21st January – henceforth to be known as “Quentin Tarantino Day”
Twenty years ago, I would have married Quentin Tarantino. Or at least, as I actually fantasised, eased up to him in some completely non-creepy way and taken the role of his Best Female Friend – a shoulder to cry on when he got dumped by the latest bland model who didn’t know P.T. and Paul W. S. Anderson were different people; advice-giver on the characterisation of women in his latest movie; maybe he’d even have given me a bit part and I’d have been that year’s surprising Oscar nominee. Sex and attempted romance would ruin the friendship, I assured myself, though truth be told I’ve always been realistic about not punching above my weight. And though he may be plenty funny-looking, Tarantino was a heavyweight bachelor.
Technically, that ship sailed two weeks ago today when I married someone infinitely more suitable than QT – although, in fairness, QT has long since come out as unsuitable in the marriage stakes. But I’ve maintained a respect for his work (barring accusations of verbosity and flashes of self-indulgence seen in most of his recent films) and genuine, long-distance compassion for the man whom the media has increasingly described as erratic and shouty. I’ve continued to anticipate each new Tarantino release with an open (and hopeful) mind, and I’ve used him as a perfect exemplar of “director’s style” with my class of senior English students. He’s basically the seminal filmmaker from my impressionable youth (Reservoir Dogs made a lasting impact when I saw it on release in 1993) and although Scorsese won the draw to have my 40th Birthday themed after his movies, Tarantino will always be – well, Quentin Freakin’ Tarantino.
And so it was that one day in early 2016, a promoter’s email arrived saying QT would be in Auckland to premiere his eighth film The Hateful Eight and information about the junket would soon follow. My newspaper has people for this purpose, so I didn’t expect to do more than review the movie and carry on with newly-married life (it’s not often I have bigger, more exciting fish to fry than the possibility of seeing Quentin Tarantino from a distance, but this was one of those times). The premiere invite arrived, we RSVPed, friends applauded/expressed envy, and I waited for Wednesday night.
But then a call came asking whether I’d be available to interview QT the morning after the premiere. I would have less than 10 minutes (TBC) but would then write a piece for the paper about whatever I got from him (TBC). I’d get paid extra (TBC) and it wouldn’t need to be long (TBC). Was I keen?
checked my diary said Yes, sure, why not, and left my editor to correspond with the PR company who would unwittingly make my dream a reality. (After all, Quentin still isn’t married after all these years, I doubt he’s in a serious relationship, and surely for him to be single at age 52 he’s doing something wrong. I may be married now but I’m still here to help.)
Emails with PR Megan flew back and forth. Interview times were touted and withdrawn, Zoe Bell was added to the line-up, to be interviewed an hour earlier than QT (damn, that means higher parking charges), then bundled into a Buy-Quentin-Get-Zoe-Free package (I bought it – cheaper parking). My heart pounded more in 36 hours than it had throughout the whole of my life (including any time on my wedding day). I created imaginary
conversations interviews in my head; I thought up clever, novel questions that a junketted-out celebrity filmmaker would find refreshing and interesting. Two people advised me to wear open-toed shoes (acknowledging QT’s alleged foot fetish). I even washed my hair.
The day came (today, in fact) and my brain woke up at 6:10am and started rehearsing my lines. I hit upon my chosen Quentin-bait questions and dutifully emailed them to PR Megan who had told us we were not to ask about the film’s violence (yawn anyway – it’s no worse than anything I’ve seen before or would expect in a Tarantino movie). I dressed like the mature, cerebral, print journalist I
strive to be am and settled on sassy wedge-heeled shoes which only expose my first and second toes. And off I drove, cool as a cucumber on a stinking hot Auckland summer’s day.
The Sky City Grand Hotel is very nice. There were umpteen pretty young PR women, to all of whom I proffered my hand and said “Megan?” only to be told by Hayley, Natalie, Natalie and Greer that they weren’t (yet) Megan. I ate two pastries, eschewed the coffee (like I don’t speak quickly enough!) but drank sparkling water despite the danger of overexcited burps because I can’t resist me a drop of San Pellegrino when it’s free. And there I sat, cool as a cucumber with sweaty palms in the foyer of a flash hotel I’ll never stay in.
I was then passed like a bucket of water in a fireman’s chain from PR woman to PR woman, up to the whatever floor to wait for my (now only) 7 minutes with both Quentin and Zoe. I duly chose my top three questions, knowing that QT speaks even more than I do (lol! even more reason we’d get on!) and waited for my palms to dry. Greer passed me on to Megan (finally!) who checked I wouldn’t be asking about strip-clubs (I was like, what strip-club? and then she had to back out of actually telling me the very gossip she’d hoped I wouldn’t discuss) then passed me to yet another lady who ushered me into the room past the giggling radio DJs who were making their breathless way out.
And there sat Quentin, middle-aged and expectant, alongside a calm, bronzed Zoe. I shook hands, looked him dead in the eye and used the words “honoured to meet you”, reminded Zoe we’d met the evening before at the premiere, received her hug (she’s lovely!) and took my seat. I launched into my carefully prepared intro, was told to wait by the tech crew who hadn’t yet pressed Record, and then, when I got the nod, I began.
And it was great.
OK, so I took too long to ask my questions and Quentin took too long to answer my questions and the lady in the corner gave me the “two minutes” signal way too soon and Quentin kept talking and I thought “Well, how do you shut him up when he’s the one we’re all in awe of??” and then I managed to ask another question, this time aimed at Zoe (because otherwise, how unfair!) and they both answered and I got the “one minute” signal and asked a final question and while QT answered it I closed my notebook which is the universal signal for “this interview is over” and QT kept talking and I got the “wind it up” signal from the lady in the corner and he came to a natural conclusion and I got up, thanked them profusely, gave QT a poster of Pulp Fiction that I hoped he’d never seen before (he hadn’t) and said if he didn’t want it I’d give it to my mum since Pulp Fiction is in her top 3 films*, and he was stoked and profuse in his thanks and then I finally left the room.
So that’s the day I met Quentin Tarantino.
*My mum’s top 3 films: Pulp Fiction, Die Hard and Heat. My mum is so bad-ass. I think Quentin would approve.