Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is now in theaters (and doing pretty damn well for an R-rated Western), but the outspoken director is still on the publicity circuit, and as ever, he's causing a stir wherever he goes. The film is causing furious debate thanks to its subject matter (Tarantino's old adversary Spike Lee weighing in most recently), and now the director has laid into one of cinephiles' most sacred cows, in the form of legendary Western director John Ford.
In an excellent, extensive interview with Henry Louis Gates Jr. of The Root (via Movieline), Tarantino talks about his dislike of D.W. Griffith's "Birth Of A Nation," saying "it really can only stand next to 'Mein Kampf' when it comes to just its ugly imagery," and explains that Ford's role as an extra in the silent epic inspired a scene in "Django Unchained." "Oddly enough, where I got the idea for the Klan guys [in 'Django Unchained']," he told Gates, "as you may well know, director John Ford was one of the Klansmen in 'The Birth of a Nation,' so I even speculate in [an as-yet-unfinished article he's written]: Well, John Ford put on a Klan uniform for D.W. Griffith. What was that about? What did that take? He can't say he didn't know the material. Everybody knew 'The Clansman' at that time as a piece of material... And yet he put on the Klan uniform. He got on the horse. He rode hard to black subjugation. As I'm writing this -- and he rode hard, and I'm sure the Klan hood was moving all over his head as he was riding and he was riding blind -- I'm thinking, wow. That probably was the case. How come no one's ever thought of that before? Five years later, I'm writing the scene and all of a sudden it comes out."
And then he continues, more specifically about Ford, "One of my American Western heroes is not John Ford, obviously. To say the least, I hate him. Forget about faceless Indians he killed like zombies. It really is people like that that kept alive this idea of Anglo-Saxon humanity compared to everybody else's humanity -- and the idea that that's hogwash is a very new idea in relative terms. And you can see it in the cinema in the '30s and '40s -- it's still there. And even in the '50s."
Tarantino has a point, but it's certainly a surprise to see him publicly attack a filmmaker who's so often named as one of the very greatest in the history of the medium. We certainly wouldn't dispute the points that Tarantino raises here, but we'd also perhaps suggest that Ford's views may have evolved over time; one of his final films, "Cheyenne Autumn," was described by Ford as an 'elegy' to Native Americans, and something of an apologia for the way they'd been treated in his earlier pictures. We wonder what Spike Lee thinks of the whole thing...
Away from Tarantino's views on other filmmakers, he's suggested that there might be more button-pushing material to come, hinting at a closing part of his "Inglourious Basterds"/"Django Unchained" trilogy, named "Killer Crow," focusing on African-American soldiers during World War Two, and made up of material excised from 'Basterds.'
The director tells Gates "There's something about this that would suggest a trilogy. My original idea for 'Inglourious Basterds' way back when was that this [would be] a huge story that included the [smaller] story that you saw in the film, but also followed a bunch of black troops, and they had been f--ked over by the American military and kind of go apes--t. They basically -- the way Lt. Aldo Raines and the Basterds are having an "Apache resistance" -- [the] black troops go on an Apache warpath and kill a bunch of white soldiers and white officers on a military base and are just making a warpath to Switzerland... I was going to do it as a miniseries, and that was going to be one of the big storylines. When I decided to try to turn it into a movie, that was a section I had to take out to help tame my material. I have most of that written. It's ready to go; I just have to write the second half of it... That would be the third of the trilogy. It would be [connected to] 'Inglourious Basterds,' too, because Inglourious Basterds are in it, but it is about the soldiers. It would be called 'Killer Crow' or something like that."
The director's hinted at a potential trilogy before, and separately at this second WW2 movie, but naming the film as "Killer Crow," which would be set in 1944, after the Normandy invasion, is the first serious detail we've heard about it tying into this trilogy, and seems to suggest that there'll be returning roles for Brad Pitt, Eli Roth and the rest of the Basterds. The indication is that it wouldn't be his next film -- that could be a 1930s-set gangster tale -- but it's intriguing to know that Tarantino is planning a project that seems to fall at the exact midway point between his last two pictures.