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CANNES — No U.S. director epitomizes Cannes more than Quentin Tarantino. Since crashing the party 17 years ago with his stylish, blood-spattered “Reservoir Dogs,” the director has been a mainstay on the Croisette. He galvanized audiences in 1994 with his Palme d’Or winner “Pulp Fiction,” debuted “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” and “Death Proof” here and also served as a juror in 2004. Tarantino returns this year with the In Competition entry “Inglourious Basterds,” a 160-minute action extravaganza set in Nazi Germany. The Hollywood Reporter’s Steven Zeitchik sat down with the director at the Carlton Hotel to get his thoughts on war movies, working quickly and the Harvey Weinstein factor.
The Hollywood Reporter: It’s funny to be here talking about this movie — it was only a year ago that you first announced you were writing the script. Did this feel like it moved really quickly, maybe even too quickly?
Quentin Tarantino: When you’re a director in my situation, things become a little easier. You can take a lot more time to do a scene, and every director wants that. But there’s something to be said for not doing that, for knowing that you have three days to shoot a scene and you can’t roll over. When you do that, there’s going to be more energy on the screen. And I’m glad I got to do that. I look at “Death Proof” and realize I had too much time.
THR: Doing it this way also adds an element of stress, doesn’t it?
Tarantino: At the end of the day, you’re driving from the studio to your hotel, and you think it’s nice that you finished a scene on time. But you can’t relax because you have to do it again the next day, and the day after that, and that’s what your life is like for months. I’ll be honest — I enjoyed making this movie a little less because of that.
THR: From the trailer, it looks like you went pretty heavy on the action. Is that a fair characterization of the finished film?
Tarantino: It’s a no-fucking-around kind of pacing. That doesn’t mean it’s a big action movie. It just means there’s a good, steady pacing. I don’t luxuriate in every scene. But it’s got the mix of dialogue with the action. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve ever done to “Pulp Fiction.”
THR: War movies, especially World War II movies, have been everywhere the last few years, and there are skeptics who hear about this film and say “Why do we need another one?” What do you say to them?
Tarantino: In the last 20 years, we’ve seen a lot of movies that show war from the anti-war, misery perspective. And I don’t mean to say I’m pro-war, because I’m not. But in the ’40s and ’50s people made movies that were thrilling and exciting. War movies don’t always have to show things from the perspective of the victim. And it’s also not really about war. I treat World War II similar to how E.L. Doctorow treated “Ragtime.” I’m taking a historical time and putting in my own ideas and characters.
THR: And of course your film also is inspired by an Italian film from Enzo Castellari of 30 years ago that has the same title.
Tarantino: But it’s not a remake. I like that film, don’t get me wrong, but I bought the rights because of the title. My movie doesn’t have anything else to do with that one.
THR: A lot has changed in the film business in the past few years, not least Harvey Weinstein. What was it like doing another collaboration with him even as he’s in a very different place than he was for most of your earlier films?
Tarantino: I wanted to help him out — not help him out, but stand by him. He’s stood by me and now I’m standing by him. I could have done this movie with anyone but I decided to do it with him. But he’s also got three movies people are talking about now — this and “Nine” and “Halloween 2.” That’s a good thing when people are scared and are staying away from dates because of your movies.
THR: This is the fifth time you’ve had a film playing in Cannes, and audiences embrace you here. What is it that makes you connect to the festival, and vice versa?
Tarantino: What’s great about Cannes is that when you’re here, you’re in this world where international cinema is all that matters. And all the world media is here, and they’re all judging the film at the same time, and they’re waking up at 8:30 (a.m.) to see the new Johnnie To or the new movie of the guy who directed “The Host. It’s a lot different than just this lazy thing where they’re in New York or L.A. and they’re going to go see this movie at noon.
THR: So you’ve done this big blow-out action for the past few films, with this arguably the biggest of all. Do you think you may scale it down next time, do something smaller or more intimate?
Tarantino: I just don’t have a clue what I’m going to do next. After I finish a movie, it’s good to have a year of my life back, so I wait and see what rises up or if something new comes along. When I started writing this, it was the only mountain I could see. And I had to get over that mountain to see all the other mountains.
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