Quentin Tarantino finally responded to the growing calls for boycotts of his films, which were ignited when The Hateful Eight director spoke at an anti-police brutality rally in New York City on Oct. 24. “I’m not being intimidated,” Tarantino told the Los Angeles Times. “Frankly, it feels lousy to have a bunch of police mouthpieces call me a cop hater. I’m not a cop hater. That is a misrepresentation. That is slanderous. That is not how I feel. But you know, that’s their choice to do that to me. What can I do? I’m not taking back what I said. What I said was the truth.”
Tarantino came under fire when he spoke at a rally protesting “police terror” and the deaths of individuals like Tamir Rice and Eric Garner at the hands of on-duty officers. “When I see murders, I do not stand by,” he told a crowd in New York. “I have to call a murder a murder and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”
Numerous police departments and police organizations urged its members and the public to boycott the director’s films, and Tarantino’s own father publicly condemned the remarks. As the boycotts spread, there was mounting pressure for Tarantino and The Weinstein Company, which is releasing The Hateful Eight on Christmas Day, to make a comment. (This included the New York Post, whose front page today exhorts to the director, “Say you are sorry.”)
Tarantino didn’t budge, telling the Times that he stood by what he said, which he felt was being purposefully misconstrued. “All cops are not murderers,” Tarantino said. “I never said that. I never even implied that. What they’re doing is pretty obvious. Instead of dealing with the incidents of police brutality that those people were bringing up, instead of examining the problem of police brutality in this country, better they single me out. And their message is very clear. It’s to shut me down. It’s to discredit me. It is to intimidate me. It is to shut my mouth, and even more important than that, it is to send a message out to any other prominent person that might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”
Meanwhile, The Weinstein Company released its own more cautious statement: “The Weinstein Company has a longstanding relationship and friendship with Quentin and has a tremendous amount of respect for him as a filmmaker. We don’t speak for Quentin, he can and should be allowed to speak for himself.”
Tarantino is no stranger to controversy, but this fresh wave comes two months before the much-anticipated Christmas release of his new western. Oftentimes calls to boycott a movie is about the material itself, whether for religious reasons, like The Last Temptation of Christ or The Da Vinci Code; or casting ones, like The Last Airbender or Stonewall. But it’s not unheard of for boycotts to be called over the views of an individual involved in the production, as when Spartacus was protested for crediting blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo or Ender’s Game for Orson Scott Card’s homophobic views. Even so, movie boycotts tend to be more a rhetorical weapon than anything else, getting a message out there instead of actually diverting profits from the film in question.
“Boycotts almost never work in terms of box office,” says senior media analyst at Rentrak Paul Dergarabedian. “Oftentimes it can end up just raising more awareness of the movie.”