Cover Story

Entertainer 3: Quentin Tarantino

A rapid-fire storyteller guns his way into cinema's front ranks

Quentin Tarantino — 160 IQ, a ninth-grade dropout and porno theater usher- turned-video store clerk — can't spell. But what he writes blows people away. In 1994, the one-two killer punch of his script for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers and his own Pulp Fiction put him over the top. At 31, he isn't just some VCR geek who has written two hit movies and directed one. Critics and audiences have crowned him Hollywood's Next Big Thing. One reason is that he represents the VCR geek in us all. ''Once you start making movies,'' he complains of the year that made him a millionaire, ''you can't watch 'em as much.''

With Pulp, Tarantino, whose quirky, reference-packed style conceals a master storyteller, came howling in like his Cherokee forebears in an old Western. Pulp cost $8 million and has so far earned over $60 million in the U.S. It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, reignited John Travolta's career, put Samuel L. Jackson on the map, rescued the soliloquy as a mass-market art form, and repeatedly employed the word nigger in the antiracist context of what may be the most racially egalitarian action script ever filmed. The ultraviolent result is not for the faint of heart; its wholly original synthesis of buddy films, blaxploitation, comedy, Hong Kong action flicks, and Westerns has not only kept viewers on the edge of their seats, but, as with one lightheaded attendee of the New York Film Festival, sent them toppling into the aisles. Overall, the film's reception has delighted Tarantino, who is more pleased with Pulp than with Killers. ''It's my least favorite script,'' he says, '''cause it's the one you could boil down to a sentence — that the media is turning killers into celebs.''

Now the guy who once went to jail for failing to pay his parking tickets gets to roam royally throughout pop culture — hilariously deconstructing Top Gun's alleged gay subtext in his cameo role in the movie Sleep With Me, demonstrating the Aristocats' dance technique to David Letterman, starring in the flick Destiny Turns On the Radio. What's Quentin's own destiny? After directing Bruce Willis in a segment of the hotel anthology film Four Rooms, ''what I intend to do next,'' he says, ''is live happily ever after on my couch for a while.'' Let's hope he's ready to go back to work soon — but if he needs cash before then, he can whip out his wallet, which Jackson used in Pulp Fiction. It's the one with the inscription ''Bad Mother F ---er."

Originally posted Dec 30, 1994 Published in issue #255-256 Dec 30, 1994 Order article reprints
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