Employing pulp and propaganda, Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Inglourious Basterds, weaves together the infamous, oppressed, real and larger-than-life stories of World War II.
Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish American soldiers to perform swift, shocking acts of retribution. Later known to their enemies as ‘the basterds,’ Raine’s squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget van Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of the Third Reich.
We spoke with Quentin Tarantino about his new movie, which took over a decade to be made.
It has taken you over 10 years to write this – was it worth the wait for you?
Oh, yeah, most definitely. It wasn’t like I was constantly writing on it for 10 years. I worked on it for two years and kind of put it away. I didn’t work on it after that, but I would take out the pages and go through it again, and just kind of think about stuff.
There was this time after Kill Bill that I was thinking, ‘Maybe I’m not going to do this at all. Maybe that time has passed.’ Then I realized, ‘No. I have to finish it, even if I write it and put it in a drawer and never make it, because I have to get it out of me.
I won’t be able to write the next script until I get this one out. I have to climb this mountain to see the other mountains on the other side.’ I didn’t feel that way when I finished writing it. I loved it. I love the movie and am very gratified.
It’s a war movie but leaves out the iconic battle scenes and things like that, but has Brad Pitt as the leader doing a Patton-type speech; how did you decide what aspects of those movies you were going to leave out and what you were going to have?
That’s a very good question. That definitely has that John Mulius sounding Patton speech to the troops, rally the boys.
Basically the answer to that question is that I got rid of the stuff that I didn’t want to deal with, that I was never really attracted to in war movies, and then kept the stuff that I liked.
So, no tanks, they’re gone. No battle scenes. It wasn’t about that. I was always much more drawn to more of the cloak and dagger kind of stuff with people hiding in Nazi occupied countries and pulling stuff behind-the-scenes.
I was always excited when a moment would happen in a World War II movie that was more of a human drama.
How did you come up with the character of Aldo Raine?
Aldo Raine was the first character that I came up with when I came up with the idea, and the whole idea was supposed to be that this hillbilly is against the code of what you think of as a redneck, because he’s truly and completely against fascism, to the degree that I think part of his back story was that he was fighting [against] the Klan in the ’30s before he went into the war, and he’s going to continue fighting if he survives the war. So the Nazi’s, the Kluxter’s, it’s all the same to him.
What did Diane Kruger bring to this that was so special that you cast her?
She brought a genuine German movie star quality. You can buy that she starred in a whole bunch of German movies and was a movie star.
That’s a big, big deal because you don’t just find people on the street that look like old time movie stars. Also she has a wonderful duality with the character.
A lot of that is born out of the situation that she’s put in, but the fact that she gets to do so much of the movie in German and also so much in English; they are almost two different performances.
How much research did you do on the war or, since it’s revisionist history, did you do any at all?
Well, I did a lot of research way back when I first started. For a while it kind of stymied me a little bit, because I found all this information that I kept trying to squeeze into the script. I wanted to teach the world what I had learned and I had to get over that.
But as far as this story was concerned, all I needed was to really understand the whys and the wherefores of what life was like under the occupation, in particularly in France.
That’s what I really needed to know, the dos and don’ts and the structure of what daily life was like and how it changed over the course from ’41 to ’44.
Also, I already knew a lot about German cinema and the Nazi propaganda film industry. But basically, once I got going as far as the writing was concerned I didn’t want to go back and do any more research. I didn’t want to stop my process.
If you’re reading my script you’re buying my imagination. That’s what I wanted to do and not just change my way of doing it, because I was doing a period movie.
So what happened is that every time I’d get to a thing that I didn’t quite know what the answer was, what the reality would be, I just made it up and I moved on.