Saturday, October 26, 2013

Casting In Tarantino Films

Amongst the many things Tarantino films are known for, his casting choices are often a hot topic.

You know who'd be great in my next movie?  Me.

For instance, did you know Inglourious Basterds almost didn't get made because Tarantino could not find an actor to play Hans Landa?

At one point the role was offered to Leonardo DiCaprio, but he turned it down.

Tarantino then decided he needed to cast a Native German Speaker in the role.  And so started the hunt.

Despite how far along they were in pre-production, Tarantino was on the verge of putting the film aside when he could not find the right actor.

How much on the verge?

He had less than a month to cast it before the film reached the point of no-return, meaning he wouldn't be able to back out.

Enter Christoph Waltz

who after hundreds of actors were auditioned, came in during an open call and blew everyone away. 

They even made an action figure. Don't tell Al Sharpton.

Waltz went on to become the first actor in a Tarantino film to win an Academy Award.

Something DiCaprio took note of- making sure he played the villain in Tarantino's next film: Django Unchained.

Unfortunately, Waltz was also cast in Django Unchained.  And to rub more salt in the wound, he won another oscar for that role as well.

"Room Service for Mr. Waltz."

You know who else was suppose to be in Inglourious Basterds?

Adam Sandler.

Sandler was up for the role of Sgt. Donny Donowitz, which he turned down for the lead role in Judd Apatow's next movie.  Needless to say, Funny People (2009) not only underperformed with critics and the public, but Sandler has yet to return in a serious role. 

The Donowitz role ended up going to Eli Roth.

While you might not know the name Jonathan Loughran, he has appeared in two Tarantino films.

In Death Proof as Jasper and Kill Bill as the rapist when the Bride comes out of her coma.  Meaning he is possibly the same character in both films....  because let's be honest, Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is heavily implied she's getting raped while her friends are playing Ship's Mast.

Loughran is Adam Sandler's personal assistant, and is most recognized for his supporting roles in Sandler's comedies. 

Diane Kruger claims she nearly lost her role as Bridget Von Hammersmark because Tarantino again wanted to cast a Native German.

However it turned out Kruger was born Diane Heidkr├╝ger in Algermissen, Germany.  That makes her pretty damn German; qualifying her to limp her "little ass up that rouge carpet"

Another Interesting anecdote about Inglourious Basterds and its casting is Michael Fassbender.

He plays Lt. Archie Hicox (most of these names are sex puns. Hi Cocks?  Hammer's Mark?  What's next?  A Von Shaft?), a British soldier who blows his cover because of his poor German accent and improper hand gesture.

What's Ironic about that?

Fassbender was born in Germany.

He also got Canadian comedian Mike Myers to play Basil Exposition.

A lot of this is well known.  Want an obscure one?

Did you know Kurt Cobain (from the band NIRVANA) was offered a role in Pulp Fiction?

That's right. Tarantino wanted Cobain to play Lance, the drug dealer.  Cobain turned it down, but was so flattered he gave Tarantino a special thanks in the booklet for In Utero.

Remember when you had to leave your house to steal music?

Speaking of Pulp Fiction, the role of Jules Winfield was written for Samuel L. Jackson (who was almost cast in Reservoir Dogs).  But Tarantino, as a matter of formality, held auditions to appease his producers. 

Enter Paul Calderon

Who gave such a great audition, Tarantino almost hired him on spot.  But after his Starbuck's high wore off, he decided to call Jackson and tell him the bad news:  You know that role I wrote for you and guaranteed was yours....  we need you to audition for it.

He had one chance, and Jackson came in firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, he intimidated the man reading lines with him so bad -- the poor guy literally closed up: either forgetting what he was suppose to say or forgot to say anything at all.

Keep in mind,  he's holding the script in front of him!

Jackson left; deep down fearing he had the most disastrous audition of his career.

Obviously, we all know who won the part.

So what happened to Paul Calderon?

Believe it or not, he's in Pulp Fiction.

Tarantino cast him as Marcellus Wallace's Henchman/ Bartender English Bob.  Only in the film, he's not called English Bob anymore.  The character's name was changed to Paul.

It worked out for everyone.  Jackson became a superstar, and Paul..  well, he's Paul.

John Travolta was originally offered the role of Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn.  And after spending hours playing board games with Tarantino of movies/TV shows he appeared in (Tarantino gets his kicks in weird ways), Travolta turned it down.  

"I don't see a Look Who's Talking board game.  Do you?"

Travolta had no interest in doing a vampire movie; paving the way for George Clooney to star sans mullet.

However, Travolta was interested in this Vincent Vega character in Pulp Fiction.  Which Tarantino informed him was already cast with Daniel Day-Lewis.

And that was that.

Until a week later when Tarantino called offering Travolta the role that would revive his career.

I Drink Your Milkshake, Daniel.

And granted, it's one of those roles the actor was born to play.

Which can be said for many performances in a Tarantino film.

But one of the few I can't see another actor playing is Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike in Death Proof.

Love the film or hate it, you can't deny Russell was pitch perfect.  He's equal parts charming, horrifying, and pathetic. 

Best Former Disney Child Actor Ever

BUT... Russell was not the original actor.

And the first actor would have given him a run for his money.

Stuntman Mike was suppose to be Mickey Rourke.  Then Tarantino and him clashed, which put all future collaborations in their grave.

Rourke is known for being difficult, pretty much sinking his career before Robert Rodriguez started using him in Once Upon A Time in Mexico (2003) and Sin City (2005).  It wasn't until Aronofsky's The Wrestler (2008) that Rourke returned to glory in the eyes of Hollywood.

Rourke was not the first actor Tarantino clashed with.

On Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino cast Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot.

For those who don't know, Tierney was Mickey Rourke before Mickey Rourke was born.  He never met a bridge he couldn't burn. There's a reason he only appeared on one episode of Seinfeld as Elaine's dad:  it involves using a knife to almost stab Jerry.

It's hard to find work when everyone is scared shitless to be around you.

Tarantino and Tierney nearly came to blows while shooting the iconic naming scene in Reservoir Dogs.  Tarantino walked off set, only to return later and finish shooting.

"What's it gonna be Mr. Pink?  My way or the.... or the...   Line! You motherfuckers!"

Chances are if Tarantino had the power, Tierney would have been fired like Rourke.  But on that film, Tarantino was a first time director.  His options were finish the film or go back to the video store.

Lord knows who would have replaced Tierney.

Perhaps Robert Forster-

who audition for the role of Joe Cabot.

Forster would later go on play Max Cherry in Jackie Brown (In fact, the only Oscar nomination Jackie Brown received was for Forster who lost to Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.)

Eminem won an Oscar before Scorsese ever did. Oscars are Bullshit.

Probably the least well known of all the Reservoir Dogs is Mr. Blue played by Eddie Bunker.

Who is Eddie Bunker?

Edward Bunker, after spending many years in jail, achieved fame through his realistic crime novels including "No Beast So Fierce."  This novel was adapted in to the film Straight Time (1978) starring Dustin Hoffman.  He met Danny Trejo (of "Machete" fame and also a second cousin to director Robert Rodriguez) while in Folsom Prison. They worked together on Heat(1995) and Bunker was the basis of the Jon Voight Character. 

Always tipped a waitress, even if she didn't suck his dick.

How did an unknown, first time director get Harvey Keitel to star in his film?

If you're following this article- you guessed right:  there's a story behind that as well.

Tarantino had one producer on board, Lawrence Bender.

At the time, Bender had produced two films: Tale of Two Sisters(1989) based on the poems of actor Charlie Sheen and the supermarket slasher Intruder(1989).

Notice they didn't say from the director of Hostel 3

Bender was taking an acting class (he was at one point going to play Nice Guy Eddie).  His acting teacher asked who was their dream actor for the lead, and Bender mentioned him and Quentin always talked about Harvey Keitel.

So the acting teacher gave the script to his wife to read. The wife happened to be a member of the Actor's Studio, where she knew Harvey Keitel.  She passed on the script to Keitel, who loved it and immediately contacted Bender.

Keitel was not only interested in starring, but wanted to produce it as well.

Now that's some fortunate networking.

Keitel's involvement included two major decisions that changed the film:

1) Tarantino, who was a high school drop out with no film school education, was brought into the Sundance Director's lab and given a crash course in filmmaking.

At Sundance,  he was mentored by (amongst others) Terry Gilliam.

2)  Holding auditions in New York.

Keitel, a New York actor who was discovered by film student Martin Scorsese, was baffled that they were only holding auditions in California.  There was a whole pool of great actors they weren't tapping in to.

Bender had to explain that they just didn't have the money.

Which was an unacceptable answer.

Keitel paid out of his own pocket for the New York auditions, including flying out Bender and Tarantino and putting them up in hotels.  It was here they found Steve Buscemi and Tarantino met Samuel L. Jackson for the first time.

Martial Arts legend Gordon Liu shows up in Kill Bill volume 1 as Johnny Mo, the head of The Crazy 88, and also in volume 2 as Pai Mei.  But Liu was not the intended actor for this part.

Tarantino wanted to play the role of Pai Mei himself.  And had Tarantino played the character, he would not have spoken Mandarin, but been dubbed as an homage to 70's Kung Fu films (where the lips don't even try to match the words).

Happens everyday in China

The biggest change of actors in Kill Bill was for Bill himself.  David Carradine gives his last great performance, but he only got the role after Tarantino's first choice dropped out.

Who was the first choice?

Warren Beatty.

Warren Beatty: Kung Fu Villain

Beatty is known for his perfectionism, to say the least.  Which is why he really doesn't act much.  He became a superstar in 1967 from Bonnie and Clyde, and do you know how many films he's acted in since then?

14 films.  That's it. 

He hasn't acted since the catastrophic bomb Town and Country (2001), a romantic comedy that not only was filming for 3 years,  but ended up costing the studio well over $100 Million in losses.

It's odd that he chose to end his career with a flop, rather than capping it off as the lead antagonist in Kill Bill.

But obviously, Beatty does what Beatty wants to do.

Kill Bill would not be the last time a big named actor dropped out of the title role in one of his films.

Before Jamie Foxx was brought on, Will Smith was offered the role of Django.

Everyone wore Ray Bans during the Civil War.

When Smith first dropped out, he said:

"I came really close, it was one of the most amazing screenplays I had ever ever seen. I was in the middle of 'Men In Black 3' and [Tarantino] was ready to go, and I just couldn't sit with him and get through the issues, so I didn't want to hold him up." (From Empire interview)

But later on he revealed the real reason he left the project:  

“Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead.  The other character was the lead!  I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!" (From Entertainment Weekly interview)

Smith went on to make After Earth (2013), and Quentin hired Jamie Foxx.  

According to Tarantino, one of the main reasons he cast Foxx is because he's a real cowboy.  Seriously, he owns and lives on a ranch.  In fact, his horse in the film is his actual horse in real life.

He also came to the audition wearing this.

Django Unchained had a lot of casting turmoil during filming.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt dropped out of a cameo as one of the LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. employees because it conflicted with shooting his directorial debut Don Jon (2013).  Anthony LaPaglia also dropped out of the same scene.  In the end, Tarantino, Michael Parks, and John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) ended up filling in. 

Kevin Costner was hired to play Ace Woody in the film.  Costner dropped out "due to scheduling conflicts," so Tarantino brought on Kurt Russell.  Russell ended up leaving while they were in the middle of filming his scenes.

Two rumors surfaced about why Russell left.

One claimed he felt the film wasn't Western enough.  Which sounds really odd if its true.

The second was that he had to have surgery.  Russell was severely injured while filming 1998's Soldier.  Later he would say it made him realize he was getting too old to play action heroes.  It's an injury that still plagues him today. 

So who ended up playing Calvin Candy's right hand man Ace Woody?

No one.

The part was removed from the film.

Instead, Walton Goggins, who was playing Billy Crash, ended up absorbing the Ace Woody character.  This solved the problem of hiring another actor, and gave Goggins a bigger role in the final film.

"If Jamie left, I was going to absorb his role as well."

Ace Woody would not be the only character removed after an actor left.

Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) secured the role of Scotty.  Scotty was a short, fat, mid-western slave owner.  It was a role that the extremely tall, very skinny, British comedian was born to play.

But with Cohen's departure, not only was the character dropped but Broomhilda's story explaining how she became the possession of Calvin Candy with it.  It's unfortunate that this subplot didn't make it into the final film; it would have made her a stronger character and less a damsel in distress.

Oddly enough, Tarantino claims his most personal film is True Romance- a film he wrote but didn't direct.  In True Romance, Christian Slater plays Clarence Worley.  Clarence's personality is clearly model after Tarantino himself.

Not only that but Tarantino played Clarence in his aborted first film, My Best Friend's Birthday-  a film that only has 40 minutes of existing footage (the rest of the footage was destroyed in a fire and Tarantino has since disowned it.)

My Best Friend's Birthday has other elements that show up in later Tarantino works.  For instance there's a fight with a pimp; in fact, it's a Kung Fu fight.  Clarence works at a radio station called K-Billy.  Tarantino, besides playing Clarence, also provides the voice of a caller to the station.  The caller's name:  Aldo Raines.  Aldo would later become Brad Pitt's character in Inglourious Basterds.

He also thought he was Elvis. And did a Golden Girls episode. 

Like Hitchcock, Tarantino has appeared in nearly all of his own films

In Reservoir Dogs as Mr. Brown

In Pulp Fiction as Jimmy Dimmick

In Four Rooms as Chester "The Man From Hollywood"

In From Dusk Till Dawn as Richard Gecko

In Jackie Brown he is the voice on Pam Grier's answering machine

In Kill Bill, he's a Crazy 88

In Grindhouse as The Rapist in Planet Terror and Warren in Death Proof

In Inglourious Basterds he's a Nazi being scalped and Soldier in the film Nation's Pride.

In Django Unchained as one of the LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. Employees


-Tom Sizemore has never appeared in a film directed by Tarantino.  However, he did appear in both True Romance (along with Chris Penn) and Natural Born Killers (as Scagnetti...  who is mentioned to be Mr. White's parole officer in Reservoir Dogs. In the same scene Mr. White mentions he use to work with Alabama:  Patricia Arquette's Character in True Romance. Patricia's sister, Rosanna Arquette, plays Lance's wife Jody in Pulp Fiction, and her brother Alex Arquette (now Alexis after gender reassignment) is also in Pulp Fiction.  He's the guy hiding in the bathroom with the gun "bigger than him.")

-Dick Miller filmed a cameo in Pulp Fiction as Monster Joe.  It can be seen as a deleted scene.

-According to Roger Avery, in the first draft for Pulp Fiction the briefcase contained diamonds.  Since it's essentially a McGuffin, they decided it was better to not have anything at all.  The glow that radiates out was devised by the props department during filming.

-At one point Monte Hellman was attached to direct Reservoir Dogs.  Tarantino was able to sell two scripts, True Romance and Natural Born Killers.  With the $300,000 he made from that, he decided to make the film guerilla style on his own.  Hellman encourage Tarantino to do so and kept his name attached to legitimize the project (Hellman is credit as an executive producer on the film).  Bender convinced Tarantino to give him a month to raise some more money, and it was during this month Keitel became involved.

-Following Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino made money as an uncredited script doctor. Some of the films he worked on include Crimson Tide (1995)- a film directed by True Romance director Tony Scott.

-The Starbucks reference is a non sequitur referring to this video.  Enjoy:

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