The consensus is that Quentin Tarantino is a director without filmic fault. Throughout his career, he has crafted some of the most beloved, revered and talked-about films of all time. Where other directors have fallen down, he has soared, and he remains an entrenched member of the Hollywood elite despite his proximity to people like Harvey Weinstein. That’s no small feat. But according to the man himself, Tarantino’s reputation as the Hollywood auteur could have been even stronger was it not for one film, a picture that Tarantino has admitted was his absolute worst and cost him not only millions of dollars but “three good movies”.
Every director has one movie that just doesn’t take off. Nestled between Kill Bill Vol. II and Inglorious Basterds, Death Proof was one such film. The 2007 blood-pattered offering stars Kurt Russell as Mike, a professional body double with a taste for murdering unsuspecting women. As he slashes his way across America, the body count steadily rises; that is until Mike meets a group of female friends who decide to fight back. While still a thousand times more engrossing than National Treasure, Music and Lyrics, and Fantastic Four – all of which were also released in 2007 – the film failed to capture the public’s imagination in the same way as Kill Bill.
In the US, Death Proof bombed horribly, leaving a trail and terrible reviews. Its commercial and critical failure was partly down to Tarantino’s two-part structure, which fooled audience members into thinking the proceedings were at a premature end. At three hours, you can’t blame them for wanting to stretch their legs. Eventually, the two films were given separate releases.
Tarantino was recently interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter alongside Ang Lee, Tom Hooper and Gus Van Sant. He discussed his retirement and gave an overview of his career. During the conversation, he opened up about his desire to leave the film world with a perfect filmography under his belt. “To me, it’s all about my filmography, and I want to go out with a terrific filmography,” Tarantino said. “Death Proof has got to be the worst movie I ever make”.
According to Tarantino, Death Proof set him back nearly ten years in film-making time. “For a left-handed movie, that wasn’t so bad, all right?” he clarified. “So if that’s the worst I ever get, I’m good. But I do think one of those out-of-touch, old, limp, flaccid-d*** movies costs you three good movies as far as your rating is concerned”. Thankfully, the director struck gold with Inglorious Basterds, which earned him seven Oscar nominations. He spent the next decade working overtime to make up for Death Proof, releasing Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. It remains to be seen what film Tarantino will decide to end his career on. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.