The ageing renegade

By Bob Tourtellotte

He built a reputation making movies on Hollywood's fringe, but at age 46 with one Oscar in hand and another possibly on the way, Quentin Tarantino now finds himself the consummate industry insider.

Tarantino famously broke into the ranks of up-and-coming directors with Sundance Film Festival favorite Reservoir Dogs in 1992, and two years later with co-writer Roger Avary, he won a golden Oscar for original screenplay with Pulp Fiction.

With Fiction, the former video store clerk turned low-budget filmmaker was able to weave three seemingly disparate stories into one cohesive tale of the Los Angeles underworld that turned Hollywood on its heels.

He is back at the Academy Awards in 2010 for World War Two fantasy Inglourious Basterds, which earned eight nominations – second to Avatar and The Hurt Locker with nine apiece – including nods for Tarantino as writer and as director.

But where once he was lauded for being an outsider rewriting the rules of Hollywood, he is now seen as a key stitch in Tinseltown’s fabric who turns up for events, promotes movies and gives back to the industry that made him famous.

“It hasn’t been until this year that it really dawned on me the extent of that,” Tarantino told Reuters about the change.

He said the contrast between old and new hit home at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governor Awards in November where luminaries such as Lauren Bacall and studio executive John Calley were given lifetime achievement awards by the likes of Steven Spielberg and others.

“There was something about being in that room with all those really solid Academy members,” Tarantino said. “I wasn’t the outsider anymore.”

To be clear, Tarantino still pushes boundaries in movies. Inglourious Basterds re-envisions the end of the second World War with a fictional tale of a band of renegade Jewish soldiers dropped behind enemy lines to murder and terrify Nazis.


The movie’s use of music and the way it shifts between stories that include Brad Pitt leading the Jewish soldiers and Diane Kruger playing an Allied spy, has thrilled audiences.

Basterds has earned US$314 million at global box offices, and gets an 89 per cent positive rating on review website, which aggregates critics’ responses.

While Tarantino is famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of movies and film history, few know that in the past two years he has been pouring money into a 1929 theater in Los Angeles that shows classic films because it was perilously close to closing.

“Knowing I actually had the money to do something to help out, this was my chance to give back,” he said.

Among his other charities is a retirement center operated by the Motion Picture and Television Fund. But Tarantino said he does not dwell on his own longevity in showbusiness.

Back in 1992 when he won his Oscar, he achieved a dream and said has not worried about his career too much since then.

In fact, between 1997’s Jackie Brown and 2003’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1, he took time off from directing to write. During those years, he began Inglourious Basterds, “I was enjoying just living life for awhile. I figured I was successful enough, and when I needed to turn it (his career) on again, it would come back,” he said. And that is what happened. The Kill Bill movies were hits, and while Death Proof stumbled, Inglourious has proven a sensation.

Tarantino remembers the point at which he first felt like he made it in Hollywood. He was duck hunting, of all things, with Spielberg and director Robert Zemeckis, whose Forrest Gump won the best film Oscar for 1994 over Pulp Fiction.

Spielberg predicted Gump would win and Zemeckis would get best director, which he did. Tarantino would take screenwriter, Spielberg said, and he should be excited because doing so was a feat for his first time at Hollywood’s big awards show.

“That was when it hit me,” Tarantino said. “I thought, ‘wow, that would be something, getting a little gold man after just one movie.’

“If lightning were to strike again, I’d know exactly what it means,” he said. “I’ve been in this business for two decades now, and it would still be incredibly gratifying.”




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