Quentin Tarantino is back in the news today and not because his film, Django Unchained, got nominated for Best Picture. Video is making the rounds of a, shall we say, fraught interview with the British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Tarantino talked for a while about why and how he uses violence in his films, but when Guru-Murthy press for more on the connection between movie violence and real violence, the director pressed way back: "I refuse your question. I'm not your slave, and you're not my master. You can't make me dance to your tune. I'm not a monkey." As Guru-Murthy kept pressing him, Tarantino said: "The reason I don't want to talk about it is because I've said everything I've had to say about it. If anyone cares what I have to say about it they can Google me. And they can look for 20 years what I have to say about it. I haven't changed my opinion one iota." So what has Tarantino said about violence in his films? Watch the new interview below, then take a tour through an on-the-record history of Tarantino on violence:
In the Chicago Tribune, 1993:
Though his fictional anti-hero is inspired by hours of watching violent action films, Tarantino says he cannot concern himself with the current debate over the impact of such movies on real-life violence in society.
"But still this is a movie," he says. "The bottom line is I'm not responsible for what some person does after they see a movie. I have one responsibility. My responsibility is to make characters and to be as true to them as I possibly can."
Speaking at a press conference, in Newsday, 1994 (via LexisNexis):
"Violence is just one of many things you can do in movies," he said. "People ask me, 'Where does all this violence come from in your movies?' I say, 'Where does all this dancing come from in Stanley Donen movies?' If you ask me how I feel about violence in real life, well, I have a lot of feelings about it. It's one of the worst aspects of America. In movies, violence is cool. I like it."
In the Observer, 1994 (via Nexis):
While he doesn't have a problem with violence in films, he does have a problem with talking about violence in films. He's fed up with it. He's said all he has to say.
He does tell me he hasn't read the book at the centre of the moral panic in the US, Michael Medved's Hollywood vs. America: 'To me, in 20 years' time it'll be viewed like these old panic books where people are going against rock 'n' roll or comics. You know what I mean. It's like: (he puts on a good ol' boy southern twang) that nigger music is turning the white man into an animal. It can turn a woman into a slut, virgins into whores.' He sniggers. 'Every 10 years, there's a book which comes along and says there's violence in the streets, people are starving, anarchy brewing - blame the playmakers. It's their fault.' He reiterates his standard line on the whole subject. 'To say that I get a big kick out of violence in movies and can enjoy violence in movies but find it totally abhorrent in real life - I can feel totally justified and totally comfortable with that statement. I do not think that one is a contradiction of the other. Real life violence is real life violence. Movies are movies. I can watch a movie about the Hindenberg disaster and get into it as a movie but still feel it's a horrible real life tragedy. It's not the same thing at all.' As for the Dogs torture scene, he remains unrepentant.
In Orlando Sentinel, 1994:
''In real life,'' Tarantino reflected, ''when violence enters our world . . . it kind of just rears its ugly head and we are not prepared for it.''
No scary music. No ominous shadows. No warning signs.
The filmmaker suggested an example: You're in a restaurant, enjoying a pleasant dinner, chatting with some friends.
''All of a sudden, three tables away, some man smacks his wife,'' he said. ''Whoa! It comes out of nowhere. It affects everything!
''And I'm not interested in just the act - the act of the guy smacking his wife,'' he went on. ''I'm interested in what happens after that.''
Tarantino doesn't put much stock in the familiar argument that movie violence causes actual violence. For him, they exist in entirely separate realms.
''I have no problem with screen violence at all,'' he said, ''but I have a big problem with real-life violence.''
On Nightline, 2007:
TAPPER: But certainly not every child who watches these movies is going to end up as successful and talented as you.
TARANTINO: But everything that is supposed to be a fate worse than death has actually been fantastic for me, and I had a good time when I was a kid watching these movies.
I have a little joke, but it actually is kind of true, that kids who watch violent movies -- again, who like them, not that you force them -- but if the kids will respond to that naturally, it won't make them a violent human being when they grow up, but it could very well make them violent filmmakers when they grow up.
On the Today show in 2009:
When it comes to that, look, my feeling is just, you know, OK, somebody else's violence is somebody else's action. To me, it's just, it's cinema.
Speaking at the British Academy of Film and Television, in the Telegraph, 2010:
“I feel like a conductor and the audience's feelings are my instruments. I will be like, 'Laugh, laugh, now be horrified'. When someone does that to me I've had a good time at the movies," he said.
“If a guy gets shot in the stomach and he's bleeding like a stuck pig then that's what I want to see — not a man with a stomach ache and a little red dot on his belly.”
On Fresh Air, 2013:
Tarantino: Would I watch a Kung fu movie three days after the Sandy Hook massacre? Would I watch a Kung fu movie? Maybe, because they have nothing to do with each other.
Gross: You sound annoyed. I know you've been asked this a lot.
Tarantino: Yeah. I'm really annoyed. I think it's disrespectful to their memory, actually.
Gross: To whose memory?
Tarantino: To the memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think its totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously the issue is gun control and mental health.