Quentin Tarantino is one of the best known filmmakers in pop culture history. His movies are famous for being intensely violent, and have undoubtedly influenced many young filmmakers. His hyper-realistic and witty dialogue give his films a natural, yet cartoonish quality, and the amazing attention he has to detail make them masterpieces of cinematography.
When talking about Tarantino films, the first thing that pops into people’s minds are their favorite lines, or scenes they remember the most. I like to argue that the most interesting things to talk about in his films, however, are Easter eggs few people notice in them, and secrets from behind-the-scenes. His films are loaded with hidden meanings, allusions to his other films, and tricks on the mind.
From clever homages, secret cameos, and visual gags hidden in plain sight, Tarantino’s filmography is a treasure trove of fun trivia and interesting facts. Here is a list of 20 amazing, weird, and hilarious things that you probably don’t know about Tarantino films.
20. Django’s Horse Belongs to Jamie Foxx in Real Life – Django Unchained
In Django Unchained, a white man says Jamie Foxx’s character shouldn’t be allowed on a horse, which is ironic, considering that in real life the horse belongs to him. The horse, a chestnut named “Cheetah,” was given to Foxx as a birthday present in 2008.
Owning Cheetah probably helped his chances in getting the part. “I know you need a guy to ride a horse and I have a horse,” Foxx is quoted as saying in an interview. Several other actors put in bids to play Django, including Cuba Gooding Jr., who Tarantino outright refused.
Even being an experienced equestrian, Foxx had difficulties riding on set. Cheetah was constantly spooked by the multitude of people on set, and for one shot Foxx actually rode a stunt horse, at full speed, without a harness. In true cowboy fashion, he was also holding a pistol.
19. Bill’s Flute Was Carved by the Actor Who Played Him – Kill Bill: Vol. 2
While paying Bill is probably what he is best known for, David Carradine is also famous for playing Kwai Chang Caine in the television series Kung Fu. To give you an idea of how insane and dark his life was, Carradine almost succeeded in taking his own life at the age of 5, after learning that he and his older brother were adopted. His adopted father saved him, and burned all of his comic books afterwards.
Carradine went to college in San Francisco, where he learned to write music, and worked on-and-off as a stage actor. After two years in the army, Carradine got his break in film acting after a casting director saw him in a Broadway play. From there, he got cast in a television series, Kung Fu, and played Kwai Chang Caine (popularly known as Grasshopper).
In the show, Carradine’s character was a half-white, half-Chinese Shaolin monk who introduced the West to Eastern philosophy and martial arts, and carried a 31-inch flute. Carradine carved the flute himself while on set, and re-used it in Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
18. Eli Roth Directed Nation’s Pride, the Movie Within Inglourious Basterds
Goebbels directs a propaganda movie called Nation’s Pride in Inglourious Basterds, and its screening serves as the climax of the movie. The movie-within-the-movie is about Frederick Zoller, a sniper who picked off hundreds of Allied soldiers from a church steeple. Tarantino asked Eli Roth, who plays Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz in the film, to direct the propaganda movie.
Tarantino himself makes a cameo in the black-and-white film, as an allied soldier being shot. He also makes a cameo in the movie itself, as a Nazi soldier being scalped.
17. The Stolen $500,000 is Real Cash – Jackie Brown
In the special features for the film Jackie Brown, Max asks Jackie while holding the cash if she wants to see what a half a million dollars looks like. In real life, both actors actually got to do that. Tarantino demanded authenticity, apparently, and used approximately 1/24 the budget of the film as a prop.
A prop of possibly equal value that he used was the 1980 Honda Civic Jackie drives. It is the very same car Butch drives in Pulp Fiction, and crashes into Marsellus Wallace. Tarantino movies are full of similar links, that connect all of them together in some way.
16. Fake Blood Glued Mr. Orange to the Floor – Reservoir Dogs
Fake blood is sticky stuff. Normally, it is made using corn syrup and red dye (sounds significantly tastier than the real thing). Tim Roth, who played Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs, had to be pried off the floor after lying in a pool of the stuff for an extended amount of time. The worst part is, the scene was shot in multiple takes.
For added realism, a paramedic was kept on set to ensure the blood flowing out of Roth was consistent with how it would look in real life.
The set Tarantino used in Reservoir Dogs for where the robbers hide out, and tie up the cop they kidnap, was actually an abandoned morgue. If you look closely, you can see a hearse in the background of one of the scenes.
15. Zoe Bell Performed All of Her own Stunts – Death Proof
Zoe Bell is a badass. She grew up in New Zealand practicing Tae Kwon Do, and became a stunt double like her father. She has done stunts in over twenty movies, including Iron Man 3, 27 Dresses, and Grindhouse. She has even done stunts in three other Tarantino films (Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, and Inglourious Basterds).
To illustrate just how tough she is, she was doing stunt work for Xena: Warrior Princess when she fractured one of her vertebrae, and continued doing stunts for a week until she was incapacitated, by a chair smashed across her back.
14. Christoph Waltz Initially Turned Down the Role of Dr. King Schultz – Django Unchained
Fearing that the character was too similar to his own persona, Christoph Waltz turned the role of Dr. King Schultz, a German bounty hunter who calls himself a dentist. When he did this, Tarantino agreed to let Christoph play the character however he saw fit.
Some audience members saw the alliance between Dr. Schulz and Django as being absurd, but in reality, many German progressives travelled to the U.S. to help in the fight against slavery.
13. Daniel Day-Lewis was Almost Cast as Vincent Vega – Pulp Fiction
Can you imagine if he got the part? In accordance to his extreme method-acting ethos, Daniel Day-Lewis probably would have taken drugs and cleaned blood out of the backseat of a car. As an example of his meticulous way of doing things, he actually learned to paint with his left foot for his role in (can you guess it?) My Left Foot.
A document was leaked stating some other casting choices that could have been made, which included Johnny Depp, Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, Marisa Tomei, Denzel Washington, Pam Grier, John Cusack, and Tim Roth.
12. The Actress Who Played Gogo Injured Tarantino on the Set – Kill Bill Vol. 2
The character Gogo, portrayed by Chiaki Kuriyama, is a seventeen year old schoolgirl, and also a murdering gangster. Tarantino got inspiration for the character from one of his favorite movies, Battle Royale.
Kuriyama struck Tarantino on the head with a “Meteor Hammer,” a made-up weapon consisting of a spike ball on a chain, during filming Kill Bill Vol. 2. – not on purpose, just by accident.
11. Max Goes to See the Movie He Is in – Jackie Brown
When Max, played by Robert Forster, walks out of a movie theater in the beginning of the film, the movie he went to go see is Jackie Brown. You know that because the song that’s playing over the credits is the same one that plays over the actual credits (the song is “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack).
Just like in Spaceballs, the movie exists within itself. So does that mean that Max knew how to steal the money all along, because he had watched the ending of the movie already?
10. Django’s Blue Suit was Based on a Famous Painting – Django Unchained
The Blue Boy, painted in 1770, inspired F.W. Murnau to direct the silent film Knabe in Blau. The film has since been lost, but Murnau’s legacy remains because of his invention of the “Unchained Camera” technique. He was the first filmmaker to move the camera while filming.
Tarantino payed homage to Murnau by dressing Django in a blue frilly suit, and naming the movie Django Unchained, which goes to show just how serious Tarantino is when it comes to his love for film history.
9. Not a Single Shot is Level – Natural Born Killers
A “Dutch angle” is when a scene is purposefully shot with the camera at a tilt, so that horizontal lines on the horizon do not line up with the frame. The technique is so called because the entirety of the Netherlands is at an angle (it’s not).
Tarantino actively tried to stop the filming of Natural Born Killers, because he thought the script would be better off in his hands. He was forced to sell the script after My Best Friend’s Birthday did horribly in the box office.
8. Inglourious Basterds was almost called Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France
Tarantino references and pays homage to a lot of Westerns in his films, and almost named Inglourious Basterds after one. The actual film he would have referenced is Once Upon a Time in the West.
The actual title is obviously spelled wrong. One writer, on movieguys.org, has a theory that the misspelling is because the character Lt. Aldo Raine can’t spell. Think about it. If Aldo came up with the name for his group of Nazi-killers, it is not far-fetched to say that he might have spelled it wrong.
Tarantino has not said where the extra “u” in the title comes from, but he has revealed that the “basterds” was spelled that way because that’s how the word is pronounced.
7. Brad Pitt Came up with his Stoner Character – True Romance
While not directed by Tarantino, it can be considered one of his films if you count the fact that he wrote it. Floyd, as his character is called, was inspired by how Brad Pitt lived his life in the early 90s, i.e. sitting around all day and smoking pot. He and Tarantino smoked pot while writing the script, reportedly.
Pitt was battling depression at that point of his life, and decided to turn his life around after visiting Casablanca, and seeing how poverty stricken it was.
As far as turning your life around goes, millionaire-celebrity Pitt definitely takes the cake. He has said that going through that depression helped him find who he was.
6. Who Keyed Vincent’s Malibu? – Pulp Fiction
After a long day of picking up Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase, shooting guys, cleaning up bits of brain, and dressing up like a “dork,” Vincent Vegas goes to his drug dealer’s house and complains about someone having keyed his car.
Turns out, that person is Butch, who Vegas squared up against inside a bar. Vegas makes a lot of mistakes in Pulp Fiction. Really, the only thing he gets right is winning a dance contest.
5. Over 450 Gallons of Fake Blood were used in Filming – Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
With fake limbs being cut off and fake blood being sprayed everywhere, it’s not hard to imagine that the set was very messy while filming Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2, and also very sticky. Good thing Tim Roth wasn’t there; he would have had flashbacks.
Just so you can get an idea of how much 450 gallons of it is: that much fake blood could easily fill an eight person hot tub. Let’s wait and see how much of the stuff they use in Kill Bill Volume 3.
4. Salma Hayek Improvised the Dancing Scene – From Dusk Till Dawn
Before taking the part, Salma Hayek refused, stating that she had a terrible fear of snakes. But when the director of the film, Robert Rodriguez, told her that Madonna would be taking the part (he was lying), Hayek caved and agreed to it. She went through three months of therapy to help with her fear.
During shooting, Rodriguez just told her to feel the music, and come up with the dance herself. The result is one of the sexiest scenes in a movie we’ve ever seen.
3. The Needle Scene was Shot in Reverse – Pulp Fiction
When Lance says “you gotta bring the needle down in a stabbing motion” in Pulp Fiction, he really should have said “up.” Tarantino decided to film the scene backwards and reverse it, probably to save Uma Thurman from being injured.
Tarantino described the stabbing motion as the same one “The Shape” uses in Halloween to stab his victims. “The Shape” refers to Michael Myers. So by the reverse action, Vincent brings Mrs. Wallace back to life. Weird.
2. Quentin’s Hands Make an Appearance- Inglourious Basterds
Quentin makes cameos in all of his films; some small and some large. In Pulp Fiction, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Four Rooms, he plays a central character. But in others, his role is much smaller.
The hands that choke Hilde, which are supposed to belong to Hans Landa, are actually Tarantino’s. Why he chose to murder one of his own characters is anyone’s guess; apparently, Tarantino thought that choking scenes always felt fake, so he took matters into his own hands. Literally.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio Actually Cut Himself – Django Unchained
When he slammed it on a table for a scene in Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio got a severe cut, and the footage made it into the film. His character, Calvin Candie, shows his guests a skull belonging to one of his family’s former slaves, and bashed it open with a hammer. DiCaprio cut himself on a piece of plaster that was used to make the prop skull. After he finished the scene, the crew gave him a standing ovation.
The blood that he smears on Kerry Washington’s face, however, is not real.