There’s no doubt that Quentin Tarantino is one of cinema’s most unique and distinctive voices, responsible for some of the most thrilling and provocative films on the modern screen. Perhaps the most impressive skill of the auteur is his incredibly intricate scripts that impressively tie together any world the director conjures, no matter how wild. His break came in the early 1990s when he would receive his first paid writing assignment for his script work on vampire thriller From Dusk till Dawn, a credit that would take the director to all new heights.
Before he could foray into the world of directing with his first feature film Reservoir Dogs however, Quentin Tarantino had to first raise some money to pay his rent and begin saving for the mammoth expenditure of pre-digital filmmaking. He did this by writing two original screenplays before selling each of them off to well-known directors for a tidy profit. Both concepts shared similar ideals, with both utilising a Bonnie and Clyde-esque narrative of star-crossed lovers, a concept Tarantino would later explore once more in Pulp Fiction.
The first of these scripts was True Romance, directed by Tony Scott, which followed Christian Slater as Clarence, and Patricia Arquette as Alabama, a comic-book-nerd and an escort who fall in love then try to flog mountains of cocaine in Hollywood. Starring an intimidating, if totally unrecognisable Gary Oldman, True Romance is one of Tarantino’s greatest ever projects, with Tony Scott executing his script almost perfectly with only two minor changes. The first was to simplify and linearise the story, which was originally structured in complicated disorder as per Taranino’s preference, and the second was to end the film with a happy ending, as opposed to the bleak conclusion Tarantino had originally intended.
Natural Born Killers was the second of Tarantino’s scripts, directed by the master of cinema Oliver Stone, starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory Knox, a married couple both with traumatic childhoods who go on a murderous rampage across America. This becomes heightened once their notoriety reaches the national news and they amass a sick fan base across the country with thanks from an eccentric TV journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) seeking to profile them. Unlike Tony Scott, Oliver Stone changed the script quite extensively to reflect a newfound political message, and although it still reflects the writer’s classic graphic violence and dark humour, Tarantino has been very vocal about his dislike of the film.
“I hated that fucking movie. If you like my stuff, don’t watch that movie” Quentin Tarantino told The Telegraph in a bitter rant, and his anger is quite understandable considering how much Stone changed. There’s little trace of Tarantino’s fingerprints in the film aside from some snappy sections of dialogue, particularly from Tommy Lee Jones’ obnoxious prison warden.
Though both True Romance and Natural Born Killers underperformed at the box office, both films have since become icons of cult cinema due particularly to the man behind the script. They may not count towards Quentin Tarantino’s exclusive canon, but they certainly have their place in his wider filmography.