Quentin Tarantino is one of the most influential and beloved filmmakers working in the business today, and it’s been that way for two and a half decades now. With the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood earlier this year, the director’s ninth feature and a legitimate threat to take home Best Picture at the Oscars, the Pulp Fiction director only further cemented his place in the business as a living legend. Now, filmmaker Tara Wood is here to take us on a journey through his first eight movies with her new documentary, QT8: The First Eight.
Tara Wood previously did a similar deep dive on Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Boyhood) with 21 Years: Richard Linklater and decided to focus on Quentin Tarantino for her next cinematic endeavor. In QT8: The First Eight, Wood takes us on a journey through the first 8 wildly divergent movies that Tarantino has helmed, narrated by the actors and collaborators who have worked with him. As you can see in the QT8: The First Eight trailer, the documentary covers everything from Reservoir Dogs to The Hateful Eight, and features appearances by Tarantino’s frequent collaborators such as Zoe Bell, Bruce Dern, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Diane Kruger, Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Eli Roth, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell and Christoph Waltz, amongst others.
I recently had the chance to speak with Tara Wood about her new movie. We discuss her intro to Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the difficulty of including the Harvey Weinstein drama into the movie, whether or not she thinks he will really retire after his tenth movie and much more. So, without further adieu, here’s our chat.
You previously did the Linklater documentary, and I guess the simple question would be why Tarantino next?
Tara Wood: A lot of it is because I spent a lot of time in Austin and Rick [Linklater], Quentin [Tarantino] and [Robert] Rodriguez are all friends, and they spend a lot of time there. So while I was doing the Linklater documentary, there was a lot of conversation about Quentin. So it’s kind of a natural progression to it. And they said enough about him that it definitely piqued my curiosity on a couple of notes.
In the documentary you did this really cool thing where you had the actors who have worked with Tarantino over the years narrate it. Sometimes you might have one person, but it was really cool that you actually got a bunch of these people in to do that. How did you decide to use that device for this documentary?
Tara Wood: It’s a very different documentary in the sense that we don’t interview the director, so to stay as true to who he is I felt that it was better not write a voiceover over it to direct anything and allow them to tell the story. I think we found out a lot more about him by going that way with it.
As you just mentioned, you don’t actually speak with Quentin in the doc. Was that always the way you wanted to go with it?
Tara Wood: So we didn’t interview Rick [Linklater] in the first one and this is obviously part of the series that I hope continues. So yeah, that’s always been what kind of separated this from other documentaries, learning about them through other people. I find it more interesting. And actually, I think Quentin liked two things about the Linklater doc. He liked that it concentrated on the filmography. That it was not an expose, right? We don’t dive into exes and personal life and all that stuff. We stay on the filmography, and the fact that we don’t interview the director. He loved that. Which, I was kind of surprised from him. I didn’t think he’d have that take on it. People have approached him before to do a documentary, and he’s never got behind one.
So what was that like for you as a filmmaker to get a guy like Quentin to give you the blessing? To be the first one to get that blessing for a documentary.
Tara Wood: Pretty effing amazing. Yeah, that was a pretty cool moment. I think it took a little bit to sink in, and I was like, “Wait a second, he probably gets a lot of this.” But yeah, that was a very cool moment.
Doing an undertaking like this, I don’t know if everybody understands how much goes into making a documentary. I imagine you must have to really care about the subject matter. So what was your entree into Quentin Tarantino’s movies? Do you remember your first memory or what your first experience with him was?
Tara Wood: I don’t remember specifically when I put it all together but Pulp Fiction I believe was the first one that I saw, but then True Romance was very close to that. The True Romance, screenplay. I love, love, love those characters. So that was my entry into Quentin’s world. Alabama Worley is a badass. She’s just great.
It’s funny. I was with a bunch of my friends out here the other night and True Romance was playing in a bar, and they had no idea what it was and they were like, “What is this?” Then I explained the whole thing, how Tarantino wrote it. It’s funny how great that movie is, but still so many people have yet to discover it.
Tara Wood: I’m shocked that people don’t know it. I feel like Natural Born Killers is a little bit more unknown because he doesn’t reference it. I think just based on him not liking it. What Oliver Stone did with it. But True Romance he talks about a lot. Yeah, I assumed that a lot more people were familiar and I’m always surprised when they’re not. Look how many stars that attracted. Look at all of the names in that film. It’s unreal.
Obviously you probably learned, even though you didn’t talk to him directly for this, I assume you learn, as a filmmaker just a ton about him. What was the most surprising thing you learned or understood a little better after going through this process about Quentin Tarantino?
Tara Wood: I think the thing that stands out the most is his attention to detail and how at every level that’s important to him. His subtleties and his backstory lie in those details. I mean, you could look a Tarantino film and enjoy it straightforward, right? You can sit back and just enjoy the surface of a Tarantino film. But if you allow yourself, you can really sink into the details. I think that was the most exciting thing to really dig into more and learn about him. The fact that he just loves people and the study of the human condition. He’s always taking it in and he uses it everywhere.
One thing about this, and it’s sort of something that evolved a lot over the past couple years, is Tarantino’s career is intrinsically tied to Harvey Weinstein. There’s no getting away from that. So that was something you definitely had to touch on in the documentary. But did you find that challenging to figure out how to approach that relationship in the narrative of your documentary?
Tara Wood: We started the film before everything came out about him. So he was already present. The fact that he’s been with Quentin since Reservoir Dogs all the way through The Hateful Eight, to when that New York Times article dropped, right? So he was already present in the sense that Harvey was willing to take risks on him when nobody else would. Harvey had a great eye for that kind of art. When that changed, yeah, it became very difficult because it was very hard to figure out how to tell the story about what happened to a very important person in Quentin’s life without turning it into the Quentin/Harvey story. That’s not what the documentary is about But that was one of his longest partnerships, so it’s something that had to be dealt with and yeah, it was very difficult to figure out. It’s just a difficult story in general. It’s very interesting to learn as much as I did, what everybody will learn about Quentin, just how deep and thoughtful of a person he is in general, in addition to what a great artist he is. And then understand that that was living simultaneously next to this other person. Harvey Weinstein lived as a bully. He lived a very different way of being. To understand how those two made it work, it definitely left open for the audience to figure on their own. It was a challenge to bring it in, and it was a challenge to tell.
Hollywood reveres Quentin Tarantino. He’s viewed as one of the original voices, unique voices, distinct voices. But after making an entire documentary about him, what do you think help set him apart from other directors and other filmmakers. What gives him that thing that nobody else has?
Tara Wood: That’s a loaded question [laughs]. In my opinion, I think because he is… again, I’m gonna go back to the details. I think because he considers every aspect of filmmaking from the script and the characters all the way through to the distribution of the film. And he doesn’t know a little bit about each bit or, how to light a scene, or how to shoot an action shot, or how to use a practical effect versus CGI. He’s a master of everything from the writing through the distribution and the marketing. If there’s one thing that sets him apart from everybody, it would be his knowledge of every aspect of the filmmaking process.
I don’t want to take too much of your time. You’ve been really gracious, but just a couple of quick things. So this was made before Once Upon a Time in Hollywood came out. What are your thoughts on it?
Tara Wood: Well, after spending so much time with Quentin over the last few years, I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s a love letter to Los Angeles. I think he relishes in his love of filmmaking and the stuntmen, and the city itself. I think it’s really beautiful. And, spoilers, but the very Tarantino-esque last 20 minutes is beautiful. And Brandy [the pitbull] is a badass.
The big thing with Tarantino right now is he’s he’s said consistently that, “Okay, I’m doing one more. I’m gonna direct one more. Ten and that’s it.” Because you probably have a better sense for the guy than a lot of people, do you really think he’s gonna be able to just hang it up and not direct after that tenth movie? Or do you think something will be able to lure him back?
Tara Wood: You have to consider how he defines his ten movies, right? From Dusk Till Dawn is not included in the first eight or nine right? Four Rooms is not included in there. And the Kill Bills are one movie, right? He doesn’t consider that two. He kind of plays around with the idea of what his ten is. For example, I don’t think he would consider, if he does Star Trek film, his tenth unless he wrote that from the beginning. But then he’s got a “story by” [credit]. I don’t know if we could consider that a tenth. Do you see what I’m saying? What he considers ten is conceived, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. He’s got a lot of room to play in there. That doesn’t include TV. That doesn’t include miniseries. I don’t think he’s going anywhere soon. That’s my opinion.