it's not like we were trying to sell it to a country that didn't understand that as a tradition. England had that.

RG: Do you stand by 'Death Proof' now in its two-hour form? Or would you rather people saw it as one 90-minute half of 'Grindhouse'?

QT: Well, I agree with you about Grindhouse. I think that, as far as moviegoing experiences go, Grindhouse was as successful a movie as I've ever made. Unfortunately, no one came to see it after Friday. We had a great Friday in America - if you judged the grosses by Friday, we were going to be doing really, really good. But it went right in the toilet after that. So basically all the true believers showed up on opening day. I saw it at Grauman's Chinese Theatre [in Hollywood] at 8pm, and the audience were standing up and cheering at the end, so it was effective for what it was. I do think that was the time to see Grindhouse - in the theatre, you know, the whole thing. Personally, I think now if you're watching it on TV, it's better to watch Death Proof and Planet Terror separately.

RG: You make it sound like a site-specific artwork.

QT: It really was! We painted ourselves into a corner as far as that was concerned. It might've been foolhardy, but there's an aspect of that that I actually love. We will come out with the full Grindhouse as one DVD package - we really will do that, we've just been lazy about it.

RG: I saw the longer 'Death Proof' first, but I found the shorter version in 'Grindhouse' much cleverer, especially the way you frustrate people's expectations by cutting out the lap-dance scene, as though the print had jumped, instead of showing it all as you do in the longer version.

QT: But you'd already seen the dance first. When you've never seen it and you're expecting to see it, the reaction is so great. It's like: “Oh, you fucker!”

'Inglourious Basterds' is released on 21 August and is reviewed in the September issue of Sight & Sound magazine

Last Updated: 10 Feb 2012