Quentin Tarantino is a very particular director, enjoying near neurotic control over his films, the dialogue, the cinematography, the soundtrack and everything in between. His research begins years before a filmmaking process and involves extensive note-taking and study, often looking to the history of cinema for inspiration, from the films of Akira Kurosawa to Alfred Hitchcock. It’s why Tarantino chooses to nearly always direct his own screenplays, therefore having total creative control over how his intricate scripts are translated onto the screen. When Quentin Tarantino’s career was still in its infancy, however, the director found himself selling on two of his original scripts, True Romance and Natural Born Killers, in order to fund his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs in 1992.
With the former adapted into a critically acclaimed crime thriller directed by Tony Scott, Natural Born Killers experienced a more tumultuous time under the limelight and was heavily criticised for its controversial themes. The film follows a married couple, Mikey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), who suddenly decide to go on a killing spree, attracting an unhealthy amount of media attention across the way.
They’re characters which Quentin Tarantino has recently revealed to be a fantasy version of the two lead characters of True Romance, as the director states, “In the original script, Clarence wanted to be in the movies, he wanted to be a screenwriter…But the script he’s writing is Natural Born Killers”. Continuing, Tarantino adds: “So the thing is that you’d have the situation where you would see Clarence and Alabama do their things and then he’d read her scenes from the [Natural Born Killers] script. And then you’d see this fantasy version of Mickey and Mallory, the sexy young couple sociopaths serial killers on the run”.
Based on an original screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, the final script was heavily revised by director Oliver Stone and writer David Veloz, with Tarantino being left only with a story credit. Much of Tarantino’s smooth dialogue was kept by Stone and Veloz, though a renewed focus was given to both Mickey and Mallory Knox as opposed to the journalist character Wayne Gale. At the time of the film’s release, Tarantino stated that he held no animosity toward the film and the director and insisted that he wished it good success.
Once Quentin Tarantino attempted to publish the original screenplay for the film, as he had with his screenplays for True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction, the producers of Natural Born Killers tried to sue the director, claiming that he had forfeited the publishing rights when he sold the script. Furious, Tarantino disowned the film and urged fans of his to avoid it at all costs, denouncing the film, the director stated: “I hated that fucking movie. If you like my stuff, don’t watch that movie”.
When it comes to the ardent passion of Quentin Tarantino, there are very few filmmakers who compare, so when he says ‘don’t watch Natural Born Killers’ you best heed his word.