By Baz Bamigboye
Columnist/International Editor At Large
EXCLUSIVE: Back in 2009, Quentin Tarantino began dropping hints that he’d be outta the movie-making business by the time he reached 60.
He turned his self-appointed retirement age on March 27. Today, during a conversation on the Carlton Hotel terrace, he reiterated the retirement mantra stating that The Movie Critic will be his “last thing.”
I sit up straight, look him in the eye and say this: “I don’t think anyone in their right mind believed that Quentin Tarantino is going to retire from making motion pictures at the age of 60.
“I don’t f*cking believe it. Forgive my language.”
He smiles: “That’s OK.”
I continue: “Forgive me, the Nigerian side of me does not believe it, OK? The English side of me might believe it. I don’t know if the Nigerian side of me believes it for one minute.”
Looking askance at my forthrightness, Tarantino laughs: “Well said.”
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And it’s your last film?
“Yes. Motion picture, yes,” he says.
There’s wriggle room here.
“No, I could do a TV show. I didn’t say I’m going to go into the night darkly, all right? I could do a TV show. I could do a short film. I could do a play. All kinds of things I could do, but I’ll probably just be more of a writer.”
OK, OK. So you’re not giving up the gig?
“Well, I am ending the filmography.”
After I pushed for more, he says: “It’s just time. It’s just time to go out. I like the idea of going out on top. I like the idea of giving it my all for 30 years and then saying, ‘OK, that’s enough.’ And I don’t like working to diminishing returns. And I mean, now is a good time because I mean, what even is a motion picture anyway anymore? Is it just something that they show on Apple? That would be diminishing returns.”
From the get-go, he has insisted that movies are for cinematic release.
“Well, I’ve always thought that. And they eventually get to television. I saw a lot of them that way. I’m probably going to be doing the movie with Sony because they’re the last game in town that is just absolutely, utterly, committed to the theatrical experience. It’s not about feeding their streaming network. They are committed to theatrical experience. They judge success by asses on seats. And they judge success by the movies entering the zeitgeist, not just making a big expensive movie and then putting it on your streaming platform. No one even knows it’s there.”
Tarantino continues: “I mean, and I’m not picking on anybody, but apparently for Netflix, Ryan Reynolds has made $50 million on this movie and $50 million on that movie and $50 million on the next movie for them. I don’t know what any of those movies are. I’ve never seen them. Have you?”
I nod my head in the affirmative because I don’t want him to lose his thought on this.
“I haven’t ever talked to Ryan Reynolds’ agent, but his agent is like, ‘Well, it cost $50 million.’ Well, good for him that he’s making so much money. But those movies don’t exist in the zeitgeist. It’s almost like they don’t even exist.”
Has the streaming business damaged cinema irrefutably?
“Well, I don’t think I’m that negative about it. I think it had been going that way and the pandemic hurried everything along,” he says.
But if you’re retiring from the motion picture business, as you insist you are, won’t you be feeding that beast anyway?
“Exactly,” he says. “But I’ve got no ax to grind against television, per se, all right? I’ve got no axe to grind against television, but everyone watches all these shows, and they’re all just soap operas. It can be very entertaining while you’re watching it, but at the end of the day, it’s all a soap opera. You learn about a bunch of characters, kind of know all their backstories, and then you watch them fight or hook up or this or that and the other. And it’s just a soap opera.
“It’s very engaging while you’re watching it. But when it’s over with, three weeks after I watch the last episode, I usually don’t have the same feelings that I have after I watch a good movie.”
He adds: “Yet, when I’m watching it, it’s compelling.”
Back in the day, there was a heck of a lot of talk about Tarantino getting into the 007 game and making a James Bond movie.
I probably wrote some of those stories, but it was a long time ago.
I ask Tarantino if he ever sat down with Barbara Broccoli.
“No, we never actually had a sit-down. What happened was I tried to do something, and it didn’t work out. All right?”
He told me that there was a long period of time where Eon didn’t own the rights to Casino Royale.
“Because Howard Hawks’ partner, Harry Saltzman, owned it,” Tarantino says. “That was why that was not one of the ones that they could do when Sean Connery was doing them. And that’s why they did that ridiculous Casino Royale movie in 1967 with Woody Allen, Peter Sellers and David Niven and everything.
“And at one point, Howard Hawks was going to direct it with Cary Grant playing James Bond. That would’ve been a thing. But that didn’t happen.”
Tarantino says that when was working with Miramax, “We reached out to the Ian Fleming people, and they had suggested that they still own the rights to Casino Royale. And that’s what I wanted to do after Pulp Fiction was do my version of Casino Royale, and it would’ve taken place in the ’60s and wasn’t about a series of Bond movies. We would have cast an actor and be one and done. So I thought we could do this.
“But then it turned out that the Broccolis three years earlier figured out somebody was going to try to do what I did. And so what they did is they just made a blanket deal with the Fleming estate and said that: ‘We have the movie rights to everything he’s ever written. We’re going to just give you a bunch of money. This is for every single thing he’s ever written. If anybody wants to make a movie out of it, they got to come to us.’”
He waves his arms for emphasis: ”Like every short story, every travel book. If I want to make a movie of Thrilling Cities, I need to go to the Broccolis.
“That’s for everything he wrote. To stop somebody from being a wise guy and trying to do what I did.”
Did he ever seek a meeting with Broccoli at Eon?
“No, but I had people who knew them and everything. I was always told very flattering versions of like, ‘”‘Look, we love Quentin, but we make a certain kind of movies, and unless we f*ck it up, we make a billion dollars every time we make that type of movie, OK? We don’t want him to do it. Doesn’t matter that it will still do good. It could f*ck up our billion-dollar thing.”
With Daniel Craig gone, what’s his sense of the Bond franchise?
“What are they going to do?” I ask. “I mean, what’s your sense of Bond now? Because they had a good run, didn’t they?”
Rubbing his hands, he goes into full Bond mode: ”I mean, they always start from scratch when it comes to somebody new, because that’s saying somebody couldn’t have been going through the stuff that happened in Thunderball, all right? I’ll tell you, I actually have a thought process about this. What I think they should do, and I’ve been thinking they should do this for a long time, is so many of the books have these really classic names and really classic adventures. And for the most part, a lot of them, they never did the book. They never did the stories.
“They took the plot line and maybe the Bond girl or maybe the villain and then just went their own way. Tom Mankiewicz just goes his own way. He did the writing for a lot of them. I think they should not remake the movies but actually just do the books, but do them the way they were written. And those would all be brand new.”
I note that the Fleming novels are full-on tough.
“They’re very, very tough,” he agrees. “No, no, there’s definitely a Mickey Spillane aspect of Bond, all right, in those first five or six books.”
Would he ever consider pushing back retirement to make one?
“No, because The Movie Critic is my last motion picture, OK?!”
OK, both sides of my personality believe you.
But, wow, wouldn’t that have been something to watch on a giant cinema screen: The new James Bond directed by Quentin Tarantino.
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