MiraJeff Has A Three-Way With Quentin Tarantino And Robert Rodriguez In The Back Row Of The GRINDHOUSE!!
Published at: April 5, 2007, 5:59 p.m. CST by Moriarty
There's a visual for you, eh? MiraJeff and two of the biggest names in geekdom sitting in the back row, MiraJeff working his arms like a guy on a ski slope.
Ahhhh... the golden days of theater going, indeed.
Hey, guys. "Moriarty" here to introduce MiraJeff's big-ass QT/RR interview for GRINDHOUSE. He covers a lot of ground here, and the only thing I'll warn you about is the spoiler that appears early on. I've put it in Herc's Patented Inviso-text, but I still want to make sure you know it's coming.
Otherwise, dig in and enjoy. Good stuff.
Greetings AICN, MiraJeff here with an Ain’t It Cool News exclusive interview with Grindhouse writers-directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I can’t even put how cool this experience was into words, but I have to thank Pantea Ghaderi at The Weinstein Co. for arranging this sit-down, which fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting Tarantino. In case you guys aren’t familiar with the origin of MiraJeff, it’s a moniker I’ve had since middle school, stolen from the good folks at Miramax because my three favorite movies back then were Pulp Fiction, Scream and The Crow, and also because my mother and the Weinsteins’ mother share the same name. Anyways, with that little fun fact out of the way, let’s jump right in. I have to ask you guys to bear with me because this is a long interview but it’s worth reading to the very end. Forgive me for not posting this earlier, but it was an awful lot of transcription and even more considering how fast Quentin talks. Without further adieu, from the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, here’s MiraJeff’s threesome with two of the coolest filmmakers of all-time. Quentin comes in about halfway through. Enjoy…
Robert Rodriguez: It was fun watching it. I hadn't seen it with an audience yet, so it was fun.
MiraJeff: So I guess we'll start off with an easy question first. You and Harry go way back having cast him in The Faculty…
RR: Oh yeah!
MJ: So what’s your experience been like with AICN over the past 10 years? Do you read the talkbacks?
RR: It's one of the sites I go to every day. It's good to see what's going on cuz Harry's always up on stuff. Its just part of when I wake up in the morning. I click on Ain't It Cool News to see what's going on, to see what's up there.
MJ: So do you read the reviews of your own movies?
RR: No I haven't had the chance to do that. You mean for this movie?
MJ: Well I think the first ones just got posted last night, actually.
RR: Yeah, I haven't had a chance to look at it yet cuz I had to get up early for this, but sometimes, it depends what kind of movie it is. You're never as good as they say you are and you're never as bad as they say you are either so… Its kind of like people will have their own opinions and you want people to just enjoy it. It's the only reason you made it. Some people don't enjoy it and you're like 'eh, I'd rather not hear that.' I like hearing that people did enjoy something cuz that's what you had in mind.
MJ: I think that's probably the response you'll be getting to this. I have to ask why did you guys choose to tip your hat about Jungle Julia's death in 'Planet Terror?' There's that announcement over the radio that not too many people pick up on, so how did that decision come about?
RR: It's something I had mentioned to Quentin that I might try and thought it was funny. And then when I was watching the movie I go 'hey, you know what, I kinda need something right there on the radio.' I though it would be fun to put that in cuz so many other characters were starting to cross over. He ended up including Earl McGraw in his movie and also Dakota McGraw who's someone I wrote into my script that Marley Shelton plays so I thought it might be kinda fun to hear on the radio. People might not understand it yet but just to show that in space and time, his movie does take place before mine. The end of the world happens in mine, so I thought that would be fun.
MJ: Can you talk about the visual effects and how some of those were conceived? When the idea for the project first came up, did you always know that your segment would be this kind of nasty, messy zombie movie?
RR: I knew I wanted to do something with real viral infections and chloroform lesions and things that could really happen and get out of control at a really fast rate because of this infection brought back from the war. So I wanted to base it in some reality so the doctor who's showing slides and stuff in the movie on the computer, that's my real doctor. (laughter) I was going over stuff with him and he was showing me the most horrific photos and I went first of all, you've gotta say all that in the movie. You gotta be in the movie now and you've gotta show them these pictures, cuz they're fucking gross. For people to know that you can actually get zombie eyes from mustard gas, I think that's a pretty cool idea.
MJ: Are these characters “zombies?” Would you call Planet Terror a “zombie” movie?
RR: I call them sickos.
RR: Yeah, cuz they were just infected with a viral infection, several actually. They’re infected with just about everything and it’s all happening at once, at a very rapid rate. So they’re running high fevers, they’re going psychotic, they’re getting glassed-over eyes from the gas, they’re getting all these lesions and ulcerations that are making their bodies completely deformed. That’s why they’re moaning like zombies, cuz they’re in extreme pain.
MJ: How did you and Quentin decide to share some actors, like Marley Shelton and Michael Parks?
RR: I wrote Michael Parks into mine I think, first. And then he was reading my script for the first time and was surprised that he had a daughter. He didn’t know I just added that into the lore, that he had a daughter named Dakota McGraw. He thought that was a great idea. He said I wanna put them both in my movie cuz I have a scene with Earl McGraw explaining what happened but now it’s like I can’t not include her. It just kind of evolved. Some actors, like Rose, went and played two different characters in both movies and some actors played the same characters.
MJ: I understand with the international release the films are gonna be released separately but with extra footage. So what’s going to happen with the trailers and what is that extra footage?
RR: Well our scripts, originally, the idea was to do something like 65-minute movies each, but our scripts ended up being really long so I said well let’s shoot the whole thing and then on DVD we can put out long versions when we put out the movies, we might put them out separately first on DVD. And then it turns out internationally some countries just didn’t get the grindhouse concept. The distributors just didn’t want the double feature, they wanted them in single pictures, so we thought oh well that’s a good way to include all that extra stuff we had shot cuz Quentin shot all of his missing reel and he has another half hour of his that makes everything just make even more sense, so um, we just had to cut a tighter version to do it as a double bill I cut my down to like 86 when it’s really like a probably 98 minutes, there’s probably another 15 minutes in it. I just trimmed it way down so people wouldn’t feel like they were done for the night and ready to go home so I had to cut mine tighter so all that will be in for the international so in the international release, if you go see Planet Terror there’ll be Machete and maybe one other trailer, and then my movie in its full version will play and then when you go see Quentin’s it’ll have Thanksgiving and Werewolf Women of the SS probably and then his full movie.
MJ: That’s cool. So was your missing reel written into the script and did you shoot that footage?
RR: I can’t say yet, we’re still looking for the footage. It might show up in a different language. We might have to subtitle it but I’m sure we might discover it at some point.
MJ: With the success of 300, do you think the industry is going to start adapting more graphic novels and is that territory you plan to stay with for a little while? I know you’re prepping the Sin City sequels…
RR: It depends, I mean I don’t really gravitate towards a graphic novel just cuz it’s a graphic novel it really has to have something that draws me. Sin city was something I collected for ten years before I realized hey wait a minute I should do a movie about this. It was just something that really drew me from the subject matter and the style that it was done in, so if there’s a great graphic novel that deserves to be translated then definitely but not just for the sake of doing a graphic novel.
MJ: If there was enough fan support would you consider directing or producing some of the trailers into feature films?
RR: Oh absolutely, yeah! Machete! I’m probably gonna do a machete full feature cuz I’ve been writing that for a while and there’s some really great stuff in it and people responded so strongly to the trailer that I thought ‘oh, well now we have to.’ And Danny Trejo calls us just about everyday wondering if we’re gonna do a feature. I started writing Machete in ‘94 when I first met Danny.
MJ: Oh, wow. I didn’t know that.
RR: I thought this guy should have his own you know, genre laughter, he should be making movies every month like Jean-Claude Van Damme, but Mexploitation movies.
MJ: I know you and Quentin aren’t members of the DGA, and I know you can’t speak for Quentin, but do you consider yourself anti-establishment at all, or a rebel against the system?
RR: No, not really anti-establishment. It’s just a lot of these organizations, the last thing they are is organized. And when you’re a multi-hyphenate they just give you a lot of trouble cuz they’re usually fighting with the other guilds, you know. The Director’s guild and the Writer’s guild are always at odds. Well if you’re both, you’ve got a lot of in-fighting going on in your own organization. Especially when you do weird things like co-directing or strange credits. I’m always getting fined by these guys and even the regular union starts fining me. It’s just ridiculous. It’s like what are you guys doing? You’re there to protect the artist and after a while you start telling him what to do and bullying him around and overreaching your power. You end up having to just leave and it’s not that your anti-establishment, it’s just that the establishment starts screwing with you too much. It’s like, they’re supposed to protect you from the studio but the studio is actually easy to work with but the guild just drives you up the wall with their bean counters. We couldn’t have made Sin City if I was still in the guild. We couldn’t have done this movie if I was still in the guild. We just don’t fit into their box that easily cuz we do very strange things and we’re multi-hyphenates. So um, they really don’t wanna change their rules for a few people so it’s better for us just to leave rather than go stir everything up because we don’t really need to be there.
MJ: What do you make of the current remake trend in the industry? I mean, Gerard Butler’s gonna do Escape From New York and Eli Roth wants to remake The Bad Seed and Rob Zombie’s doing Halloween. Is this a good thing or a bad thing for the industry?
RR: I don’t know. It depends. I try not to gravitate towards that kinda thing when people have offered it cuz it feels like, if you’re gonna spend that much time trying to make it fresh and original and feel new you might as well just do something new. But the problem I have with it as far as myself is concerned, is it feels like a lot of work to do something that when the review comes out will just compare it to the original.
(at this point Quentin comes in)
Quentin Tarantino: Hey!
MJ: Hey Quentin, Jeff Sneider, Ain’t It Cool News.
QT: Hey Jeff, how ya doing?
RR: Oh, you’re MiraJeff?
MJ: I am. There ya go.
RR: I didn’t realize that.
MJ: Yeah. Um, wow. It’s an honor to meet you.
RR: Aw, thanks. Got the Wait Until Dark playbill, whoa!
MJ: I know, that was a story I was go into at the end (laughter) but yeah, I saw it when I was 14 years old. (more laughter) It’s funny, I’ll show you something later. So anyways, Alabama Whirley, Mallory Knox, Mia Wallace, Jackie Brown, The Bride. All strong female characters. What is it about women that brings out the best in your dialogue and how do you make girl talk sound so natural?
QT: One, thank you for that compliment. It’s funny, those other ones that you named are kinda of more iconic type women. I mean, Jackie Brown starts off iconic but then you actually really find the real human being underneath there but with these girls, actually they’re probably the most based off of people I know. I just have a lot of, this is kind of the same case with Robert too, I have a lot of female friends. I have a lot of different, like, female posses that I hang with, you know? These three girls here, these four girls over there, and I think part of it has to do with, one, I get along with women very well, and two, I just have an innate trust of women that I don’t quite have with men. It feels like just even in the case of me and Robert, it’s like the friends that I have who are males, it’s like we’re not part of a pack. It’s us. We’re friends. We tolerate other people, (lots of laughter) but when we’re hangin' out, it’s like we’re hangin' out, (motioning to Robert) alright, but as far as like groups of people I hang out with, I tend to hang out with girls and he kind of knows what that’s like. He grew up with five sisters. But the thing about it though is it’s been really nice cuz I hang out with them and it’s kind of been like I said, for the last five years, so I hear the way they talk and what they talk about and how they talk about sex and boys and this and that and the other and the interests that they gravitate towards, so when it came time to write this script and you know, slasher films are usually about female posses hanging out and talking and you get to know them talking about boys and everything and eventually the guy shows up, the killer shows up, so it was very natural for the structure, and then when I just sat down all these women that I’d known for the last five years, either them or different variations of them, and that kind of speech just came vomiting forward on the page and I was really, really excited. I was like ‘I'm a writer that’s what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to write other people’s humanity and other peoples’ speech patterns and all that. That’s my, that’s my job.’ But I was really proud of these girls when they came out because I knew 'em and I was actually able to capture that and I didn’t think about it until I had captured them, but as I was reading it back on the page I was like ‘God, these are how girls talk and these are how girls talk right NOW! It’s not me remembering anything you know, it’s just right now and I'm quite proud of it.
MJ: Can you guys talk about that first pitch meeting with Harvey and Bob? How do you sell that idea of two movies, but we’re only gonna charge fans for one?
QT: I think it kind of started off with like, you know, mine will be an hour, Robert’s will be an hour, which I never bought, ever, by the way. (laughter) I know me! (laughter) I was down with the double feature idea but I think that was like the first part of it but you know at the same time, one of the things that’s so great about those guys is they actually do get excited by our ideas. When Robert says ‘I wanna do a movie in 3-D,’ they don’t spend all this time trying to talk to him about what a pain in the ass it’s gonna be and how it could really work and this and that and the other. They get excited by that idea. That’s gonna be something new. That’s gonna be something different.
RR: They like the challenge of that stuff.
QT: They like that challenge. And then the same thing with this. ‘Oh, this sounds fun, this sounds cool, this sounds great!’ They were just happy we were doing a movie together again. They wait for us to do stuff so they were happy.
RR: Especially starting their company off to have another movie, because when they first started their first movie was Pulp Fiction that they produced and their last movie was Sin City, so to start their new company, they didn’t have those anymore, so they needed… this kind of fit into that realm.
QT: And it also put them in like, okay, they’re doing cutting edge stuff. And now that they're on their own and they can do what they wanna do and everything, the cutting edge stuff isn’t stopping. They are doing the thing that this studio wouldn’t do or if they did it they'd be scared. (mocking an exec) ‘We’re going out, we’re trying to win, we’re trying to make it into a hit, it’s going out in a lot of theaters…’
MJ: Would you guys ever consider letting another director direct one of your scripts or would you ever consider directing someone else's script, or will it always be, I have to do both?
RR: Oh I've done that before I liked directing 'From Dusk Til Dawn' or Kevin Williamson's 'The Faculty' after 'Scream,' I saw an opportunity to just try to learn more about writing and I tend not to change anyone's script that I'm directing but on my own I'm changing it. All the way until the final screen, I'm still adjusting, so it’s just a different thing.
QT: Yea and with me, um, I don’t really think… I don’t see me doing another person's script without at least some sorta, kinda rewrite involved. I think that would be a natural thing, rather than try to describe something I know how to do, I would just do it. But the only time I've ever really done other people’s work before is when I do my TV stuff. When I did 'ER' that was somebody else’s script and I actually came up with the idea and worked on quite a few scenes on 'CSI,' but still, it was that process. I did some and other people did some. I just don’t think this is the time for me to do that. I think part of the reason people like my stuff is because I write it and even when I read a script that I really like, that I really get caught up in, part of what's getting me caught up on ‘I think I wanna do this’ is I am slightly rewriting it. It’s never quite perfect, alright. I wanna make it my own and then I would just always know that if I just spent that much time writing an original, it would probably be better and it would be an easier thing for me to dedicate a year to doing. Even doing ‘Jackie Brown,’ as much as I love ‘Jackie Brown,’ the fact that it was an adaptation did have like a one step removed quality that by the end of the whole process, I was a little more tired than I normally am because part of the impetus is to write it and then to capture it and get it on there and until the day it opens, I'm still doing that.
MJ: Would you be interested in returning to TV? With Spielberg doing that Showtime series, I mean, is there something that TV can offer you guys that film can't?
QT: (to Robert) Why don’t you answer that?
RR: (to Quentin) You wanna answer that, you always do.
QT: Yea, I think there definitely is. One, in the case of 'CSI,' that was literally a case of me just doing a show I like and just stepping in. It's kind of cool, it's like if you were a kid and you liked 'Star Trek' and all of a sudden you could direct a 'Star Trek' episode, I get to do that, alright. So if there was gonna be a show that I was gonna do a guest directing spot on now, it would definitely be 'Battlestar Galactica.' I love that show! I got up early this morning before the junket (laughter) to see an episode today!
RR: Oh God!
QT: It's like if I can't see at least one and I miss some because we’re so crazy right now, I feel like I've screwed up the day. Having said that, what TV offers me is I've had ideas. I'm not gonna say which ones but I've had ideas that I couldn’t do as a movie because I just couldn’t stop writing it. I do feel a bit like a novelist when I write and they just kind of became novels and in TV now, before, when that was happening before I was like well what am I supposed to do? But now TV’s actually caught up, you know? When you get caught up in a cool series like '24' or 'Battlestar Galactica' or 'The Wire'--
MJ: (interrupting) So good, I'm watching that now…
QT: Anything you get caught up on like that, its like when you're hooked on that stuff you don’t even think about going to the movies when you've got that DVD box set right there, you're like, 'I wanna see the next one!' Well they could be approached as truly filmed novels if you want so I would have the opportunity to write some big 14-hour piece and be able to do it completely without any compromises. That’s a really exciting world and I think I wanna get into that world coming up.
MJ: What was the hardest challenge for both you guys shooting 'Grindhouse?' Quentin, you're in both movies as an actor, so what's it like as an actor on a Robert Rodriguez set?
QT: Oh, well Robert's the only guy who ever hires me. He's the only buddy who even thinks I'm a good actor. (lots of laughter)
MJ: (pointing at the 9 year-old Wait Until Dark playbill) Not true, I love your work!
QT: (more laughter) Thank you very much.
RR: He's so fucking cool in this movie.
QT: It was actually kind of funny, you know, I had a voracious acting bug like 10 years ago and part of it was because I had such a fantastic time doing 'From Dusk Til Dawn. I loved playing that character. I loved kind of becoming another person, you know, truly, and Robert’s my bud so I was all kind of taken care of. It was great and I had such faith in him artistically I didn’t have to think about anything. It was so much fun that I wanted to kind of explore that more. Now I'm kind of not into it. I'm kinda like if it's not my movie I'd rather not be on set. (laughter) So we were actually in the script reading and we hadn’t cast an actor yet for that part so he just had my read it he said Quentin take The Rapist #1 and I go 'okay' and then it was like when I got through doing it, it was like really cool. I felt it. I knew the scene was really good.
RR: Oh everybody was like 'whoa, he sounded almost like Ritchie but like twisted, Ritchie’s brother or something.' (laughter) It was really kinda cool.
QT: I remember Marley was right across from me going you've gotta do this, you've so gotta do this, and I was like 'was this a set up?' It was kind of a very flattering set up. I was like, 'I don’t really wanna act anymore but I still have a huge ego,' so everyone’s telling me how good I am. (laughter) I was like, 'oh me? That was nothing.' (more laughter)
RR: That’s funny.
QT: Really, well what part exactly? (laughter continues)
MJ: Can you guys talk about the casting? This is Naveen’s first big role since 'Lost' and you've got Bruce Willis coming out of nowhere…
RR: Literally! He (Quentin) came on the set and he’s like 'is that Bruce?' (laughter) He didn’t know Bruce was in the movie. I was like 'yeah, Bruce showed up for a couple days.' It was like, 'I didn’t even know Bruce was in your movie.' I was like, 'hey, that’s how it is around here.'
MJ: Also, when I read the script, I just imaged Jungle Julia and assumed she’d be played by Rosario, but Sydney is just great in the role.
QT: She steps off the page, doesn’t she?
MJ: Totally. How did you get her and Naveen involved?
QT: Start with Naveen.
RR: Well I had started writing the script and I got about halfway and then had so many different characters, I go ‘I’m gonna get them all confused. I gotta start casting.’ So I told Quentin, ‘I’m gonna start casting,’ and he goes ‘you’re casting already?!?’ I go, ‘yeah, I know I’m not done with the script, but I wanna kinda see actors, choose actors and then finish writing with them in mind.’
QT: And not only that, he was so unfinished with the script he goes ‘you’ve written some pages, right?’ And he just took some of my scenes and then just had actors read that, alright, just to show them something. (laughter)
RR: Naveen came in and read for the one scene I had with the balls and I just thought ‘this is so good’ so I wrote the rest of the character for him. Freddy Rodriguez read the one scene in the diner and I thought ‘oh my god, this guy’s gonna be a badass. I’m gonna make him El Wray,’ so I changed that whole character completely. Rose read for Cherry and I was like ‘okay, now Cherry’s gonna be completely different. Machine gun leg, stand up comedian, all kinds of stuff,’ so I kinda had to bribe the actors a lot. And I wrote for Michael Biehn in particular, for the sheriff, and Fahey for JT.
MJ: I wonder if we have to wrap up here?
QT: What was that first question you asked me?
MJ: It was about casting Sydney, but also Zoe, because I mean, up until now, she’s been primarily known as a stuntwoman and she was so great in ‘Kill Bill,’ but here, the first thing my friend and I talked about when we left the theater was Zoe Bell and how she could be a legit actress now.
QT: Well I think she’s pretty legit in this movie! She’s great! She does my dialogue as good as anyone’s ever done it. She’s fantastic! With Sydney, Sydney was an actress that is actually similar to your situation with Marley. Sydney had come in and read for me a couple times before. She read for me for ‘Kill Bill’ and she knocked me out when she came in. She just wasn’t right, but she was terrific. I was like ‘wow, Sydney’s fantastic,’ and I brought her in for my ‘CSI’ episode and she was terrific in there, except just not quite right for what we were doing. But both times she just really knocked me out and so I didn’t just write it and give it to her, but I totally had her in the back of my mind because I knew there was this wonderful actress out there named Sydney Poitier and she’s got a really wonderful, sexy physicality and I could write for that.
MJ: Those legs go on for miles…
QT: Yeah, yeah, and I could just write around that and build that cuz you know, she’s trying to take that wonderfulness of hers and squeeze it into roles where people go ‘is that right? Is that correct?’ I love the idea of building something around her so she can just be her and she pulled it off really well. In the case of Zoe, you know I worked with her on ‘Kill Bill’ so I knew she could do all this stuff and I love her. She’s terrific! I saw her in the documentary ‘Double Dare’ and in that movie, that’s her in the film, I would watch it with audiences and I just saw audiences just fall in love with her. I mean the way you fall in love with her in real life is the way you fall in love with her on film. She’s just so charming and so, then I knew, ‘oh my god, Zoe comes across on film. Audiences love her,’ so I wrote it for her and then I knew I could just go all the way and just shoot Zoe doing everything and it would just bring an extra added level of excitement and authenticity to the story. She’s a female Steve McQueen!
MJ: She was definitely badass last night. I know you have to run to Leno so I don’t wanna hold you up any longer. Thanks, guys.
And with that, I decided to act unprofessionally and ask for autographs, so Robert signed my ‘Grindhouse’ press notes and Quentin signed my Wait Until Dark playbill. I also blew his mind before he left by showing him a pair of stage matches that he actually lit nine years ago in the play’s final scene, where Harry Roat is terrorizing Suzy Hendrix in her own kitchen. All in all, it was one of the more awesome afternoons in recent memory, so thank you Quentin and Robert for your time and for making a pair of kick-ass movies. For those of you who haven’t had your fill of Grindhouse reviews here on the site, here’s one more, mine, which is over at the Colorado Springs Independent website. I’ll be back soon with reviews of Fracture and Disturbia and details of my visit to the set of Jessica Alba’s latest acting showcase, The Eye. ‘Til next time, have a Happy Easter, folks (Passover was great, thanks for asking) and get your ass to the theater this weekend to see Grindhouse. This is MiraJeff signing off…