PLAYBOY: But she has to understand your artistic journey comes first.
PLAYBOY: You’ve threatened to retire at 60. Why put a timetable on it?
TARANTINO: Who knows what I’ll do? I just don’t want to be an old-man filmmaker. I want to stop at a certain point.
TARANTINO: Directors don’t get better as they get older. Usually the worst films in their filmography are those last four at the end. I am all about my filmography, and one bad film fucks up three good ones. I don’t want that bad out-of-touch comedy in my filmography, the movie that makes people think, Oh man, he still thinks it’s 20 years ago. When directors get out-of-date, it’s not pretty.
PLAYBOY: Stanley Kubrick was viable in his later years. Scorsese and Spielberg have made good movies in their 60s, and Woody Allen made Midnight in Paris in his 70s. Won’t fans want to see what’s on your mind as you continue to develop as a man?
TARANTINO: Maybe. If I have something to say, I’ll do it. I haven’t made any gigantic declarative statements. I just don’t want to be an old filmmaker. I’m on a journey that needs to have an end and not be about me trying to get another job. Even if it’s old and I’m washed up, I’d still want to do it. I want this artistic journey to have a climax. I want to work toward something.
PLAYBOY: When a director jumps the shark, doesn’t it have more to do with him getting fat and happy and losing his edge or not listening?
TARANTINO: Could be, but it’s also age. [laughs] The directorial histories don’t lie for the most part, but I’ll concentrate on a unique example: I hadn’t thought about how old Tony Scott was until he checked out. And I knew him. I thought, Wow, Tony was close to 70?
PLAYBOY: As a director, how will you know when you’re not capable of that anymore?
TARANTINO: Well, I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out.
PLAYBOY: You don’t turn these things out once a year. How many films do you have left in you?
TARANTINO: You stop when you stop, but in a fanciful world, 10 movies in my filmography would be nice. I’ve made seven. If I have a change of heart, if I come up with a new story, I could come back. But if I stop at 10, that would be okay as an artistic statement.
PLAYBOY: When we did the interview last time—
TARANTINO: I reread that interview not long ago. Literally the next day I was asked, “Do you want to do another one?” The thing that was cool about that first interview was that you made a big deal about me doing Pulp Fiction and then coming back with Kill Bill. So is he the real deal or not the real deal? And I thought, Well, if Playboy’s coming back, then I guess I passed the real-deal test.
PLAYBOY: You certainly have passed that test. Last time, you said you felt you could become a fine actor if that were your priority. Why did it stop being important to you?
TARANTINO: I just lost the bug. I think I got the bug from a combination of two things. I’d had a good experience doing From Dusk Till Dawn, and I started going out with Mira Sorvino. She’s an actor and so is her father, Paul, and they talk about acting a lot. I got all into that. And there were old dreams and desires from when I was a little boy. Now it’s the opposite. If I write a part for myself, I cut it down to nothing. Actors have said that now that I’m over myself, I can get down to doing good work. But it’s more about the fact that when I did Kill Bill, I was going to play Pai Mei, and it was so hard—
PLAYBOY: Pai Mei is the teacher Daryl Hannah poisons.
TARANTINO: Yes. I was going to play him. I’d trained to do the fights and everything, but it was such a big-deal movie that it needed all my attention directing. When I was done with it, I decided that if I’m going to be on a set, I want it to be my set, with me directing. I don’t want to be an actor in somebody else’s movie. I don’t want people faxing call sheets to my house, and I don’t want to get up in the morning for somebody else’s movie.
PLAYBOY: The tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman massacred moviegoers at a Dark Knight Rises midnight screening, led some filmmakers to do some soul-searching about how they depict on-screen violence. Did you?
TARANTINO: No, because I think that guy was a nut. He went in there to kill a bunch of people because he knew there would be a lot of people there and he’d make a tremendous amount of news doing it. That’s no different from a guy going into a McDonald’s and shooting up people at lunchtime because he knows a lot of people will be there.
PLAYBOY: When people point to movies for glorifying violence, what do you say?
TARANTINO: Well, I never get into this argument because no one has this argument with me. [laughs] They know where I’m coming from. I make violent movies. I like violent movies. I’m on record about how I feel there is no correlation between art and life in that way.
PLAYBOY: After Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, you were this raging, rule-breaking outsider who redefined the gangster-movie genre and spawned imitators. How do you see yourself now?
TARANTINO: Bob Dylan going into the 1970s; De Palma, Scorsese, Kubrick and Spielberg going into the 1980s. I would like to be thought of as one of the premier directors of his time, at the height of his powers, with his talents at his fingertips, with something to say, something to prove, just trying to be the best he can be.
PLAYBOY: No longer an outsider?
TARANTINO: Yeah. That’s one thing that’s actually kind of nice. I’m not a Hollywood outsider anymore. I know a lot of people. I like them. They like me. I think I’m a pretty good member of this community, both as a person and as far as my job and contributions are concerned. Back in 1994 I think they were all pretty impressed with me, and that was cool, but I felt like an outsider, a maverick punk, and I was hoping I wouldn’t fuck it up. I still do things my own way, but I didn’t go away either. I still kind of feel like I’m always trying to prove I belong here.
PLAYBOY: When J.D. Salinger died, it was clear what a burden his early success had been. After Pulp Fiction, do you give a big sigh of relief when you make a movie and feel you have risen to the level of your earlier work?
TARANTINO: No. I like people to be excited and think my best work’s in front of me. That means you’re trying to top yourself to one degree or another. I take that seriously. It’s a subjective thing, but you are trying to make a big, bold, vital work that moves your artistic journey forward. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want there to be anticipation. I was actually quite proud when I read that Django is one of the most anticipated movies coming out this year. It’s a black Western. Where’s the anticipation coming from? I guess a lot of it is me. That’s pretty fucking awesome.