A slight variation here on our usual theme. At the height of his powers, Quentin Tarantino has just had his first tasting of failure. Though based more on the US box office takings than critical slamming, which must hurt a little less (lots of people still loved it after all), he has suddenly had to confront a stall in his ever-onwards and upwards career. In an interview in last weekend's Telegraph he talked about how he handles the openings of his films:
He has developed a ritual for the all-important opening weekend of his films. Unlike most movie folk, he doesn't get sent the box office figures as they come in from the East Coast then roll back across the time zones to Hollywood. Instead, he drives from cinema to cinema in LA, seeing how his film plays in different areas, to different demographics. So when Grindhouse opened in the US in April, that is what he did. After each screening he called Robert Rodriguez in Texas, telling him how well the audiences were responding. Rodriguez, meanwhile, did have the figures. And he already knew that they were both looking at their first flop.
In hindsight, Tarantino says part of him knew that if the news had been good, Rodriguez would have told him. But it wasn't until Monday morning, when he opened the industry rag Variety that he realised just how badly they had fared. In total, Grindhouse took just $11.6 million on its opening weekend. (In contrast Rodriguez's last film, Sin City, took more than $29 million, Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume 2 more than $25 million.) 'It was… shocking,' Tarantino says. 'I was depressed for a month. It was like I had a broken heart, like somebody broke up with me. And somebody did,' he laughs. 'The American public!'...Surely the film director's version of the novelist lurking around their books in bookshops waiting for someone to pick one up, open to the first page, read, smile, nod, smile some more, turn the page, laugh out loud and sigh contentedly as they take the book to the cash desk. I liked him even more when he summed up what went wrong:
'...it was too expensive. That's the bottom line. And part of that was my fault. I got too precious, I got too into the characters. I kept adding more and more to it. And all that shit is now in the trash. I should have f***ing known better.'
But what I loved most of all about this interview is the advice he got from pals on how to deal with it.
"He turned to friends for advice. He called Tony Scott, who took his True Romance script to the screen. And he called Steven Spielberg, who has been there himself with 1941. They both said pretty much the same thing. That filmmaking is a long game. And that now, having dropped the ball, he could count himself a real player. 'I can now officially say I am in Hollywood, that I've done the thing.'"
Still no news from the agent. I haven't written properly for months now. I could have done today but haven't been able to decide whether to go back to Novel 3 or Novel 4. If Novel 3 gets the deal there'll be the rewrite as based on the new plot outline. It makes sense to wait until the agent gives me her verdict. I was enjoying Novel 4 (quarter of the first draft complete) and want to get on with it. But I've been so wrapped up in Novel 3 maybe I should steam in there. Or continue clearing the garage and doing all the moving things. The Bowie album on eBay is finally getting some bids, it's up to £26.95 with 3 days and some hours and minutes to go. And the hammock went!
I've taken so much stuff to the charity shops they can see me coming now and lock the doors and hide behind the counters. I'm learning to spread my loads. The friendliest charityshopladies in our neck of the woods are Scope and FARA, the snootiest, Cancer Research and Shooting Star. The animal pet rescue place lady is downright frightening. As I was taking my 3 or 4 binliners out of the car, she came out in the street to yell at me, 'I've got no room for THAT! WHERE do you think I'm going to put it! Go on - you tell me. What do you think I am?' I had the strange experience the other day of driving down the High Street and seeing a dummy in the FARA window wearing all my clothes. I was quietly chuffed (they were only Primark) and started driving past every day, a la Quentin, to watch them trickle away.
Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.