During a welcome moment of comic relief in "Pulp Fiction," foul-tempered hit man Jules explains the frustrating nature of television pilots to his deadly (and Hollywood-ignorant) colleague Vincent. In "Reservoir Dogs," Mr. Orange holds a script in hand and practices a monologue, pacing around his apartment and standing on a quasi-stage in a desolate ghetto. In "True Romance," Dick Ritchie hopes to finally put his struggling-actor days behind him, auditioning for a bit part in an update of an old William Shatner cop show. To rabid fans of Quentin Tarantino, such autobiographical references to his acting career have marked some of his films' most memorable moments. But Tarantino is going to have to start looking for inspiration elsewhere.
"I just don't feel like acting anymore," the hyperactive Oscar winner said, announcing that he has retired as an actor. "I lost the bug."
Tarantino, who spent his 20s and early 30s attending acting classes while taking on bit parts in shows like "The Golden Girls," has often referred to himself as an actor who just happens to write and direct. Even after he gained his Hollywood stature, he inserted himself into films like "Pulp" and "Four Rooms" while taking on separate acting gigs in films that could be described as the good ("From Dusk Till Dawn"), the bad ("Destiny Turns on the Radio") and the ugly ("Little Nicky"). But now, Tarantino insists, he has closed the curtains on his inner thespian.
"Making a movie is so hard that I don't want to have to be working on a film unless it's my movie," he said. " 'Kill Bill' was really hard — it was really cool and everything, and it was great. But now, if I'm going to be getting call sheets in the mail and getting up at six in the morning and doing all that stuff — it's going to be my movie."
It was on the marathon shoot of the "Bill" movies that Tarantino struck up a conversation with two of his actors, Michael Madsen and Larry Bishop. Bishop, a veteran of B-grade biker movies, mentioned his script for a three-character throwback film called "Hell Ride," and the friends agreed that they would play the deadly riders. Earlier this month, the film received a green light, but Madsen revealed that they would have to re-cast Tarantino's role since his longtime collaborator had given up acting.
"I'm not going to act in it," Tarantino confirmed, "but I'm going to be involved with it, like I am with 'Hostel.' "
That upcoming horror flick has Tarantino serving as producer, a credit he has amassed recently on titles like "Daltry Calhoun" and the upcoming "Killshot." Now he will serve in the same capacity for "Hell Ride."
"It's how I started," Tarantino said of his acting, which has garnered less-than-favorable reviews that came to a boil with a 1998 Broadway revival of "Wait Until Dark" opposite Marisa Tomei. "A lot of directors actually start out as actors as they're first drawing things, and then they figure out what they're doing.
"It seems like half the directors now were on 'Hill Street Blues' one way or another," he laughed, referring to colleagues like Betty Thomas ("Doctor Dolittle") and Charles Haid (TV's "Criminal Minds"), who also lost the acting bug.
For those fans who enjoy looking for Tarantino's Hitchcockian cameos in his own films, the video-store-clerk-turned-Hollywood-heavyweight offers one last cryptic promise. "I might still act in one of my movies — we'll see," he said, refusing to completely let go. "If I do, it's because I think I'm the best guy for it, not just to put myself in."
For upcoming directorial gigs like the thriller "Grind House" (see "Tarantino Gushes About 'Grind,' Says Next 'Kill Bill' Is 10 Years Away") and the war flick "Inglorious Bastards," then, Tarantino's fans can continue to watch for the brief, stammering bit parts they expect. The rest of those movies' characters, however, will have to find new things to talk about.
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