QUENTIN TARANTINO now wishes he hadn’t coerced Uma Thurman into a car stunt, during the filming of “Kill Bill,” that left her with permanent damage to her neck and knees. “It’s the biggest regret of my life,” he said this past week.
Oh, come on, Quentin. Surely, there are other things you’ve done worthy of that distinction.
For the moment, let’s take Tarantino at his word. That means he does not regret continuing to work with Harvey Weinstein for decades, despite knowing the producer’s history as a serial sexual predator. It means he doesn’t regret slamming “critics in black culture,” as he called them, for calling out his obsessive use of the n-word in his films.
It means Tarantino does not regret telling Howard Stern that the 13-year-old girl drugged and raped by director Roman Polanski in 1977 “wanted to have it.”
If not for the current #MeToo movement, no one would be discussing what Tarantino did to Thurman, nor his reprehensible remarks about a child sexual assault victim. Tarantino has never been accused of sexual misconduct; yet in an era when men who bully, mistreat, or disregard the safety of women are being freshly scrutinized, he is finally being held accountable for his words and actions. This is the unexpected bounty of the #MeToo movement: It is foremost a call to address rape and sexual misconduct, yet it is also exposing the narcissistic idiots whose attitudes also devalue and endanger other human beings.
When The New York Times last year published a story describing decades of sexual misconduct by Weinstein, many waited to hear what Tarantino would have to say. No filmmaker has been more closely associated with Weinstein. All of Tarantino’s films, from his 1992 debut “Reservoir Dogs,” to 2015’s “The Hateful Eight,” have been produced by Miramax or the Weinstein Company, both founded by Weinstein and his brother, Bob.
In addition to Thurman, other actresses who’ve appeared in films written or directed by Tarantino, including Rose McGowan, Selma Hayek, and Rosanna Arquette, all have harrowing stories about Weinstein’s reported sexual harassment and abuse. Tarantino said his then-girlfriend Mira Sorvino also complained about Weinstein’s disgusting behavior.
Weeks after the Weinstein allegations became front-page news, Tarantino tried to sound remorseful for not calling out sooner the man who helped launch him as a filmmaker.
“I knew enough to do more than I did,” he said told the New York Times. “There was more to it than just the normal rumors, the normal gossip. It wasn’t secondhand. I knew he did a couple of these things.” He added, “I wish I had taken responsibility for what I heard.”
After many celebrities claimed ignorance of Weinstein’s actions, Tarantino was initially praised for owning his complicity. In retrospect, though, this was nothing more than the contrived contrition of a man eager to distance himself from the lingering stench of his one-time mentor.
Recognizing what is now known about Tarantino’s misogynistic actions underlines why he stayed silent for decades about Weinstein’s behavior. It all aligned neatly with Tarantino’s own dude-bro boorishness, in which men’s desire for unquestioned control supersedes everything else.
Twenty years ago, I witnessed this first hand while covering the press junket for Tarantino’s modern Blaxploitation film, “Jackie Brown.” While recognizing his talent, I always found his gratuitous usage of the n-word disturbing. It’s not solely because Tarantino is a white filmmaker; it’s that he tosses the slur around with hyperbolic glee, especially in “Pulp Fiction.” Instead of a narrative device, it’s like watching a child scream a dirty word to get attention from adults. To his largely male fan base, it was easy proof of his cool white-boy cred.
When I asked Tarantino about this, he took umbrage that I dared challenge him. He didn’t defend its usage as an artistic choice, but as a word he’d heard growing up around black people. Therefore, he believed, he had a right to use it. And he has in all eight of his films.
This is Tarantino, a man who asks for neither permission nor forgiveness, hurt feelings or knees be damned. Tarantino does only what best serves his interests. So it’s not hard to imagine how he ignored Thurman’s concerns about the movie stunt he wanted her to do, or how he refused to let accusations about Weinstein get in the way of his own career.
What we’re now learning about Tarantino barely registered a blip when these things originally occurred. Finally, his time, too, is up. The revelations and conversations about these men — from the predators to the jerks — prove the resilience of a movement committed to leaving no story untold.Renée Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.