The mad genius of Quentin Tarantino - An intimate session with film's favorite punk auteur

By Mary Kaye Schilling
Updated April 16, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

There’s a scene in Pulp Fiction. The one where Vincent Vega (John Travolta) is trying to save the life of his boss’ wife (Uma Thurman), who has just overdosed on heroin. He shoves a huge hypodermic needle into her chest, and she bolts back to life, gasping for breath, her eyes shocked wide open. That’s what it feels like to watch a Tarantino movie. Seconds into it, your adrenaline’s pumping. This is what the movie experience is supposed to be: visceral, inspired, unpredictable, exuberantly alive.

Spend three hours with Tarantino in his L.A. home, and you’ll get that same blast of movie thrill. His Spanish-style manse sits high atop the Hollywood Hills. When you hit the driveway, Kill Bill’s bright yellow ”Pussy Wagon” is parked out front. In the foyer, there’s a life-size, dead-on wax version of Kill Bill’s psychopathic schoolgirl, Gogo, a gift from the film’s special-effects-makeup company, KNB. The entire house — filled to the rafters with movie posters, books, CDs, DVDs, videos, comic books, and memorabilia (including a shelf packed with Barbie and Midge lunch boxes and thermoses) — is a geek paradise. The home movie theater’s as real-world as you’d expect; the bar is actually part of Kill Bill’s Beijing set, complete with a Ms. Pac-Man, a CD jukebox, and a photo booth. A second jukebox upstairs is stocked with his music collection, including albums by the Wu-Tang Clan, June Carter Cash, Fleetwood Mac, Dion, and, yes, Britney Spears (”I’m a huge fan,” he says. ”Anyone who doesn’t give it to her is too stuck in their too-cool-for-schoolness”).

Cinema’s punk auteur — who ignited the film world with his debut, Reservoir Dogs, in 1992, changed movie history (and saved a little studio called Miramax) with Pulp Fiction in 1994, and then entranced and disappointed equally with Jackie Brown in 1997 — has just turned 41. Handsomer in person, if a bit rounder thanks to months of editing all-nighters, he’s still slightly gawky, insanely encylopedic, and kinetically intense. Tarantino’s on a high; the second volume of Kill Bill is set to open in a week, and so far there’s no pesky negativity from critics and fans to taint his enthusiasm. But as Tarantino — sporting a Simpsons T-shirt with his own Itchy and Scratchy-directing character on it — settles onto his dining room bench with a vodka and a sugar-free Red Bull, there’s also a sense of — dare we say it — the papa auteur he’s destined to be. You’ll see it in Vol. 2 — a quieter film than Vol. 1, in which Uma Thurman, the Bride who was shot at the altar, dispatched dozens of unlucky samurai types who happened to get in the path of her lightning-sharp sword. Oh, she’s still out for blood in Vol. 2, but this film’s the most unlikely of revenge movies: a character-driven and visually sophisticated ode to one angry mother.

EW Let’s start with Kill Bill 2. Turns out it’s a love story. Who knew? And I’m not just talking about Bill and the Bride.

QT I love the Bride. I love her, all right? I want her to be happy. I don’t want to come up with screwed-up scenarios that she has to fight the whole rest of her life. I killed myself to put her in a good place at the end of this long journey.