The opening credits to Joy do not include the notation, “The 8th Film By David O. Russell.” The Revenant does not open with “The 6th Film By Alejandro González Iñárritu.” But the The Hateful Eight, which opens on Dec. 25, does lead with such an announcement: “The 8th Film By Quentin Tarantino.”
Tarantino has never been short on chutzpah, but counting his films does have some significance. One, it means that he views his new Western as another chapter in the 25-year story he’s been building as a filmmaker ever since Reservoir Dogs, that The Hateful Eight is one of a collection. And two, counting his films means he has an ending in mind, that the clock is ticking. In recent years, Tarantino has told reporters that he plans to direct 10 films and then retire. So when he numbers The Hateful Eight his eighth (he counts the Kill Bill films as one movie, in case you’re counting on your fingers), he’s also seeding the idea that he’s got only two left before he rides off into the sunset, Shane-like.
That’s just how Tarantino likes it. “I think there’s something really vital and exciting about thinking: I only have two movies left,” says Tarantino. “What do you want your last two statements to be? How do you want to wrap up your persona for future generations? I think that’s a really creative way to look at it, and I do like the idea of there being an umbilical cord from Reservoir Dogs to the last movie.”
Tarantino is only 52 years old, and he’s aware that Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood are still making solid movies well into their 70s and 80s. But he doesn’t want to be that guy. It practically offends him that Billy Wilder, who directed Some Like it Hot and The Apartment, also made the stinker Buddy Buddy when he was 74 years old. “Almost to the man, most directors actually think they have more time than they do,” Tarantino says. “They all talk about five or six movies that they want to make in the future at some point in time. Because when it comes to stories in the proverbial incubator, maybe I have four that are in that incubator, waiting to see how they come out. But it’s a lie. What do you want to do [right now]?“
Tarantino isn’t planning to disappear, like some cinematic J.D. Salinger. In fact, he looks forward to a post-film career where he writes novels and contributes to film criticism. Tarantino might even pull a Soderbergh and jump to television; he has a Western cooking now that he envisions as a miniseries, and he’s quick to point out for the record that it wouldn’t count as one of his 10 films.
For most of his adult life, Tarantino has been married to his first and true love: the movies. That passion enables him to look at his own career with a strict and singular focus, like the career itself is the child he’s trying to get accepted into Harvard. But what if his life and his priorities were to change? What if he were to become a father? Would that prolong and expand his cinematic ambitions, not because he would need to work, but because having children changes everyone and everything, tapping dreams and emotions that could inspire a completely differerent creative sensibility? Could you imagine Tarantino writing a Pixar film?
“There was a time about 13 years ago that I had a baby fever, that I really thought about having kids,” says Tarantino. “Usually, it’s a situation like that where somebody very close to you has a kid, and you kind of experience vicariously though them the joy of a child, and the joy of the love of a child. And I was thinking about it a lot. And I was getting a lot of encouragement in thinking about it, in so far as people telling me what I great father I would be. And that was very moving. But that fever has passed. I had baby fever, and the fever broke. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to have kids, but right now, perfectly thinking, I want to do the 10 movies — without distractions.”