In part one, we found out how the duo met and how "Basterds" came to be. In part two of the conversation, they spoke about rewriting history. Now, in the final part of this sit-down with two Hollywood icons, they discuss making a WWII movie that even Germans can love.
On the movie's five-chapter structure:
Quentin Tarantino: To me, ["Basterds"] is structured in an interesting way. It's structured around three characters. The first chapter is the introduction of [Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans] Landa. The second chapter is the introduction of [Brad Pitt as Lieutenant] Aldo [Raine] and the Basterds. And the third chapter is — not the introduction of [Melanie Laurent as] Shosanna [Dreyfus] but setting her up. So they are three lead characters, and they have three separate stories going on. From chapter four to chapter five, now it's the adventure film, and it just goes all the way. The characters start overlapping, and this happens and that happens. I am basically structuring the whole first half of the movie with a chapter each for my three leads — and then it's just watching them comingle.
Brad Pitt: I was really intrigued by that structure. We're used to the normal screenplay, which works in three acts and is usually in succession of events, and they're all connected in some way. This worked more like a novel, in the sense that it was five distinct chapters, and one chapter would immensely focus on the detail of a moment and let that moment breathe and study it. And then we would jump through time — there'd be big gaps in time — and we'd move on to the next section. It's like when a painter paints just the bends in a figure, but when it's all together, the whole figure is there. I was really intrigued that it could work in that kind of structure — it was much more interesting that way. I mean big jumps in time, but yet, when we did get somewhere, there was minute focus on detail. And I'm exhilarated by it still.
On creating a WWII film that makes Germans want to tap dance:
Tarantino: There were very slight creative disagreements that I would have, when we were finalizing the cut before the film was shown with an audience, with Harvey Weinstein. And Universal too. There was this aspect — they were afraid that the film was getting too funny, just because they weren't used to it. They weren't used to this many laughs in a World War II movie. So there was a concern: Is this becoming farcical? And I go, "Well, you say that like it's a bad thing." All my movies are funny. That's what you get when you get me — you get laughs. But there actually was a concern, until they actually watched the movie with an audience and saw everyone laughing. Then, all of a sudden, everything was great.
Pitt: I'll tell you what was great, was seeing this film with a German audience. It was fantastic. I think they enjoyed it more than any audience.
Tarantino: When it comes to World War II movies, Germans are used to cringing. That is their constant state of being. They are used to watching these movies through the eyes of guilt, and that's always how it is. Well, there becomes this moment in the film where the laughs start, and then they keep going and they keep going — all of a sudden, you actually have a German audience thinking to themselves, "Wait a minute, I'm watching a World War II movie that I am allowed to enjoy. I'm actually allowed to laugh at this. I'm actually allowed to enjoy this movie. I'm actually not looking through the eyes of guilt. I'm actually into this story." And it ended up being a very liberating thing for the theater.
Pitt: Well, you've got to imagine, you've got a couple generations that are living with the shame of their nation, that they didn't have anything to do with. They were born into it and they have to carry it in some way. I have German friends, and we talk about this a lot. But somehow, with this film, they get to tap dance all over it.
Tarantino: If anyone has "Bringing Down the Third Reich" fantasies, it's the last couple generations of Germans. Think about any of the [real-life] German actors in my movie. Almost every single one of the males put on a Nazi uniform [to act] before. If you're a German actor, at some point in time you're going to play a Nazi or a couple of them — three of them or five of them.
Pitt: Except for Til [Shweiger, who plays Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz].
Tarantino: Except for Til. This was the first time he actually put on a Nazi uniform, [but only because] because he knew he got to kill Nazis.
Check out everything we've got on "Inglourious Basterds."
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