Working with Quentin Tarantino is an experience, even in Hollywood. Ask anyone who’s worked with him on any of his ten films.
While actors like Michael Fassbender learned so much and had a great experience working with the creative mind, Tarantino’s female muses were either pushed to the breaking point specifically during strangling scenes or subjected to showcasing their feet because of the director’s infamous foot fetish.
The cast of Inglourious Basterds was met with an interesting surprise, however. Eli Roth had his own ways of preparing to play Donny Donowitz, a.k.a. the Bear Jew, collecting all those Natzi (sic) scalps. But Tarantino had an even more ingenious plan up his sleeve to make one of his most popular films believable as possible.
Tarantino Has A Specific Way Of Writing
Tarantino has a particular way he starts writing his films. Ultimately, he lets the story come out of his brain naturally, but first, he contemplates a bunch of things.
“Before I settle in on what I’m going to do, I’m sort of contemplating a lot of different things. ‘Oh, there’s that book that I’ve always wanted to turn into a movie.’ Maybe I start reading that again and go over old notes,” Tarantino said. “I explore some different ideas and see what stage of the incubator they are at any given time. Especially when looking for inspiration. You know, making a film is a metaphor for falling in love. You meet a lot of people and you flirt with a lot of people. And everything is going great. But then you meet the right one.”
As it happens, Tarantino fell in love with a certain idea he had for Inglourious Basterds. Writing the World War II film was already an important experience because it made him start writing during the day instead of his usual nightly writing sessions.
“I have a balcony outside of my bedroom,” he said. “And it has a table and stuff. And it looks out into the… I live in the Hollywood Hills. It looks out into the greenery there and it’s really nice. And it’s really pleasant out there.” When he gets stuck on something, he likes to mull it over floating in his pool.
The Cast Were Subjected To An Interesting Surprise
Tarantino recently revealed that writing the character Standartenführer (SS Colonel) Hans Landa was the most fun out of all the characters he’s ever written. The head antagonist, or “the Jew Hunter,” as he was nicknamed, was played by Christoph Waltz.
The director discussed what it was like casting the character on Brian Koppelman’s “The Moment” podcast. Initially, he was blown away by Waltz, so blown away in fact that he actually went back and changed the way he planned on prepping his cast during pre-production.
He knew that Waltz’s performance was going to be Oscar-worthy (and in fact it was, Waltz walked away with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), so he wanted to shock the rest of the cast, most of whom had never heard of the actor, at the exact moment they were acting out their scenes with him.
So essentially, Tarantino had a secret caged tiger up his sleeve and unleashed him on his cast at the last possible moment. To keep the tiger caged, though, Tarantino asked Waltz to downplay his exceptional skills during the table reading.
“I got together with Christoph before we got to the big script reading with the cast,” Tarantino said. “I told him, ‘I’m not doing this to be perverse game playing…everybody is so curious about who is playing Hans Landa. I don’t want you to be bad at the script reading, but I want you to hold a lot back. I do not want them to think that they are getting a glimpse of who you are really going to be. On a scale of one to 10, be a six. Be good enough, just good enough. I do not want you to be in a competition with anybody, and if you are in competition then lose. I don’t want them to know what you have or for them to have a handle on Landa.”
Waltz obeyed like a good tiger, but Tarantino had other requests. “In that same vein, with the exception of the French farmer, I don’t want you rehearsing with the other actors before filming. I don’t want Diane Kruger or Brad Pitt to know your gun-slinging abilities until the cameras are rolling.”
Waltz agreed again, although he was reluctant not to rehearse his dialogue ahead of shooting. So he asked Tarantino to rehearse with him, which of course, he agreed to. Waltz also got to rehearse with Denis Ménochet, who played the French farmer Perrier LaPadite, but only because their dialogue was like a perfect game of tennis.
Writing the character was just as exciting for Tarantino as it was shooting his scenes because the Nazi “presented a unique set of challenges that he’s rarely faced when writing other characters.”
“The minute he enters a scene, he dominates it,” Tarantino told Empire. “All the things that he was supposed to be good at, he was that good at them. I found I had a really interesting situation with him that has been hard to have with any other character. It was the fact he was not only a bad guy, not only a Nazi, but a Nazi known as the Jew Hunter, who is finding Jews and sending them to the concentration camp, so when he shows up towards the end of the movie, kinda figuring out what the Basterds are doing, the audience wants him to.
“They’re not rooting for him, but it’s a f***ing movie, and if he figures it out it’s going to be a more exciting movie! You know, you don’t want him to let you down. We’ve set up that he knows everybody’s secrets, so he’s got to know theirs. And it will make a more exciting climax if he does.”
It’s interesting to hear what went into creating such a sinister character, even if keeping the mystique of that character was at the expense of the rest of the cast. But that’s the magic of Tarantino for you.