What were your feelings about Peter Biskind’s book ‘‘Down and Dirty Pictures’’? You play a big part in it, and though you come across as a trailblazer and an often generous guy, there’s some sniping about betrayal and egomania from friends. Did you feel misrepresented in any way?
I don’t think I came across that bad. I actually thought Biskind had a touch of affection for me in the writing. As long as people have affection for me, I’m not expecting any one article or book to capture me, to get me completely. But he misrepresented Harvey Weinstein in it to, like, a gigantic degree. At the same time, Harvey is also the most interesting character in the book. I told Harvey, you’re a hero and villain, but your villain is of Bondian proportions.
When you go to see movies, are you watching as a fan or as a filmmaker – you know, fixing sloppy editing or rewriting scenes in your head?
I’m normally a film fan. That’s my goal. If I see mistakes in tone or rhythm, I might start thinking, Okay, I would do this. But I can still enjoy the film. If I were teaching a class or having a serious conversation with somebody about it, I could point out deficiencies here and there – deficiencies I wouldn’t allow in my own work – but I forgive it if I like it. A movie doesn’t have to do everything. A movie just has to do a couple of things. If it does those well and gives you a cool experience, a cool night at the movies, an emotion, that’s good enough, man. But movies that get it all right are few and far between. It got to a point in the '80s when you didn’t even hold a bad ending against a movie, because every movie had a cop-out ending. If you were going to hold bad endings against movies you’d never have liked anything.
If you were teaching a class on your own films, what deficiencies would you point out?
If you ask me, the answer is none. I’m sure somebody else might find weaknesses, but I can’t. If there’s a weakness, I don’t do it – you’d never see the scene.
What are some recent movies you’ve enjoyed?
I can’t believe it, but I really liked the remake of ‘‘Dawn of the Dead.’’ It was terrific. I was actually almost offended when [they announced they were] remaking ‘‘Dawn of the Dead’’ – I mean, the idea of remaking a George Romero film without George Romero! I just wish they hadn’t called it ‘‘Dawn of the Dead’’ because then I could really embrace it, because I have to compare the two and there are things about the remake that do not compare favorably at all. But I was really taken by what a good director [Zack Snyder] is.
I missed the amateurishness of the actors in Romero’s ‘‘Dead’’ movies. For some reason, you cared about them more.
That was one of the wonderful things about Romero, especially at that time. He cast these Pittsburgh actors. They have interesting faces, and they are giving their all, and since you don’t have any past association with them, you just completely buy into their characters in this environment, this world gone wrong. They become your friends. It wasn’t like a character in a movie just got killed, it was like, Oh, this is horrible. Even the zombies became characters.
One of the things your movies always get noticed for is the acting. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that you have gotten either the best performance or one of the best performances out of every actor you’ve worked with. Any sense of why that is? Does it have to do with writing your characters with actors in mind?
It’s a mixed bag. The most I ever wrote for one person is ‘‘Kill Bill,’’ for Uma. But I do write characters for certain actors, like, say, Honey Bunny and Pumpkin in ‘‘Pulp Fiction.’’ They were written for Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth. And sometimes I write characters for actors who don’t play them, and then I have to reinvent the character. And sometimes I don’t write for actors at all, and just audition people and find the character, in which case you’re going to find somebody who is that – an actor who has those qualities naturally. If you’re writing for someone in particular, obviously they have a strength you want to feature and play with in a fun movie way. You know, like Uma’s blondness is a big deal in ‘‘Kill Bill,’’ and I’m really playing with that, even by the people I’m matching her up with. But it’s cool to write for somebody and you don’t get that somebody. It’s happened in every one of my movies.