Quentin Tarantino is no stranger to controversy, and he has once again found himself at the center of a storm after making inflammatory statements at a rally protesting police brutality.
Will the backlash blow over by the time Tarantino’s Western “The Hateful Eight” hits theaters on Christmas Day, or does Tarantino need to do some serious damage control? Depends on whom you ask. The two crisis management experts are split.
“He sort of has made his bed now,” Susan Tellem, head of the crisis management practice at Tellem Grody Public Relations, told TheWrap.
In the two weeks since the Oct. 24 rally, one police group after another has called for a boycott of “The Hateful Eight.”
So far, Tarantino has stuck to his guns, defending his comments in interviews with the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes.” While Tarantino asserted in his Los Angeles Times interview — published Nov. 3, more than a week after the rally — that he “never even implied” that all police officers are murderers, that response came a day late and a dollar short, in Tellem’s estimation.
“He did wait too long [to respond], and now his response that he didn’t say they were murderers is completely inappropriate,” Tellem said. “He should have just kept [it] a simple interview with the L.A. Times that was short and sweet.”
Tellem doesn’t hold much faith that Tarantino will be able to stem the controversy at this point.
“The best thing for him to do now is just to say, ‘I’m looking forward to the release of my film. I hope that between now and then the groups that have said they are going to boycott the film will understand that I do have tremendous respect for the police department, and that this is an unfortunate occurrence,’” Tellem advised.
Tellem also suggested, “It wouldn’t be a bad idea if he would sit down with some of the leading police representatives and talk it through,” adding that those conversations should be held privately.
Despite the heat that Tarantino is under, Tellem doesn’t believe that “The Hateful Eight” will be drastically affected at the box office.
“I don’t think that the film is going to go down in a tailspin.” she said. “That said, a lot of men love his films, and there are a heck of a lot of law enforcement people in this country.”
Michael Bilello, president and CEO of public relations, marketing and crisis management firm Centurion Strategies, believes that Tarantino’s traditional strong appeal with male viewers will help lessen the dent of any “Hateful Eight” boycotts.
“I would assume that a lot of males, probably a lot of people who are law enforcement, enjoy his movies, because it’s sort of the world that they at least believe they live in,” Bilello told TheWrap.
Bilello added that Tarantino should continue to emphasize that he didn’t paint all police officers as murderers — something that Tarantino, who made his career with his ability to communicate his ideas, will have ample opportunity to do as the “Hateful Eight” premiere date approaches.
“Over the next few weeks, as he’s doing promo and press for this film, he’ll be able to effectively communicate exactly what he meant,” Bilello said.
“He needs to continue to clarify that he did not say that all cops are murderers,” Bilello said. “And then he just needs to move on with his life, meaning to continue making great movies and continue to doing the things that he’s passionate about.”
As for the week-plus of silence between the rally and the L.A. Times interview, Bilello believes that it might have been wise for Tarantino to wait for the outrage to reach a critical mass before responding.
“You’d rather just let it spread, get everybody on the table, and then address it all at once,” Bilello said. “Mr. Tarantino’s not a newbie to crisis management or responding to an embroiled media. He’s an expert at it. It would be easier to wait and then address them all at once.”
Bilello added, “This may land in his favor, because it’s creating more buzz and attention around a film that’s set to be released on a pretty competitive day in the movie industry.”
As for whether the controversy will drive people away from a film by a man whose reputation for cinematic shock and outrageous moments precedes him, Bilello is skeptical.
“I’m not even sure that those people are Quentin Tarantino people anyway, to be honest with you,” Bilello said. “The people who are easily offended by Quentin Tarantino‘s comments aren’t making it through 15 minutes of a Quentin Tarantino movie.”