Warren Beatty, Me and ‘Kill Bill’

Sunday, March 24 I can’t believe Quentin has time to take off on Oscar Sunday to meet with me. Well, yeah, I can believe it. The guy’s his own man (A Band Apart, remember?) and this is about casting the lead in his own movie, his great epic film. So I put on some jeans, […]

Last Updated: March 11, 2010 @ 1:13 PM

Sunday, March 24

I can’t believe Quentin has time to take off on Oscar Sunday to meet with me. Well, yeah, I can believe it. The guy’s his own man (A Band Apart, remember?) and this is about casting the lead in his own movie, his great epic film.

So I put on some jeans, cowboy boots, a tank top with something about .3575 on it, and a big, heavy, black leather jacket from Kung Fu, The Legend Continues, climb into Annie’s huge, black GMC SUV with the Harley sticker on it, with Thunder, my Bernese mountain dog, in the back (he goes everywhere with me), and haul over to Quentin’s pad in the Hollywood Hills.

I’d been there before, to watch movies in his vintage movie theater, but had never been inside the house. He buzzes the gate open and I growl up the long driveway. It takes a while before Quentin opens the door. He’s in short pants and a Hawaiian shirt.

It’s all about movies. Orson Welles: We both agree that Citizen Kane is not the best movie ever made, as the American Film Institute claims. It’s too black and white in every sense of the term, and he overacts. Anyway, it’s not even Welles’ best. That would probably be Touch of Evil. He lets himself hang out almost embarrassingly in that flick.

Steven Spielberg: Quentin and I sort of disagree about him. I feel that his massive and remarkably popular body of work doesn’t hold a candle to the few pictures that David Lean made: Lawrence of Arabia, which gets my vote as the best movie of all time, and the Bridge on the River Kwai, a close second. Lean’s philosophy is always intact and consistent. Steven’s is all over the place. Quentin says no, and he probably knows better. He actually hangs out with Spielberg.

 Marlon Brando: so huge, tragic, like one of the Olympian gods. Francis Coppola: The Godfather and Apocalypse Now will be watched a hundred years from now. And, of course, Roger Corman: Quentin loves the B picture guys. Roger is the king of that, though he hates the term, and I’ve done nine films with him and his wife Julie.

It’s pretty hot by Quentin’s pool. And blinding. Quentin has his shades on. I put on my own dark glasses, and take off my jacket, and eventually my boots, and try to look cool and easy. Actually, I feel like a college kid taking his oral exam, and awed in the presence of one of the less gods to boot.

He tells me that for the whole three years or so that he’s been writing this movie, he hasn’t found anyone who really gets it. And he’s lonely. And do I get it? Yeah, I get it. Kung fu, samurai, spaghetti Western, gangster love story, Japanese anime, I get it all. We talk for two hours. I say I have to go.

“So what about Tuesday?” He had said that’s when training starts, with the wire crew from Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

There was the niggling realization that Quentin was lumping me with all the losers, the faded almost-stars, the totally faded TV guys, and, of course, the bad boys. True enough, all of it. For the last couple of years I’d been supporting myself with autograph conventions. I was always the biggest thing there, but that’s not saying too much. Guys from old TV shows, the girl from The Little Rascals movies (now in her seventies), Linda Blair of The Exorcist, Scotty from Star Trek. Scary. I could hear the coffin nails being driven in.

But those are the guys he loves the most, more than the big, successful stars. A guy like Quentin has got to be rooting for the underdog. He reaches out a hand to those he thinks aren’t too far gone, and whom he thinks are worth saving. The cool part of it all is that he picked me to work this time. I’ll sure as hell do my best to come up to his expectations.

From “The Kill Bill Diary: The Making of a Tarantino Classic as Seen Through the Eyes of a Screen Legend,” by David Carradine, HarperCollins, 2006.