‘Inglourious Basterds’ Stars Tell Tarantino’s Secrets

From his well-documented foot fetish to on-set pranks, we give you a peek into the director's process.

BEVERLY HILLS, California — By now, you know that Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” is in theaters on Friday. You know it’s got Nazi killers, scalpings galore and dialogue cooler than Freddie Jackson sipping a milkshake in a snowstorm. But where does it take Quentin’s unique universe?

For the answer to that question, we went straight to the stars to get the scoop on Tarantino’s unique filmmaking ways — past, present and future.

The Foot Thing — Hey, whatever Quentin is into is the dude’s own business. But when you think about all those lingering foot shots of Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill” and “Pulp Fiction”), Bridget Fonda (“Jackie Brown”) and the girls of “Death Proof,” coupled with John Travolta’s foot-massage speech in “Pulp Fiction” and QT’s own appearance as a foot judge on “The Tyra Banks Show,” the evidence is pretty overwhelming. “You know what? A journalist told me about the foot thing and it’s funny, I didn’t know about it,” laughed Diane Kruger, whose right foot plays a major part in her character’s “Basterds” fate. “And then he said, ’You didn’t know? Don’t you have a foot scene in the movie?’ And I said, ’I actually do, that’s so weird.’ So the day [we were going to shoot the scene], I went to him and said, ’So you’re excited, it’s the foot scene today!’ And he said, ’Oh, that’s not true, it’s all made up!’ I was like, ’OK.’ ” Ultimately, however, Kruger said she didn’t mind. “Six close-ups later,” she laughed, “my foot has never looked prettier than that day.”

Quentin’s Cary Grant? — Although Tarantino is known for bringing fallen stars back to prominence (Travolta, Pam Grier, Harvey Keitel), “Basterds” is the first time he’s directed an actor at the top of Hollywood’s heap. For the film fanatic, it’s a throwback to the great actor/auteur collaborations of yesteryear. “At different times when I was making the movie, I was looking through the viewfinder at him and I was like, ’God, this is what Sydney Pollack must’ve felt doing “Jeremiah Johnson” with Robert Redford,’ ” Tarantino marveled, saying he wants to keep working with Pitt. “It was cool to work with a big movie star. Most of my favorite directors from the golden age of Hollywood, they worked with Cary Grant, they worked with James Cagney, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich [regularly] — they worked with all these great stars. It was about time to throw my hat in that ring, as far as Hollywood history was concerned.”

Big Jerry — During a long, arduous day on set, one of the challenges is trying to keep all your hardworking people awake. To help with this — and give everyone a good laugh — Tarantino employs a nefarious, NC-17 toy. “Yeah, Big Jerry … there’s an infamous hall of shame for whoever does fall asleep,” Kruger remembered of the enormous, um, sexual instrument photographed with snoozing stars of Tarantino’s films. The photos are then posted on the set for everyone to see. “There’s never a dull day.”

What Took So Long? — As die-hard Tarantino fans know, “Basterds” has been his great white whale for the better part of a decade. Although the film doesn’t contain such long-ago-rumored collaborators as Adam Sandler and Sylvester Stallone, it does have the unique Hollywood trait that all his movies share: thoughtful precision. “Quentin — he’s so careful about everything he does,” Tarantino’s friend/ fellow filmmaker/ star Eli Roth explained. “Quentin lives life in between movies, and he takes his time. For ’Kill Bill,’ he spent a year and a half writing one fight scene! And with ’Inglourious Basterds,’ he had written it over the course of eight years. He thinks about every character, and he thinks about every detail in the universe — there are very few directors that do that.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Inglourious Basterds.”

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