How acting classes helped Quentin Tarantino become a better writer
Before Tarantino had his sights set on becoming a filmmaker and screenwriter, his original goal was to be an actor. The Pulp Fiction director was so determined to be in front of the camera that he took classes to hone his acting abilities. But perhaps attending those classes had more of an influence on Tarantino’s writing skills instead.
“Because I didn’t, like, study writing, I studied acting. And when I first started writing, it was literally in acting classes. And what would happen is – now it’s really easy to get scripts and stuff, but back then, you know oftentimes you’d buy the novelization to a movie if you wanted to get an idea of what the scene, you know, what happened in the scene,” he once said in an interview with Terry Gross.
Tarantino would reenact scenes he’d seen from his favorite movies in his acting classes. But it was this habit of his he felt had an unexpected impact on the way he wrote dialogue.
“So I would go and watch a movie and then I would see a scene in the movie and I’d go, hey, I’d like to do that in class this Wednesday. And so what I would do is I would just remember the scene and I’d go home and I’d write out the scene from memory. And anything I didn’t remember I would just fill in the blanks myself and then go and give it to a classmate and then we’d do it,” he explained.
Quentin Tarantino wrote one of his first screenplays about Tatum O’ Neal
Tarantino had been constructing screenplays ever since he was 12-years-old. GQ once reported one of his first scripts was about a bandit that would only rob pizza shops. But at that age, Tarantino had another screenplay in mind as well. At the time, a young Tarantino had a crush on Oscar-winner Tatum O’ Neal.
Since he figured he wouldn’t have been able to meet her in real life, the two-time Oscar-winner wrote a screenplay about it.
“My crush on Tatum O’Neal was so strong that actually you could almost consider it your first love. So in the sixth grade I started writing an ABC ‘Afterschool Special’ about me meeting Tatum O’Neal,” he once said in The New York Times. “I called her Somerset in the script, and I did what I could never do in real life. I finagled a way, through conniving and lying, to meet Somerset O’Neal. And she was charmed by me.”
Tarantino shared that he didn’t get too far in the script. But the filmmaker’s Tatum O’ Neal script motivated him to write even more in school. This led to a now well-known argument with his mom that Tarantino never forgot.
“Eventually, the teacher complained to my mom. And at some point, when my mom was mad at me, she said: ‘Oh, and by the way, this little writing career of yours? It’s over!’ And I thought, This little writing career? This little writing career? You have no vision. I will never buy you the house that Elvis bought his mother. And to this day I have not bought my mother a house. And I never will,” he said.
Quentin Tarantino once named the 1 actor who turns his lines into poetry
Tarantino once credited one actor for being able to complement his screenwriting. Since Pulp Fiction, the filmmaker has teamed up with Samuel L. Jackson on numerous occasions. Working with Jackson for a long time, he grew to admire Jackson’s ability to deliver his dialogue. So much so that he wrote most of his characters for Jackson.
“I definitely often write for Sam Jackson. I know his rhythms. I feel like he can turn my lines into poetry. In fact, the character of Bill in Kill Bill, when I first put pen to paper, was Sam Jackson. And finally I had to stop it. I knew I didn’t want to cast Sam Jackson as Bill. So I had to mess with the process. It had to be something else,” Tarantino said.