The new Quentin Tarantino documentary “QT8: The First Eight” covers many of the biggest talking points that have emerged out of the writer-director’s feature films, so it’s inevitable the doc briefly lands on Tarantino’s controversial use of the N-word. The director has long been criticized for overusing the racial slur in his scripts, most aggressively in “Django Unchained.” Tarantino's slavery drama featured nearly 110 uses of the N-word. Samuel L. Jackson has already defended Tarantino’s use of the slur, but in “QT8” he goes a step further and calls out the industry for accepting the language in a film like “12 Years a Slave” and not in a film like “Django.”
“You take ’12 Years a Slave,’ which is supposedly made by an auteur. Steve McQueen is very different than Quentin,” Jackson says on camera. “When you have a song that says n-gger in it 300 times nobody says shit. So it’s ok for Steve McQueen to use [the N-word] because he’s artistically attacking the system and the way people think and feel, but Quentin is just doing it to just strike the blackboard with his nails. That’s not true. There’s no dishonesty in anything that [Quentin] writes or how people talk, feel, or speak [in his movies].”
Jackson is referring to a moment in McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” where Paul Dano’s character repeatedly uses the N-word while singing a racist song to a group of slaves. The actor previously reacted to the backlash against Tarantino’s dialogue in an interview with Esquire, saying, “It's some bullshit…You can't just tell a writer he can't talk, write the words, put the words in the mouths of the people from their ethnicities, the way that they use their words. You cannot do that, because then it becomes an untruth; it's not honest. It's just not honest.”
Jackson’s “Django Unchained” co-star Jamie Foxx also appears in “QT8” and defends Tarantino’s dialogue. Foxx has long supported Tarantino’s language, telling Yahoo Entertainment in July 2018, “I understood the text. The N-word was said 100 times, but I understood the text — that's the way it was back in that time.”
Foxx reveals in the documentary that his comfortability with Tarantino’s use of the N-word put him in the position of reassuring co-star Leonardo DiCaprio that it was ok to say the word on set. DiCaprio stars as a racist plantation owner in “Django” and contributed heavily to the movie’s racial slurs.
“Leonardo Dicaprio had a problem saying the word n-gger,” Foxx says. “He said, ‘It’s tough for me to say this.’ I remember Samuel L. Jackson going, ‘Get over it motherfucker. It’s just another Tuesday mothefucker.’ I said, Leo we are not friends. This is your property, these aren’t humans. This is your proprety. When Leo came in the next day, he didn’t speak [to me].”
“QT8: The First Eight,” directed by Tara Wood, made its debut in theaters October 21 for one night only through Fathom Events. The documentary will be available to stream on VOD platforms beginning December 4.
When Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” debuted at Cannes earlier this year, much of the headlines about the film’s world premiere centered around a press conference in which the writer-director was criticized by a reporter for giving Margot Robbie limited dialogue in the film. Tarantino’s viral response “I reject your hypothesis” reignited the debate around his treatment of female characters. While Tarantino has been praised for the likes of Jackie Brown and The Bride, he’s come under fire for characters like Broomhilda in “Django Unchained” and Daisy Domergue in “The Hateful Eight” who are constantly brutalized in their films.
A significant part of Tara Wood’s new documentary “QT8: The First Eight,” which hit theaters October 21, is spent reminiscing on Tarantino’s female characters. Actresses who have worked with Tarantino stand by his depiction of female characters and champion his writing. “He writes women like nobody’s business,” says Jennifer Jason Leigh, who played the controversial Daisy Domergue. The actress cites “Jackie Brown” as a quintessential example, praising Pam Grier for a performance that is “so amazing and so beautiful and so flawed and so desperate, and yet so steely.”
“The fact that he always has women in these strong positions isn’t something that he necessarily highlights or billboards,” says Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” star Lucy Liu. “To him, of course it makes sense these are women that are fighting or are leaders. For him it’s just natural.”
Zoë Bell has been a collaborator of Tarantino’s since “Kill Bill,” in which she served as stuntwoman for Uma Thurman. Bell has been involved in every Tarantino feature since, getting a starring role in “Death Proof” and memorably popping up in a cameo appearance in “Hollywood.” Bell says Tarantino “makes roles for women that he wants to see.”
“That’s the thing with Quentin’s dialogue,” Bell says. “A couple of men would be like, ‘Well women don’t really talk like that.’ And I was like, ‘Oh that’s cute, because we really do.’ Women would come up to us and be like, ‘Is he a woman on the inside?’ And yeah, he’s kind of a woman on the inside.”
Bell adds, “It’s an interesting conversation to have these days, girl power and equality. It sort of feels like it’s all coming to a head. The biggest feat is making it normal that we are in lead positions as opposed to it being the fight. That’s where Quentin is a priceless ally. I don’t think he needs to sit in an interview and be like, ‘Listen women should have these roles.’ He doesnt have to drive it because he’s just presenting it as such.”
Tarantino is expected to factor into the upcoming Oscar race in a big way thanks to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which could land Tarantino alone three nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. While some critics found Robbie’s lack of dialogue as Sharon Tate emblematic of Tarantino’s woman problem, others championed Tarantino’s positioning of the character in the film. Tarantino defended his portrayal of Tate in an interview with Deadline.
“I thought it would both be touching and pleasurable and also sad and melancholy to just spend a little time with her, just existing,” Tarantino said. “I didn't come up with a big story and have her work into the story so now she has to talk to other characters and move a story along. It was just a day in the life…driving around, running errands, doing this, doing that, and just being with her. I thought that could be special and meaningful. I wanted you to see Sharon a lot, see her living life. Not following some story, just see her living, see her being.”
Following its one-night only theatrical release, “QT8: The First Eight” will hit VOD platforms beginning December 4.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood may have been a hit, both for Quentin Tarantino and for non-franchise blockbusters, but it’s not been without controversy. One of the points of contention: A scene involving martial arts legend Bruce Lee played by Mike Moh. On Friday it was announced China was banning the film entirely, purportedly at the behest of Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, who took umbrage with Tarantino’s portrayal of her father. There was talk of Tarantino recutting the film, to appease the censors, but as per The Hollywood Reporter, that ain’t happening.
The scene in question finds Brad Pitt’s character, stunt man Cliff Booth, getting into a fight with Lee on the set of The Green Hornet, the American TV show on which he co-starred in the late ’60s. The episode in question guest stars Rick Dalton, Leonardo Di Caprio’s fading screen idol, with Booth enlisted as his double. While killing time, Booth and Lee get into an argument that culminates in the two engaged in a mano-e-mano, one that ends in a draw.
The scene earned a fair amount of criticism, some charging that it misrepresents and/or disrespects Lee, with friends and colleagues — including Kareem Abdul-Jabar, who studied martial arts under him and appeared in 1972’s never-completed Game of Death — saying Lee would never have fought someone on-set. Others came to Tarantino’s defense, including Moh himself, though that did little to calm the storm.
And now here we are, with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood barred from release in one of the planet’s largest and most movie-hungry nations. But Tarantino, who has final cut in his contract, reportedly isn’t budging. The film would have been the filmmaker’s first proper release in China, incredibly, and its release likely would have added considerably to its already large $366 million global haul.
Meanwhile, the Once Upon a Time scuffle is only the latest clash between American entertainers and the Chinese government. Add Tarantino to a group that includes the NBA, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and the LGBTQ parts of Bohemian Rhapsody — august company indeed.
Quentin Tarantino will not make a new edit of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for China. Tarantino was all set to have his first proper Chinese debut next week. However, things changed when the country blocked the movie from hitting theaters. According to sources, Bruce Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, issued a complaint with China's National Film Administration in an effort to make changes to her father's controversial portrayal in the movie. Shannon Lee and some of Bruce Lee's closest friends have criticized the way Tarantino played with Lee's legacy.
When the news dropped, it was assumed that Quentin Tarantino was working on a new edit of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for Chinese censors. The director has final say on any edits and the Chinese government reportedly has not revealed which scenes they found objectionable at this time. Tarantino will not edit his work, according to sources close to the matter. It is believed that Shannon Lee's complaints are what started China's block against the movie. At the moment, the movie has been placed on hold after having an October 25th release date. The same thing happened with Django Unchained, but it was pulled just minutes before it was due to show in theaters.
Unfortunately, Django Unchained suffered at the international box office as a direct result of the Chinese hold. The movie did eventually officially premiere, but pirated copies of the movie had already started to circulate. It's beginning to look like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will suffer the same fate, which is a huge blow to Beijing's Bona Film Group who financially backed Quentin Tarantino's latest project. The movie has made over $366 million globally to date, and was expected to cross the $400 million threshold after the Chinese premiere.
Related: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 4-Hour Cut May Be Heading to Netflix
The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood block comes at ened time of controversy for China. The Hong Kong protests for democracy have been raging for months now and everybody from the NBA to Hollywood is starting to take sides. With that being said, Hollywood is largely keeping its mouth shut, due to the amount of money that can be made in China. South Park famously took aim at the issue a few weeks back, only to find that the show had completely been scrubbed from the Chinese internet and banned. In turn, this may have hurt the long-running show's attempt to sell its streaming rights, which are currently valued at half a billion dollars.
Quentin Tarantino fans will more than likely applaud the director's decision to not edit Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for China. But, Bona Film Group stands to lose a lot of money from the situation. Whatever the case may be, this will prove to be an interesting time for the entertainment industry and its fragile relationship with China, especially as tensions continue to grow. Variety was the first to report on Tarantino not editing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for China.
The country's regulators pulled the film from the schedule a week before its release Oct. 25.
Quentin Tarantino has no intention of recutting his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to appease China's censors.
A source close to the situation tells The Hollywood Reporter that the auteur is taking a take-it-or-leave-it stance in the wake of Chinese regulators pulling the film from the schedule a week before its release in the country Oct. 25.
THR reported earlier on Oct. 18 that the release of the acclaimed film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, has been put on hold indefinitely. No explanation was given to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio behind the film, as to why. Sony declined to comment.
The decision to halt the release is speculated to be about Tarantino's portrayal of the late martial arts hero Bruce Lee, who was of Chinese descent.
As THR previously reported, sources close to Beijing-based Bona Film Group, which is one of the investors in the film, and China's Film Bureau, say Bruce Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, made a direct appeal to China's National Film Administration, asking that it demand changes to her father's portrayal. Friends and family of the Hollywood action star have criticized Tarantino for his portrayal of Lee, saying it doesn't resemble the real-life man and is instead a caricature.
But Tarantino, who is known to be opposed to any kind of tinkering with his films and has final-cut rights included in his contract, has no plans to bring his film back to the editing bay, especially given that China has offered no explanation for what is objectionable in the film that revolves around the events leading up to the infamous Manson Family murders of 1969.
One source suggested that China may finally be balking at Once Upon a Time's violence, which is graphic at times but far less than a typical Tarantino film, even though regulators approved it for release there Bona was poised to handle distribution duties in China for the China launch.
The film would have marked Tarantino's first proper release in China and tapped into the country's enormous box office potential. The film has earned $366 million to date and likely would have exceeded the $400 mark after bowing in the Middle Kingdom. DiCaprio remains a huge star in China thanks to Titanic, which became a gigantic hit in the country earlier in his career.
In recent months, China has sought to exert greater control over the American entertainment sector, particularly when it comes the industry's reaction to the situation in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protesters have faced a violent response from mainland-backed police forces. Perhaps feeling the economic heat , everyone from Mulan actress Crystal Liu to the Lakers' LeBron James have either sided with the Chinese regime or denounced any criticism of its authoritarian tactics.
But South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker continue to be a thorn in the side of the Chinese regime thanks to a series of episodes mocking the country's rulers as well as the celebrities who appear to be ignoring its human rights abuses and toeing the party line.
Many Hollywood studio films have undergone edits in order to get into China, including last year's Oscar-winning Queen music biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which removed any mention of protagonist Freddie Mercury's sexual orientation China frowns upon films with gay leads.
Good for Quentin Tarantino, for not capitulating to the Chinese government and marginalizing his film Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, declining to trim scenes of violence, or the one that featured Bruce Lee sparring with Brad Pitt's stuntman character. It seemed a non-starter that the filmmaker would cave when China informed Sony is was pulling the film at the last minute from Chinese theaters. After all, Tarantino has final cut on his films, which Sony Pictures and Bona Film Group well knew when they acquired the picture after The Weinstein Company cratered. Tarantino's film has grossed $366 million worldwide, and they can live without the China box office, particularly when the film's backers would only reap 25 cents on the dollar.
I'm told that Sony didn't try to force Tarantino to capitulate and if that is true, good for the film studio for showing some spine. The head of China's propaganda department has apparently been raising alarm bells over the violence in the film, and the depiction of the iconic martial artist, for weeks.
I was beginning to think there was no room for mavericks anymore, this after the fiery Kurt Sutter got fired from his series creation Mayans MC, yesterday. I think that the PC press narrative in the US about Tarantino's depiction of Bruce Lee wasn't helpful, as it was presented like an affront to diversity. That gave it momentum it perhaps didn't deserve, fomenting the idea that presenting Lee or any other deceased cultural icon as anything less than a deity is perilous for a filmmaker.
The fact is, of course Lee would have been cocky, and had a chip on his shoulder. He would need it to get as far as he did at a time when Hollywood was so anti-Asian that ABC cast a white man, David Carradine, instead of Lee in Kung Fu, the series that Lee helped develop as a vehicle for himself.
More importantly, Tarantino's scene with Lee and Pitt's Cliff Booth character primarily exposed the reason that stuntman was unemployable, and worked as a gofer/driver. The character knew he'd been given a job by the stunt coordinator Kurt Russell who didn't want him, as a favor to actor Rick Dalton Leonardo DiCaprio. Booth by all rights should have kept his mouth shut when Lee was holding court and talking boastfully about fighting. But he couldn't help himself, and the former soldier squared off the Lee, and destroyed the car door of the stunt coordinator's wife, who already despised him, and got him fired. How does that mar Lee's legend?
I recall noting in print here not long ago that Lee's Enter The Dragon was a classic. After I wrote it, the film's screen writer shot me an appreciative email. I noted that the film had an anniversary upcoming, and a look back might be fun. But he wrote that he had such an unpleasant experience on that film, with Lee banning him from the set, that it wouldn't be appropriate.
That doesn't make Lee a bad person, at all. Will Baz Luhrmann have the same problem with his Elvis Presley film if that icon is presented as anything other than wonderful in every way? This instinct to sanitize everything to prevent bruised feelings in this PC moment, and the viral way these stories reverberate around the world, cannot be good for the creative process. The 25 cents on the dollar that China kicks back on its movies can't be worth the indignity for an auteur like Tarantino to compromise his vision as he would have had to do to sanitize his vision for the Chinese movie marketplace.