(Editor's note: this was originally supposed to be an interview with both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, but since Tarantino did most of the talking -- as he is wont to do -- I figured it would be misleading to label it as such.)
Quentin Tarantino comes roaring back to theaters this week with Death Proof, his blazing contribution the epic double feature Grindhouse.
Tarantino and Grindhouse co-director Robert Rodriguez conceived the film as a loving tribute to the B-movies of the '60s and '70s that so heavily influenced them. The inspiration came during an otherwise ordinary day at Tarantino's home, a virtual museum of exploitation cinema. "Robert had actually come over to my house to show me his cut of my scene I had done in Sin City," explains Tarantino, "I’m a big movie guy and I’m single, so my house looks like a movie guy who is single’s house. There are stacks of videocassettes and 16 mm film reels lying on the floor, posters and stuff. He’s trying to get to my couch and he’s negotiating this cinematic landmine and as he’s stepping over this cool double feature poster of AIP’s Juvenile Delinquent Days, the double feature was Rock All Night and Dragstrip Girl."
"He goes, ‘Hey! I’ve got that same poster. It’s actually on the floor in my house too.’ And then he goes, ‘You know, I’ve always been thinking about wouldn’t it be cool to do a double feature kind of movie. I have so many stories that I’ll never finish. But maybe if I took one of them and then another one of them and put it together, but now that I’m thinking about it why don’t you do one and I’ll do the other?’"
And just like that, Grindhouse was born.
Tarantino crafted Death Proof as an homage to car chase flicks like Gone in 60 Seconds (the original, not the crappy Nic Cage remake) and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. It's a fitting project for a director notorious for borrowing heavily from B-movie exploitation flicks from the 60s and 70s. "I’ve always said, ‘Real artists steal. Hacks do homages,'" he laughs.
Tarantino's Grindhouse partner Robert Rodriguez was impressed with Death Proof's old-school car chase scenes. "I am so proud of him for doing a car chase like that," raves Rodriguez. "I would never do a car chase like that, I’d be too scared. I would just have those guys in front of a green screen so quick, but I wouldn’t end up with the product that he ended up with. And the result is it’s a freakin’ awesome chase."
Deathproof gave the Tarantino the opportunity to revive the toughguy persona of Kurt Russell, a one-time action hero now relegated to lame family flicks like Sky High and Dreamer. "To males our age, Kurt Russell is this incredibly iconic figure," says Tarantino. "He’s Snake Plisskin. He’s Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China. He’s Rudy Russo from Used Cars...He’s quite magnificent in Miracle, but you open up the newspaper the past few years and you see like the bad poster for Dreamer and it’s a silhouetted shot and it’s like magic hour, a silhouette of Dakota Fanning and a horse and you’re like, ‘When is Kurt Russell going to be a bad ass again?’"
Tarantino's protagonists in Death Proof are four thrill-seeking young women, a feature that mandated writing pages upon pages of female dialogue. "People who can only write about themselves have no imagination," argues Tarantino "It’s my job to understand different people’s humanity other than my own. It’s my job 24/7. As a writer, I walk around and if you say anything interesting or turn a phrase or something idiosyncratic -- a character aspect about you -- it’s my job to hold on to it. It might be ten or 15 years before it ever comes out, but when it does, it does."
Though Grindhouse is being released as a double feature in the U.S., Planet Terror (Rodriguez's movie) and Deathproof will open separately abroad -- a decision Tarantino applauds. "There is no compromise going on and I am loving it, because there are three movies here. There is Planet Terror by itself and that is its own thing. There is Death Proof by itself and that is its own thing. And there is Grindhouse and the three are not the same. They are different experiences."
As far as future projects are concerned, Tarantino is contemplating a move that might surprise movie fans. "I’ve actually always wanted to come up with a story that I wanted to do as a kid’s movie," he says. "I remember from working at Video Archives that if a kid likes a movie, like say Mighty Ducks, they see that movie 20 times, 30 times. They know the names of all the kids in The Mighty Ducks and it’s like, that’s an audience member I want on my side! I just have to come up with the right storyline."
Grindhouse opens everywhere on April 6th.
Check out reelz.com's Grindhouse page for clips from the movie and more!