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The career of Quentin Tarantino instantly became the stuff of Hollywood legend, thanks to winning an Oscar, Golden Globe and numerous critics' awards for Best Original Screenplay for the groundbreaking and much-imitated "Pulp Fiction" (1994). Having famously learned his art while working as a video store clerk after dropping out of high school, Tarantino burst onto the scene first as a writer, penning the original drafts of Tony Scott's "True Romance" (1993) and Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994). Prior to that, he was a cause célèbre at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival with his breakout heist-gone-wrong thriller "Reservoir Dogs" (1992). But it was "Pulp Fiction" that caught the attention of Hollywood, with the entertainment press selecting him - for better or worse - as the symbol of a new generation of hot, young directors. Tarantino followed up with the critically hailed "Jackie Brown" (1997), an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch, only to stumble as an actor in a stage revival of "Wait Until Dark" (1998). Tarantino returned to the director's chair for the epic martial arts flicks "Kill Bill vol. 1" (2003) and "Kill Bill vol. 2" (2004), which were originally intended to be one...
The career of Quentin Tarantino instantly became the stuff of Hollywood legend, thanks to winning an Oscar, Golden Globe and numerous critics' awards for Best Original Screenplay for the groundbreaking and much-imitated "Pulp Fiction" (1994). Having famously learned his art while working as a video store clerk after dropping out of high school, Tarantino burst onto the scene first as a writer, penning the original drafts of Tony Scott's "True Romance" (1993) and Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994). Prior to that, he was a cause célèbre at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival with his breakout heist-gone-wrong thriller "Reservoir Dogs" (1992). But it was "Pulp Fiction" that caught the attention of Hollywood, with the entertainment press selecting him - for better or worse - as the symbol of a new generation of hot, young directors. Tarantino followed up with the critically hailed "Jackie Brown" (1997), an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch, only to stumble as an actor in a stage revival of "Wait Until Dark" (1998). Tarantino returned to the director's chair for the epic martial arts flicks "Kill Bill vol. 1" (2003) and "Kill Bill vol. 2" (2004), which were originally intended to be one film. After helming the "Death Proof" featurette in "Grind House" (2007), his gory collaboration with friend Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino returned to his Oscar-caliber ways with "Inglorious Basterds" (2009) and "Django Unchained" (2012). Regardless of what his harshest critics might have said, Tarantino remained a true auteur able to make his own films in an otherwise restrictive Hollywood system.
Born on March 27, 1963 in Knoxville, TN, Tarantino was raised solely by his mother, Connie, a former nurse and health care executive, after his father, Tony, a sometime actor, left the family before his son was born. When Tarantino was two years old, his mother left Knoxville and settled in Torrance, CA. After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, Tarantino held a succession of odd jobs, including usher at a porn theater, before finding his niche as a clerk at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, where for five years he engaged customers - including many low-profile industry players - with his passionate rants about film noir, Sonny Chiba and grindhouse movies. It was at Video Archives that he met future producing partner Roger Avary, who later collaborated on several screenplays with Tarantino. In 1984, Tarantino took his first steps into filmmaking with "My Best Friend's Birthday," a 70-minute comedy he co-directed with Craig Hamann about a young man whose plans to do something nice for his friend's birthday keep running afoul. Made over four years on a paltry budget of $5,000, Tarantino's first directing effort never officially saw the light of day; in fact, only about 36-minutes survived and were shown later at film festivals once he became a success. But his trademark sharp dialogue, obscure film references and foot fetish were on display even then.
Though famous for directing, Tarantino had aspirations of being an actor too, so placed himself in a leading role for "My Best Friend's Birthday." He also made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as one of several Elvis impersonators in a 1988 episode of "The Golden Girls" (NBC, 1985-1992). With little money in his pocket, Tarantino was glad to get a lump sum of $700 and the subsequent residual checks, which were welcomed in lean times. Meanwhile, Tarantino and Avery were hired by producer John Langley, a regular video store customer who was impressed by their film knowledge, to work as production assistants on a Dolph Lundgren exercise video. This led to work at Cinetel Productions, where Tarantino and Avary hooked up with producer Lawrence Bender and finished the screenplay for "Reservoir Dogs," a brutally violent, yet elegantly written crime drama about the aftermath of a jewelry store heist gone bad. Originally budgeted for $35,000, the production grew to $1.5 million when Harvey Keitel - who played the morally-conflicted Mr. White - became enamored of the script and agreed to star. The result was a cleverly structured and stylized caper with themes of masculinity, loyalty and betrayal that benefited greatly from top notch tough-guy performances from a superior ensemble that included Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn and Michael Madsen. The soundtrack for the film - songs that meant something personal to Tarantino - was almost as important to the film's impact as the performances of the cast of infamous Mr.'s.
"Reservoir Dogs" premiered at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, but was pointedly snubbed by the jury. Nonetheless, Tarantino became an overnight sensation and was lionized by some as the next Martin Scorsese, albeit with liberal sprinklings of Samuel Fuller and John Woo. Suddenly, Tarantino found himself to be in high demand in Hollywood. Two scripts he co-wrote with Avary - though it remained in dispute how much credit went to his writing partner - were immediately snatched up and turned into films. The first, "True Romance" (1993), was a gleefully adolescent daydream fueled by pop culture, violence and testosterone about a pair of young lovers (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) who flee Detroit for Los Angeles after stealing a dealer's stash of cocaine. Slickly directed by Tony Scott, the film offered grandstanding performances and a glossy commercial sheen that rendered the ample violence less distressing than it was in "Reservoir Dogs." Another script, "Natural Born Killers" (1994), was penned during the same burst of creativity with Avary, and was in some ways an off-shoot of "True Romance;" in the sense that it depicted a cross-country journey by two young lovers (this time Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) on the lam. Oliver Stone directed the hyper-kinetic thriller with a heavy hand from a script that he had extensively rewritten, much to Tarantino's annoyance. Never one to mince words from the jump, Tarantino subsequently criticized Stone, saying publicly how much he hated the movie.
Nearing the top of his game, the frenetic Tarantino escaped to Amsterdam, where he took in the local wares and penned the drafts for what became both his signature film and a pop culture phenomenon, "Pulp Fiction" (1994). Returning to a familiar urban landscape characterized by themes of trust and betrayal, and inhabited by gangsters given to low-level postulating, "Pulp Fiction" boasted another A-list cast including Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and Christopher Walken. The darkly comic neo-noir told a series of intertwining tales that revolved around a pair of philosophizing hit men (Travolta and Jackson) who run into trouble after recovering a mysterious briefcase, an aging prize fighter (Willis) who incurs the wrath of a mob boss (Ving Rhames) after failing to throw a fight, and said mob boss' girlfriend (Thurman) who has too much of a good time with one of the hit men (Travolta). The film premiered to rabid acclaim and a small degree of controversy at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, where Tarantino grabbed hold of the Palme d'Or. In it's theatrical release, "Pulp Fiction" was a surprising box office success, grossing over $200 million internationally, while earning several Academy Award nominations and a win for Best Original Screenplay. Many felt for some time that "Pulp Fiction" was robbed of the Best Picture win, losing instead to the feel-good Robert Zemeckis film, "Forrest Gump" (1994).
Quite literally, "Pulp Fiction" made Tarantino the toast of Hollywood overnight, while resuscitating the commercial and critical fortunes of Travolta, whose career resurgence became a well-publicized sidebar to the film, thanks to the red-hot young filmmaker who liked nothing more than to bring back his old favorites from TV and films past and giving them a shot in one of his films. After taking home well over a dozen major awards for "Pulp Fiction," Tarantino was all but omnipresent in late 1994 and 1995. As an actor, he had began popping up in small roles in independent features like "Sleep With Me" (1994) and "Somebody to Love" (1994), but he began to get cast in low and medium budget studio pictures. He was abysmal as the god of Las Vegas fortune Johnny Destiny in the disastrous crime noir "Destiny Turns on the Radio" (1995), but did manage an enjoyable turn as a hapless drug dealer in friend Robert Rodriguez's "Desperado" (1995). Segueing to television, Tarantino had a guest shot on Margaret Cho's short-lived sitcom "All-American Girl" (ABC, 1994-95) and directed a flashy installment of the medical drama "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). A few years later, Tarantino was to direct an installment of the popular sci-fi series "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) - of which he was a devoted fan - but he had refused to join the Directors Guild of America and was unable to secure a waiver to helm the episode.
Tarantino and Bender expanded their production company, A Band Apart. Formed in 1991, the name was taken from Jean-Luc Godard's "Bande à Part" (1964), to include A Band Apart Commercials and Rolling Thunder. The latter was a specialty distribution label under Miramax Pictures designed to acquire, distribute and market four films per year. The emphasis was supposed to be on visceral, exploitation-tinged genre movies. The first acquisition was a quirky Hong Kong import, Wong Kar-Wai's "Chungking Express" (1996), an exquisitely stylized romantic comedy in police drama drag. As a filmmaker, Tarantino returned to the screen to executive produce "Four Rooms" (1995), a poorly received comedy anthology, for which he also wrote, directed and starred in the worst of four segments involving the comic antics of a frazzled hotel concierge (Tim Roth). He fared better as executive producer, writer and co-star of Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), a moody, violent crime noir that transformed into a gory and repetitive special effects-laden vampire movie. The reviews were mixed, but box office take was brisk. Still in demand as an actor, Tarantino played an unsympathetic version of himself as "QT" in Spike Lee's sex comedy, "Girl 6" (1996).
For his long-awaited follow-up feature, Tarantino adapted Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch into "Jackie Brown" (1997), a vehicle for blaxploitation actress Pam Grier. Fans expecting "Pulp Fiction 2" were somewhat disappointed, namely due to the slow pacing and Tarantino's focus on the would-be romance between an airline stewardess (Grier) in trouble for smuggling money for drug dealers and her earnest, sympathetic bail bondsman (Robert Forster). While some critics carped over the film's length, many were enthralled with the script and the casting. Other than an acting appearance on stage opposite Marisa Tomei in the new Broadway version of "Wait Until Dark" (1998) and a small role in the tepid Adam Sandler comedy "Little Nicky" (2000), Tarantino took a long hiatus from public appearances and filmmaking amid tabloid headlines proclaiming rumors of writer's block, pot smoking, temper tantrums and fistfights; rumors he denied. Tarantino spent three years writing a World War II epic called "Inglourious Basterds," but he failed at the time to find the right ending. He finally settled on directing "Kill Bill," an unabashedly bloody valentine to kung fu and blaxploitation films. The idea was spawned after encountering "Pulp Fiction" player Uma Thurman at a 2000 Oscar bash, who recalled an idea the two had once cooked up on set. The story centered on a bride (Thurman) who gets left for dead after her wedding party is slaughtered at the chapel. She swears vengeance on the attackers and methodically hunts them down in a long killing spree. Tarantino gave Thurman - an actress he would later call "his muse" - 30 pages of script for her 30th birthday, and the film - a meditation on vengeance described by the auteur as "the movie of my geek movie dreams" - was soon a go.
Initially set as a $42 million movie, "Kill Bill" ballooned into a $60-plus million, three-hour opus that took 155 days to shoot. But Tarantino kept forging forward until the film was finished. Miramax was impressed with the quality of the footage, yet unsure of an audience's ability to endure unrelenting levels of violence. In a shrewd move, Tarantino decided to issue the film in two segments just months apart - "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (2003) and "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" (2004), both of which centered on The Bride's relentless bloody search for her former employer and mastermind behind her wedding massacre (David Carradine). One of the most graphically violent films ever released - with an R rating, no less - "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" proved to be every bit as critically polarizing as any Tarantino effort, with many critics calling it brilliant cinema and others decrying its gut-wrenching scenes. Like other Tarantino efforts, "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" spun the already established formula on its head when it scaled down the action in favor of unexpected character moments and the writer-director's characteristically absorbing dialogue - not to mention demonstrating his gift for luring top-notch performances out of actors whose careers had dimmed.
Tarantino next appeared as a "special guest director" in director Robert Rodriguez and writer-artist Frank Miller's adaptation of Miller's crime noir comic book series "Sin City" (2005). Tarantino helmed the tense, eerie sequence within "The Big Fat Kill" storyline in which the tough, but noble Dwight (Clive Owen) has an extended conversation with the corpse of the corrupt cop Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) as he drives to dispose of the dead bodies in the tar pits in hopes of avoiding a turf war. Continuing to demonstrate his love of a wide-ranging array of pop culture icons, Tarantino stepped behind the camera to direct the 2005 season finale of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000- ), which featured the final TV performance of Frank Gorshin and, like "Kill Bill, Vol. 2," a plot centering around a cast member being buried alive. After scoring an Emmy nomination his "CSI" stint, Tarantino expressed interest in assembling a limited-run series for which he would write and direct all 12 episodes, "like one big arc-novel," but nothing came of the idea. As a performer, he came d as himself in the enchanting telepic "The Muppets' 'Wizard of Oz'" (ABC, 2005) and made three guest appearances as former SD-6 agent-turned-international criminal McKenas Cole on one of his favorite TV shows, "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06).
A great interview subject, the fast-talking Tarantino cultivated an intriguing public persona over the years. He enjoyed dual status as the film geek who made good and the reigning avatar of postmodern cool. The latter quality was conveyed by the playful hipster tone of his onscreen protagonists, their retro clothing, a mastery of pop culture allusions and killer soundtracks. Eventually, the mere fact that Tarantino liked a particular film or performer became a marketable selling point. Tarantino also showed his canny mastery of self-promotion, reviving his fading image as the poster boy for bad boy cinema. He was famously sued by producer Don Murphy for $5 million and accused of assault after Tarantino attacked him in restaurant in 1997, punching him and slamming him against the wall. Tarantino next added his name to Eli Roth's second feature, "Hostel" (2006), a brutal horror flick about two American college buddies (Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson) lured to an out-of-the-way hostel in a Slovakian town rumored to house desperate, but beautiful Eastern European women. Following their wrong heads, both Americans get trapped in a truly sinister situation that plunges them into the dark recesses of human nature. With Tarantino's name and public support, "Hostel" received way more attention than it otherwise would have merited.
Tarantino next teamed up with directing pal Robert Rodriguez once more to direct "Grindhouse" (2007), a compilation of two 90-minute long horror flicks helmed by both directors that was a throwback to the days of bloody, sex-fueled, low-rent double features that played in seedy 42nd Street theaters in New York City. Tarantino's offering was a slasher-cum-road rage flick called "Death Proof," starring Kurt Russell as a crazed killer who tries to mow down young women, including Rosario Dawson and Zoë Bell, in a black Chevy Nova. Despite widespread attention lavished on the film, including exhaustive rounds made to various media outlets by Tarantino, "Grindhouse" failed to draw large crowds to theaters; some of those who did show up walked out after Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" segment, thinking the movie was over. Meanwhile, Tarantino finally found the ending he was looking for with "Inglourious Basterds" and went about putting it together for his next film. After a leaked copy of the script made the Internet rounds, Tarantino quickly went about casting actors, including Brad Pitt, Mike Myers, Eli Roth and Diane Kruger. The final film was a violent tour-de-force about a group of hard-nosed Nazi hunters in German-occupied France during World War II that brought Tarantino his best critical acclaim since "Pulp Fiction." He earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay; a DGA Award nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film. More importantly, the film earned a total of eight Academy Award nods including for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
Two years later, Tarantino went to work on his next film, "Django Unchained" (2012), a pseudo-spaghetti Western set in the pre-Antebellum South about a revenge-minded slave (Jamie Foxx), freed by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), and given the chance at freedom and a reunion with his wife (Kerry Washington) if he helps hunt down two ruthless killers (James Remar and James Russo). All the requisite hype - particularly on the Internet - was in full effect during the film's production, with Tarantino typically out in front, stating that he had wanted to use the genre trappings of the spaghetti Western to confront America's horrible past with slavery. Before the film was even released, Tarantino received both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best (Original) Screenplay.
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"But the extent to which energy and drama have been missing from the film is almost embarrassingly revealed by the strong final party. A hilarious recurring riff by helmer Quentin Tarantino, in which he delivers a convoluted but coherent interpretation of "Top Gun" as a gay film, packs more punch than anything else in the picture..."---From review of "Sleep With Me" by Todd McCarthy Daily Variety May 16, 1994
"A spectacularly entertaining piece of pop culture, "Pulp Fiction" is the "American Graffitti" of violent crime pictures ... Tarantino positions himself as the Preston Sturges of crimeland, putting the most incongruous words and thoughts into the mouths of lowdown, amoral characters."---From review of "Pulp Fiction" by Todd McCarthy Daily Variety May 23, 1994
While attending a screening for "Pulp Fiction" Tarantino allegedly stood up in the front row and asked the audience who among them liked his earlier films, "Reservoir Dogs" and "True Romance". After many hands were raised, he asked who liked "The Remains of the Day"; those who responded were told to "Get the f--k out of this theater." --From Daily News, June 26, 1994.
"Watching 'Pulp Fiction', you don't just get engrossed in what's happening on screen. You get intoxicated by it--high on the rediscovery of how pleasurable a movie can be. I'm not sure I've ever encountered a filmmaker who combined discipline and control with sheer wild-ass joy the way Tarantino does. For 2 hours and 35 minutes, we're drawn into the lives of violently impassioned underworld characters--hit men, drug dealers, lethal vamps--who become figments of fury and grace and desire. We're caught up in dialogue of such fiendishly elaborate wit it suggests a Martin Scorsese film written by Preston Sturges, in plot twists--they're closer to zigzags--that are like whims bubbling up from the director's unconscious. 'Pulp Fiction' is the work of a new-style punk virtuoso. It is, quite simply, the most exhilarating piece of filmmaking to come along in the nearly five years I've been writing. " --From Owen Gleiberman's review of "Pulp Fiction", Entertainment Weekly, October 14, 1994.
Tarantino's nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement by the Directors Guild of America for "Pulp Fiction" made him the first American-born non-DGA member to be so honored.
As a guest on PBS' "Charlie Rose" (from c. 1994 around the time of the release of "Pulp Fiction"; rebroadcast on August 25, 1995), Tarantino revealed the titles of his three favorite films: "Rio Bravo" (Howard Hawks, 1959); "Taxi Driver" (Martin Scorsese, 1976); and "Blow Out" (Brian DePalma, 1981).
Tarantino said he is patterning Rolling Thunder on World Northal, a US distribution company that released most of the major kung fu movies in the 1970s. "I want dynamic, visceral films that are exploitation in nature. It says something that the most dynamic, in-your-face foreign movie currently in release is "Belle de Jour"," Tarantino said, referring to Miramax's recent release of Luis Bunuel's 1967 classic.
Tarantino said he and Bender intend to estabish two theaters in both New York and Los Angeles where Rolling Thunder films will open initially and--depending on a film's success--will go out to other cities later. He said that Hong Kong kung fu films would be released with new subtitles he would supervise in the New York and L.A. houses, but would be released in dubbed versions in urban areas to attract black and Latino audiences.---From "Take Cover! Tarantino Forms Rolling Thunder" by Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter July 14, 1995
"Since designers starting sending me free stuff to wear, it's kind of taken the fun out of shopping." Even worse, he complains to US, "I'd like to hang out with Warren Beatty. I don't have the time."---From "Talking Movies: Tarantino's Trajectory" by Anna Scotti, Buzz April 1996
I don't know...It's just this cool connection that happened while we were doing Pulp Fiction. I mean, von Sternberg had Marlene Dietrich, Hitchcock had Ingrid Bergman, Andre Techine had Catherine Deneuve. It's a special bond that I'm proud to have, and hopefully, one day, people will reference me and Uma like they do the others. But the thing about it is, it just kind of is, and there are certain things I don't really want to understand subtexturally. I just want it to be and do.''---Tarantino on Uma Thurman being called his muse to Rolling Stones April 2004
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