In order to, as The LAMB so lovingly advised me to do via twitter, “release the ginger rage,” on yesterday’s breaking entertainment news, I needed to read the details of said news. So, the news is this: Tarantino let 6 trusted Hollywood colleagues read a first draft of his next ensemble film, a Western entitled The Hateful Eight, only to find that it had somehow been leaked. I think it’s best, since I have it at my disposal, to quote Quentin directly here (source:http://www.deadline.com/2014/01/quentin-tarantino-hateful-eight-leak-novel/):
“I gave it to one of the producers on Django Unchained, Reggie Hudlin, and he let an agent come to his house and read it. That’s a betrayal, but not crippling because the agent didn’t end up with the script. There is an ugly maliciousness to the rest of it. I gave it to three actors: Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth. The one I know didn’t do this is Tim Roth. One of the others let their agent read it, and that agent has now passed it on to everyone in Hollywood. I don’t know how these fucking agents work, but I’m not making this next. I’m going to publish it, and that’s it for now. I give it out to six people, and if I can’t trust them to that degree, then I have no desire to make it. I’ll publish it. I’m done. I’ll move on to the next thing. I’ve got 10 more where that came from.”
So, let’s debrief. Is this isolated incident indicative of a larger truth about Hollywood that I have been in denial about: that it is a cruel, ruthless and lonely place? Tarantino is a mad genius of an auteur whose particular mode and method of script-writing and film-making should seem particularly sacred to his inner circle who know him best. The very fact that his work was shamefully disrespected as something not sacred at all, among those he, and we, assumed would particularly know to honor that makes me think that Hollywood truly is a snake pit of selfish interests and that even the increasingly almighty Tarantino is powerless to that.
Feeling “depressed” but clearly not defeated, Tarantino is shelving the project, for now anyway. The speculation is that the leak came from Dern’s agency; I find this to be a shame given Dern’s Oscar nomination. Feeling quite bitter myself, I want this to reflect poorly on him is what I’m saying, but the truth of the matter is that Tarantino said he may still write a part for Dern in whatever project he works on instead, blaming the agents more it seems. Plus, the breach is the kind that is more or less unsolvable. So this means, no matter how much I rant and ramble here, justice will not be served because justice simply cannot be defined.
I find it hard to understand, though, how the agents and bloggers who dispersed and disseminated the script, if that is truly what happened, could have done so without a guilty conscience? It has cost us, at the artist’s discretion, a film which the industry and the public were no doubt excited for. Like a corrupt government though, the unseen politics of movie-making are sometimes inexplicably devious, but we as innocent moviegoers are the ones who are perhaps most punished.
I’m personally happy though that Tarantino has decided to publish the script at least and that its future as a film may be nonexistent but may also or instead be merely uncertain and distant. I think his decision is a good one despite its tortured motivation and overall unfairness of the situation surrounding it, especially because this whole occurrence has led me to question just how innocent we as moviegoers actually are. I’m sure many, many people found and took advantage of the script should it have been widely available online (which, in this internet age, I’m sure it was). We are a curious people in a convenient age to be so, and there is not enough mystery in cinema anymore, I think, at least on some level: cameos are spoiled, fake trailers are made, and behind-the-scenes photos tease us too readily and too early.
I’m okay with all of that to a certain extent– that is film culture today and it is a culture which thrives on the internet and which allows blogs like mine to even exist. But, if there is any sick and twisted positive to be gained from this scandal, it is that scandal always equates to publicity, and I’d be shocked if this publicity didn’t lend itself to extreme sympathy and support for Tarantino as a victim-hero of modern film-making. This gives us a story outside of actual, narrative film space that will, as roundabout and ridiculous as it may seem, be a part of the conversation up until Tarantino’s next move comes to fruition.
But, how much does that conversation then necessarily rely on this kind of tabloid fodder, the he-said/she-said and the shame-on-you, when it should, perhaps too idealistically, always be about the film itself? When did Tarantino– as much as I love him and am happy for his success– become something so mainstream, that there is even a smidgen of fear in my mind that the nuances and merits of his next actual work will be ignored in light of the work he had to forgo due to some kind of movie-business-Judas?
None of us know what his next move (out of his defiantly proposed 10) will be but am I justified in worrying that no one will care quite as much about the move itself as they will about the gossip of what it will be, rehashing the news of his betrayal in some kind of glamorous, glitzy tale that ignores what is truly important here? What, anyway, is truly important here? I’d argue that what should be important is his artistic integrity being stabbed in the back– a script that was in a draft stage that would have turned into another great work being dishonored– but I fear that people may be more concerned with who did the stabbing, and how he will come away triumphant in the industry despite being dishonored by others within it.
However, I do suppose Tarantino’s triumph will be the redeeming factor in what I consider to be a really bothersome and sad, unfortunate saga. Maybe this will even lead to him making a horror film, something he recently mentioned he would want to do someday, which I’d love to see. His place in the spotlight does mean that he can come out on top still and prove that the flawed system and skewed value-set of the industry in which he operates cannot keep him and his crazy creativity down. But I can’t help but feel like justice will only be served when things like this stop happening completely; our pop culture is not ours to own prematurely unless the producers of said pop culture intended it to be that way. The internet gives us power that we shouldn’t have, and it gives industry insiders power that they should not have either.
So as usual, I cannot propose a solution, I can only hope that everyone starts to be more aware of the ripple effect that things like this will have on filmmakers and film-goers alike for a very, very long time. And this cautionary tale of betrayal, for better and for worse and probably unfortunately without truly solving anything at all, will not go away for Tarantino, or for his fans or his once-trusted cohorts, for perhaps just as long.