A restless crowd mills about outside the Arlington Theater. A buzz passes through the crowd as the news spreads, Tarantino will not be walking the red carpet. No pictures and no interviews: an unexpected move from a director who follows no rules, and certainly conforms to no one’s expectations with his work.
Tarantino came to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on January 30, 2013 to receive the American Riviera Award at the world renowned Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, California. The American Riviera Award is given to an artist who has had a significant influence on the American Cinema. Past recipients include Sandra Bullock, Mickey Rourke, Tommy Lee Jones, and Martin Scorcese. Prior to receiving his award, Tarantino was interviewed by John Horn on a wide range of subjects, from “subtextual film criticism” to his favorite actor.
Throughout the night, clips were shown from Tarantino’s masterful volume of work. Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglorious Basterds was nominated for 101 awards, eight of them Oscars.
Dialogue is a major highlight of Tarantino’s movies. Actors like Christoph Waltz and Samuel Jackson have won multitudes of accolades for their work in Tarantino’s films.
“Actors aren’t there to [improvise],” said Tarantino while answering a question about whether or not actors followed his scripts to the dot. “They’re there to say my dialogue. Actually Uma Thurman had a quote once that was really true. She said that when actors improvise, if they’re not just adding “umms” or “ahhs,” if they’re not just adding cuss words, that is called writing. And that is not what you hire an actor to do. You hire an actor to learn your lines and say them. Now there are exceptions to that. Sam Jackson is that exception. Sam Jackson is a terrific writer.”
Tarantino went on to give even more high praise to Jackson, stating that he “sings in my key.” Jackson can write dialogue, in character for his character, just as well as Tarantino himself. Tarantino eventually began to unconsciously write characters specifically for Jackson. However, issues of race would often come into the films.
“In the first one and a half years of writing Kill Bill, I couldn’t not write for Sam,” said Tarantino. “But I realized that a blonde girl killing a black man wasn’t something you really could cheer for, so Sam was plagued by wanting to play the villain, but because he’s black, stuff comes into it that shouldn’t. Django Unchained was great because I got to take those issues and make them part of it.”
Tarantino has never been afraid of controversy. His movies consistently feature gratuitous, over-the-top violence, and his newest film Django Unchained is set in the deep south before the emancipation of the slaves. As such, it features the whipping, abuse, and branding of slaves, as well as dozens of racial slurs.
To conclude the ceremony, Tarantino received the American Riveira Award gracefully and, immediately afterwards, posed for pictures for a clamoring, smart-phone wielding crowd.
Since the writing of this article, Tarantino won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained.