"But I do have an iPad, and I have a lot of fun with it," Tarantino tells me. It's a rainy afternoon in late November, and the 49-year-old former video store clerk is sequestered in the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, nursing a healthy pour of pinot noir. "But because of that, I found myself Googling Django Unchained, seeing what people are saying, the articles that are out there, and that's been kind of fun for a while, but now I've got to get out of it. It's hard to not want to do that when you have easy access to that kind of shit. And I've never really had that before, so I'm gonna actually have to get rid of my iPad for a while."
By the time you read this, Django Unchained will have been widely screened for industry members and critics; some will have suggested that Tarantino's latest confection could have used more time in the oven, while others name it one of the best films of the year. But at the time of our interview, almost anything anyone's saying online about Django is almost certainly speculative. Aside from Tarantino's collaborators and confidants, no one has actually seen the movie — me included. There are few filmmakers I would agree to interview for a cover story without actually having seen their movie first: This year, the list starts and ends with Quentin Tarantino.
In all that Googling, I wonder, is there anything he's read that's totally inaccurate?
"They've been saying that me and [editor] Fred [Raskin] have been editing up until the last second," Tarantino says, without hesitation. "And we locked our cut two weeks ago."
So why not let me see it before our interview? "I don't want anyone to see it now, until the mix is finished," he says, adding, "people can see it when I'm fucking done. I'm getting done with it real quick. They can wait a couple days." And, besides, "It would actually spoil Saturday if anyone had seen it."
Two days after our sit-down at the Four Seasons, Django Unchained will be unveiled to its first audience, at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood. "It's almost like a Cannes Film Festival screening, the DGA thing," Tarantino says.
But the unveiling of Django at the Directors Guild has symbolism that a Cannes premiere wouldn't. In 2012, 20 years after Reservoir Dogs debuted at Sundance and established Tarantino as the rebel filmmaker of his time, he finally became a dues-paying member of the guild — a Hollywood institution he famously resisted joining for the first two decades of his career.
"I'm not a Hollywood outsider anymore," Tarantino recently told Playboy. "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."
Choosing the DGA's theater for the first screening of his highly anticipated new film is a sign that Tarantino, the boy wonder who made his name via ostensibly alternative venues like Sundance and Cannes, is eager for the embrace of that community.
But Tarantino still does things his way.
"You have to admit," I say, "there's something unusual about doing an interview with someone like me before they've seen the movie."
"I don't think it's so weird," Tarantino protests. "I mean, unless you were supposed to review the movie to me. We don't have to talk about the movie — talk about me."
Back in 2009, Inglourious Basterds — a two-and-a-half-hour revisionist World War II epic in multiple languages, with subtitles — grossed $120 million domestically. It also stood toe-to-toe with Avatar and The Hurt Locker on Oscar night, netting nominations for Tarantino as writer and director and a Best Supporting Actor win for Christoph Waltz.
The final stop of the Basterds promo tour brought Tarantino to Japan, where violent, midcentury Italian "spaghetti" Westerns have recently had a resurgence. On his day off, Tarantino went to a record store and found a "treasure trove" of reissues of spaghetti Westerns and their soundtracks.
"I'd been thinking about spaghetti Westerns anyway," Tarantino says today, "because between movies I've been working on a book about Sergio Corbucci." Tarantino has long written what he calls "subtextual film criticism" between making films, as both a hobby and as a kind of DIY film tutorial.