His body of work may be small, but the impact has been huge. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown have all been ripped off by lesser filmmakers. After six years of waiting, QT is back in the game (of death) with samurai revenge movie Kill Bill: Volume 1.
Kill Bill is an eclectic movie, stitched together from samurai movies, Yakuza movies, spaghetti westerns...
I just grew up watching a lot of movies. I'm attracted to this genre and that genre, this type of story, and that type of story. As I watch movies I make some version of it in my head that isn't quite what I'm seeing - taking the things I like and mixing them with stuff I've never seen before.
You describe Kill Bill as your "grindhouse epic". Aren't you worried that Western audiences won't get what you're doing?
I'm a little hesitant about saying this out loud - I'm not trying to crow - but I'm influenced by movies from all different countries. I don't really consider myself an American filmmaker like, say, Ron Howard might be considered an American filmmaker.
If I'm doing something and it seems to me to be reminiscent of an Italian giallo, I'm gonna to do it like an Italian giallo. And if I'm gonna do something that begs to be done in the vein of a Japanese Yakuza movie, or Hong Kong Triad movie, I'm gonna do it like that. I understand a lot of audiences from a lot of different countries and, to me, America is just another market.
A market that'll be threatened by the graphic violence in Kill Bill...
Yeah, well I don't feel the need to justify myself. Violence is a form of cinematic entertainment. Asking me about violence is like going up to Vincente Minnelli and asking him to justify his musical sequences. It's just one of those cinematic things you can do, and it's one of the funniest things. I love it. It's fun.
The striking use of music is one of your trademarks. There's a very interesting, and eclectic, selection of music in Kill Bill...
Thanks. I've always thought my soundtracks do pretty good, because they're basically professional equivalents of a mix tape I'd make for you at home. To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I'm writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I'm going to play for the opening sequence. I can't go forward until I figure out how I'm going to start - what the opening mood music will be.
I'm a big collector of vinyl - I have a record room in my house - and I've always had a huge soundtrack album collection. So what I do, as I'm writing a movie, is go through all those songs, trying to find good songs for fights, or good pieces of music to layer into the film. Looking for that music is finding the rhythm that the movie has to play in. It's me finding the beat.
Warren Beatty was originally down to play Bill. Why did he drop out?
I've always wanted to work with Warren. So, before I got to know Bill 100 per cent, I said: "Hey, Warren you could be really great..." Then I started writing it, discovering Bill, and I thought David Carradine could really play this guy. He'd know where he was coming from. So I started moulding Bill towards David.
Also, when I originally talked to Warren about it, I thought Bill really wouldn't come into the movie until the end, almost like Brando in Apocalypse Now. But he wouldn't stay put. You don't see him, but you hear him three times in Volume 1, and he's in Volume 2 from the first scene. So it was the whole combination - the time commitment, the fact that he had to do all this martial arts training... It was just a bigger deal than I had led Warren to believe. We decided this movie shouldn't be our first marriage [laughs].
You were ready to start filming when Uma Thurman became pregnant. Did you ever consider going ahead with a different leading lady?
She got pregnant and I was like, "OK, do I wait or do I not?" But I can honestly tell you that I didn't have a choice. The way I look at it is: yes, this is my samurai movie; yes, this is my badass chick movie; yes, this is my spaghetti western and my comic book movie. Yeah, it's all that stuff... but it's also my Josef Von Sternberg movie, and if Josef Von Sternberg is getting ready to make Morroco and Marlene Dietrich gets pregnant, he waits for Dietrich!
Kill Bill: Volume 1 is now showing in London and opens across the UK on Friday 17th October 2003. (Volume 2 opens on Friday 27th February 2004.)