Thursday 21 February 2019

Tinseltown's tainted Tarantino take-down

In these post-Weinstein times, maybe it was only a matter of time before they came for Tarantino, writes Sarah Caden

Tarantino with Thurman on the red carpet for Kill Bill. Photo: AFP
Tarantino with Thurman on the red carpet for Kill Bill. Photo: AFP

Sarah Caden

Last week, after Uma Thurman posted on Instagram the footage of the "negligent to the point of criminality" car crash that occurred while shooting Kill Bill, all the photos used to illustrate the story seemed to show her looking cosy with the film's director, Quentin Tarantino.

You'd easily assume that Thurman and Tarantino were close, or you would easily have made that assumption a year ago.

Now, having seen too many snaps of female actors turned Weinstein accusers playfully kissing him at the Oscars, or seeming to hug close to him on the red carpet, we can make no such assumptions.

Through the post-Weinstein lens, all Hollywood impressions seem potentially false, suspicious, poisonous and based on misuse of power.

And so we look at photographs of Thurman and Tarantino, looking cosy together as recently as 2014 in Cannes, and wonder what was really going on.

Well, what seems to be going on isn't as clear-cut as what unfolded with Harvey Weinstein, though, last week, voices across social media asserted that Tarantino has been "cancelled".

Tarantino today
Tarantino today

Thurman, for one thing, would appear to have no problem with Tarantino and all cosiness seems to be sincere.

On the other hand, however, no sooner had the Thurman issue emerged than some 2005 tapes of Tarantino on Howard Stern's radio show were unearthed, in which he defends the reputation of fellow director Roman Polanski and dismisses rape as a "buzzword".

This piled on top of stories of Tarantino choking Thurman for the sake of a scene, spitting in her face on set and strangling actor Diane Kruger while making Inglourious Basterds.

All of these incidents have been explained as key to the art - the fastidious director says he didn't trust his actors to perform these acts to his satisfaction, so he did them himself - but that doesn't wash. Not now.

There is no denying the Thurman car crash reflects badly on Tarantino. The details of it first came to light last weekend, in an interview Thurman gave to The New York Times.

It was a broad-ranging interview and focused on Thurman as angry at Hollywood, but the Kill Bill crash was what became the focus of it in the days after publication.

Then, on the back of that interview and interest in the crash, Thurman released footage of it on Instagram. In the clip, she drives a small convertible at high speed on a narrow dirt road. She loses control, she crashes and she is pulled from the car by the film crew. It's not part of the plot, it's an accident and it happened after Tarantino, she explains, shot down her pleas to have a stunt person drive the car.

In the text with the posted clip, Thurman wrote that Tarantino, who gave her the film footage, was "deeply regretful and remains remorseful about this sorry event… i am proud of him for doing this right thing and for his courage. THE COVER UP after the fact is UNFORGIVABLE. for this i hold Lawrence Bender, E Bennett Walsh and the notorious Harvey Weinstein solely responsible. they lied, destroyed evidence and continue to lie about the permanent harm they caused and then chose to suppress…[sic]"

In reaction to The New York Times interview and the backlash against him following the posting of the footage, Tarantino did an interview with Deadline Hollywood.

In it, he explains not only what happened that day on set, but also his decades-long and close but not uncomplicated relationship with Thurman. Sure, he comes across as a bit of an oddball, but that was once what was celebrated about Tarantino - when he was toast of the town, that is.

However, in that interview Tarantino also points out how the Thurman interview contained hefty claims of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, as well as accusations that he and fellow producers Bender and Walsh covered up the crash and, in her opinion, destroyed the evidence that was the car.

He draws attention to the fact that not much was made of these allegations, while instead the focus went on him. Weinstein is fallen, finished. Tarantino, perhaps, is someone who has had a fall coming for quite a while. He may once have been the toast of Hollywood with his ultra-violent, misanthropic movies but he's not such a big shot any more. He's questionable, but he's also dispensable and the latter may play a part in the take-down, too.

Those who consider Tarantino "cancelled", however, are basing it on more than just dodgy and dangerous behaviour with his actors and on set.

The unearthed radio interview with Howard Stern has surely been waiting to come back and bite him for a long time.

In it, Tarantino pooh-poohs Polanski's conviction for the 1978 statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

"He didn't rape a 13-year-old. It was statutory rape… he had sex with a minor," Tarantino said to Stern. "That's not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you're talking about violent, throwing them down - it's like one of the most violent crimes in the world. You can't throw the word rape around. It's like throwing the word racist around. It doesn't apply to everything people use it for."

On Friday, Tarantino apologised for these comments as "ignorant, insensitive, and above all, incorrect"

Whether this will have him un-cancelled remains to be seen.

It might be too late for the reported $100m funding from Sony to make a film about the Charles Manson Helter-Skelter murders, which will include Roman Polanski as a character, given he was the husband of one of the victims, actress Sharon Tate. Leonardo DiCaprio has been tipped to star in the film.

Tarantino has seemed quite frank in relation to his shame over the fact he "knew enough to do more than [he] did."

He had a relationship with one of Weinstein's key accusers, Mira Sorvino, and seemed pretty lacking in lashing out at the producer in her defence.

Further, Rose McGowan has written about Tarantino's weird fetishing of her feet. None of it adds up to a Weinstein-scale litany of abuse, but it's all enough to signal the end of Tarantino.

At this point in his career, though, would anyone miss him too much? His last film, The Hateful Eight, hardly set 2015 on fire.

He's not exactly Hollywood royalty, and is nearly a safe take-down in this climate of showbiz indignation and high moral ground.

No one's going to lose work over it, but they get to tweet their horror and look good and Leonardo DiCaprio's hardly too worried that his career will end if Tarantino's next project never happens.

Sunday Independent

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