Quentin Tarantino is most notably famed for his action-drama movies based on strong characters and punchy comic book storylines reminiscent of sixties and seventies pop culture or to coin a Tarantino movie, “Pulp Fiction.”
Did you know Quentin Tarantino was a 23-year-old part-time actor and high-school dropout, broke, without an apartment of his own. With no agent, he sent out scripts that never got past low-level readers. “Too vile, too vulgar, too violent” was the usual reaction, he later said. So how did he do it, what were the 4 keys to his success, lets take a look below at what was instrumental and the turning pint in his career as an entrepreneur, writer and movie director.
Quentin Jerome Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Connie (McHugh), a nurse, and Tony Tarantino, an Italian-American actor and musician from New York. Quentin moved with his mother to Torrance, California, when he was four years old.
His fascination with action genres is well known, from the heist movie Reservoir Dogs to what he calls “the bad-ass chick revenge movie” of Kill Bill.
Although his films are instantly recognisable – his imprint lies in the sassiness of the characters, the pungency of the dialogue, the shrewdness of the soundtracks – they feel united in the manner of products belonging to a carefully controlled brand, rather than by a common heart of personal revelation. Indeed, the most frequent criticism levelled at Tarantino is that his characters lack humanity; their fates may amuse us, but rarely do they move us. No matter how many people die on screen, nobody cries at a Tarantino film.
“All my movies are achingly personal,” he insists. “People who really know me can see that in my work. In a film, I may be talking about a bomb in a theatre, but that’s not what I’m really talking about.” As he says this he laughs an evasive, slightly goading laugh. So, what is he really talking about? “Well, it’s not my job to tell you,” he says. “My job is to hide it.”
He has always written dialogue for imaginary scenes, he says, since he was a child, but it wasn’t until he took evening acting classes in the early Nineties for which he would write the scripts he performed, that people told him he had a gift for words. “That was the first time anyone had ever complimented me or given me any encouragement about my writing and from that day on I started taking it more seriously.”
1. Passion can come at an early age, nurture it
His passion for film goes further back still, to sometime after he and his mother, a nurse, moved while he was still a baby from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Los Angeles. “I have loved movies as the number one thing in my life so long that I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t,” he says. “As a child, my mom took me to the movies all the time. It was cheaper than getting a babysitter. This was during the Seventies, the high time of great challenging movies, so at a very young age I was seeing R-rated stuff like The Wild Bunch and Deliverance. My mom figured that nothing in the movies would ever bother me.”
2. There are no short-cuts to making your dreams come true
Did growing up in proximity to the home of the film industry help him realise that cinema was something you could do for a living? “LA is so big that if you don’t actually live in Hollywood, you might as well be from a different planet,” he says. “We lived near the airport so it’s not as though [Hollywood] felt close to me. I think the only time it feels like that is if your parents are in the business. I knew nobody involved in films.”
What about his father? The Internet Movie Database lists Tony Tarantino as the star of a handful of obscure titles. For the first time in our interview, Tarantino pauses before he speaks. “No. Well, I never knew my father,” he says. “That’s the thing. I never knew him.” Once again, his voice leaps a few decibels as something volatile seems to break the surface. “He wanted to be an actor,” he says, drenching the phrase in condescension. “Now he’s an actor only because he has my last name. But he was never part of my life. I didn’t know him. I’ve never met him.” Once more he laughs that humourless laugh.
3. Sometimes you have to fail a few times before you succeed
Tarantino’s success as a film-maker did not come easily. “Before Reservoir Dogs, everything was constantly a big build up to a huge let down,” he says. “[Venerated US film critic] Pauline Kael used to say that Hollywood is the only town where people ‘can die of encouragement’ and that kind of was my situation.” Tarantino quit school – “the worst institution ever imposed on me” – at 16 and took a job as an usher at “a full-on triple-X porno cinema” called the Pussycat Theatre. He then spent most of his twenties working for the minimum wage at a video rental shop in Manhattan Beach, California, watching obscure films, writing speculative screenplays and figuring out how to become a famous director. “I have always considered that with all the setbacks I had, the fact that I didn’t give up is maybe the one thing in my life that I am most proud of,” he says. “I just knew I would live a life of unfulfilment if I didn’t keep trying.
4. Success comes through hard work and persistence
“So I just kept at it and by the time I wrote Reservoir Dogs it was time. It was time. And then as much as everything else was just this huge build-up to this tremendous let-down, this was…” He pauses, holding the next word in his mouth, relishing the feel of it, “…easy! I wrote the script quickly and we were making the film in, like, seven months.” The movie premiered to acclaim at the 1992 Sundance film festival, securing Tarantino’s reputation, at the age of 29, as one of the most exciting new talents in the business. “It was,” he says, “the complete utter payoff of perseverance.”
Are you following your dreams and passions, what are you working on and how are you getting there?