When two massive fans of cinema in general, and grindhouse cinema in particular get together, there is a simple answer to the question, "What is better than a great late night movie?" It is, of course, "Two great late night movies" - a double feature...
When those two fans are also directors, well then they have a way of making that idea a reality. And if those two directors are Quen Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, well then you get Grindhouse: Planet Terror/Death Proof, you get Kurt Russell in an iconic new role, and you get Rose McGowan sporting a machine gun for a leg.
To find out how this all began, Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier sat down with Quentin and Robert in Los Angeles, CA to talk inspirations, casting, fun on the set and the future of the amazing supporting acts shown alongside their double feature - the all-new grindhouse trailers created by other members of a new directorial gang including Rob Zombie. Jason Eisener, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright...
Emmanuel Itier: Quentin - What was the first Grindhouse movie you ever saw?
QT: That’s a good question. What would legitimately be something that you could absolutely call a Grindhouse movie? My grandmother took me to the Gardmar Theater in Montebello, and the film I wanted to see, because it was on TV all the time, was The Doberman Gang. We went to see The Doberman Gang and it was on a double feature with Eddie Romero’s Filipino horror film ,The Twilight People, which was like a Filipino version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Pam Grier was in it playing The Panther Girl. And my grandmother took me to see it!
EI: And you Robert - How did you first get into Grindhouse cinema?
Robert Rodriguez: He’s been educating me in Grindhouse cinema for the past 12 years, showing me all these double features and triple features at his house – either stuff he’d already seen in the theater back when he was growing up, or stuff he’d discovered that he turned me on to. I didn’t really think to do anything with it, because I’m kind of slow. Then, about three years ago, I started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do a double feature?” Because I just finished a 3-D movie and I was trying to think of something else that would bring people to theaters for a theatrical experience.
I went crazy with that idea for a few months, then got sidetracked and did Sin City, and then I went to show him my cut I did of his scene in Sin City. I went to his house, and laying on the floor with a bunch of other junk was a double-bill poster for Rock All Night and Dragstrip Girl, which was the same one I had at my house on my floor. That was inspiration for my double feature – just the layout of it.
I said, “I’ve got that same poster and it’s on my floor! I had this idea I was crazy about – I was gonna make two short features, but you should do one and I’ll do the other one,” and he said, “Oh, I love double features – we gotta call it ‘Grindhouse’!” and I said, “Alright!” Then later, he came up with the idea for the fake trailers. When he does show a double feature at his house, he always puts trailers in between – it wouldn’t be a complete experience without them.
Quentin Tarantino: I choose them – I’m like a little mixmaster - I decide the order that they go in. They’re either related to the genres of the two double features I’m showing, or the people in it, or even like maybe somebody in the audience.
EI: When the two of you get together to have a creative meeting, who usually talks first?
RR: Whoever has an idea. Usually, if he [Quentin] was talking, I was typing. I didn’t want to lose any moment of it. Those ideas come and then they slip away.
EI: We heard that you two were just like little kids, visiting each other’s sets during filming and hanging out to watch...
QT: Well, you know, it’s funny. Somebody once asked us, “Why are you guys such good friends? Is it because you’re filmmakers? Because you came up in the same town?” Well, yeah, naturally. However, having said that, if we had never made a movie in our lives and we just “met” each other, we would be friends. If I worked at Video Archives and Robert was a customer, we’d just be great buddies. If we were in elementary school… I wish I knew a guy like Robert in elementary school! The fact that we’re both artists and both respect each other’s artforms, that’s just amazing, and I’ve always dreamed about the “community of artists” kind of thing, but it’s just actually that we like each other.
EI: What made you choose Rose McGowan for this project?
RR: I met her at Cannes for Sin City. We were sitting around, I was talking to Clive Owen and then turned around and met Rose, and I was like, “What are you up to?” and she told me she’d been stuck on a TV show for five years, and I was like, “Oh, no wonder I haven’t seen you around. You were a Dimension girl for a while, you were in “Scream”…then, like, gone.” I didn’t know what happened to her. And I started talking to her – she’s hilarious, she really just caught me off guard.
When you meet somebody like that, that has a personality that’s so strong in person, you know that if they can blow it up 50 times on a screen, it’s going to be amazing. You know, like George Clooney or Antonio [Banderas] or Salma [Hayek] – you get that epiphany of ‘”I want you to be in my movie, but as you are.” People tell her she should be a stand-up - she’s so accident-prone, she has the worst luck, there are just so many things about her. She’s always talking about her useless talents. I was, like... taking notes: “All I have to do is add a machine gun leg to her, and she’d be over the top.” Really, there’s so much of her in Cherry. No one else could have played her. The same with Zoe. No one could play Zoe but Zoe.
QT: Yeah, it was a really wonderful situation. I worked with Zoe on “Kill Bill”; she was Uma’s double, and she was Xena’s double for the last three years of that show – just one ass-kicking chick. But also really just sweet and effervescent, and I got to know her really well – literally, she’s like my sister. I’d run into a burning building for her.
But also, she was in a documentary about stuntpeople – it was about her, called Double Dare. I saw that movie, actually, a few times in theaters with audiences, and what was fascinating was the personality that Zoe has. Her own bubbliness was there in the documentary, and it just kind of came out in the audience. There’s this moment where she actually gets a job that she really wanted to get, and the whole audience just bursts into tears ’cause you’re just so happy for her, you want her to do well. And I was like, “Gosh darn”, that quality Zoe has in real life is completely there on screen – everyone feels it in the theater.
I’d also been working with her slightly as an actress on “Kill Bill”, when she’s got the motorcycle helmet, or she’s in the yellow jumpsuit. I don’t know how to talk to a stuntperson – I know how to talk to an actor. And it was her responsibility to not just do the stunt, but The Bride had to still be there. She’s playing The Bride. So I’m always explaining to her where she’s coming from, where she’s going, just character-wise, and she wasn’t used to that, until finally she got into it and was always asking me acting-wise what I wanted her to do, even if there’s just a motorcycle-helmet on her head.
I thought “Wow, if I could cast Zoe as an actress and get that wonderful quality out of her, audiences would love her and then I could just do a balls-to-the-wall chase and always just show that it’s her and never have to cut away.” I just thought that would add up to a very thrilling experience.
EI: Robert, why did you choose Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey?
RR: These are people I always wanted to work with. I’ve always thought Jeff Fahey was just fantastic, Michael Biehn I’ve always wanted to do something with. Both of them came in and read for the Sheriff and I thought, “God, both of them did such a great job. Maybe I could cast one of them as J.T. and one as the Sheriff, but they look so similar they’d almost be brothers... they’d have to be brothers in the script.” I would do anything to work with some of these people. I’ve been trying to check off my list – Josh Brolin I’ve come very close to working with over the years...
EI: Quentin, what about working with Kurt Russell?
QT: Well, the thing about Kurt is I’ve always been a huge fan of his, and there’s this aspect of… if you’re men of mine or Robert’s generation, it’s like Kurt Russell is this incredible, iconic figure. He’s Snake Plissken, he’s MacReady in The Thing, he’s Rudy Russo in Used Cars, he’s Jack Burton... he’s this incredible figure, and I’ve always loved him as an actor – in particular, the fact that he would do the Eastwood-esque voice, the John Wayne-esque voice, because he wasn’t so serious an actor that he couldn’t have fun. He has a sense of play like really good actors do, so it was a dream to work with him.
EI: How did you decide which film would play first and which second?
RR: Originally, it started alphabetical. We figured, once we got our scripts in order, we’d figure out which would go first, and for a while I thought, well, since mine has so many characters, I could probably cut mine the tightest and that way people wouldn’t feel exhausted and ready to go home; we’d make it really short so they’d be ready for another picture. But they ended up being the exact same length...
QT: We never really thought that much about it... it just seemed like the natural way to go, and I don’t think we even put it under the microscope to wonder why that was the case, but I think it was probably that Robert’s is a little bit lighter – there’s a more humorous vein.
EI: Last week there was talk that might be having trouble with the MPAA...
QT: No, that’s a complete rumor. I mean, it was a complete rumor. They hadn’t even seen it when all this stuff was coming out!
RR: It was such a good rumor that we were actually disappointed we didn’t get it – maybe we weren’t good enough to get an NC-17. [Laughs]
EI: Is there a future for any of the trailers? What about Machete?
QT: That one for sure. Our whole thing was that we were going to let the audience – the fans – kind of dictate that.
QT: That one could really be done as genuine Grindhouse. He’s already got at least a half hour probably put together, if he expanded. And then literally just show up for like another six or seven days and just wrap it up. That would be extremely new-world style.
EI: How did you select the directors to do the trailers?
QT: That ended up happening where the first thing Robert had done in the movie was Machete. I had it in my house, so Edgar Wright and Eli Roth are friends of both of ours, and they were at my house and I said, “Hey, let me show you Machete – it’s so cool,” and I even had the lobby cards...
RR: I had camera tests I was doing early, so I shot some of the trailer and I shot some lobby cards and a poster, and I sent it to Quentin to get him really jazzed about the movie, and those guys were there.
QT: They were there, and they really got what we were trying to do; they are as knowledgeable about this cinema as we are, and it seemed like a perfect fit to actually have them come aboard. Rob Zombie actually came aboard because of Bob Weinstein. I know Rob, he’s a nice guy, but we don’t really hang out or anything... We haven’t had a chance to meet each other that much, but Bob Weinstein brought it up to him because he’s doing Halloween for Dimension, and I go, “Oh wow, that’s a really good idea,” and then, when he came up with Werewolf Women of the SS, I go, “That’s kind of like a Jess Franco sleaziness that really wasn’t in the other movies. That’s actually really important! That is a vein we haven’t hit in any of the other ones – we need to go that direction!”
EI: So this is really a springboard; if it is a success, you want to do more Grindhouse films?
RR: It’s such a big idea. Once we got just the first idea of doing the double feature together, and then when we called it Grindhouse, it just suddenly became this umbrella for a lot of projects we could do, and that’s what we got the most excited about...
EI: Is Bob Weinstein on board?
QT: They love the idea of this being a label and everything. One of the things I like about it is it would give me an opportunity to say, “Do a blaxploitation movie,” or “Do a spaghetti-western" – do something like that, where the weight of the world isn’t riding on it. I don’t have to re-invent cinema in order to do it: I can just do it.
EI: This is all really a director’s genre, isn’t it?
QT: Oh yeah. That’s one of the things I always thought was really interesting, growing up–reading a magazine like, say, Fangoria – it was all about the directors. It also might be about the makeup guys or something like that, but if ever there was an auteur publication in America, it is Fangoria! Because it’s all about, “Here’s the director”... either that or the make-up guys.
Dimension Films' 'Grindhouse: Planet Terror/Death Proof' is in theaters from April 6, 2007.
Do it right and go see it late at night...