Kill Bill (released as two films, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), a highly stylized “revenge flick” in the cinematic traditions of Wuxia (Chinese martial arts), Jidaigeki (Japanese period cinema), Spaghetti Westerns and Italian horror. It was based on a character (The Bride) and a plot that he and Kill Bill’s lead actress, Uma Thurman, had developed during the making of Pulp Fiction. In 2004, Tarantino returned to Cannes, where he served as President of the Jury. Although Kill Bill was not in competition, Vol. 2 had an evening screening, while it was also shown on the morning of the final day in its original 3-hour-plus version with Quentin himself attending the full screening. Tarantino then went on to be credited as “Special Guest Director” in Robert Rodriguez’s 2005 neo-noir film Sin City for his work directing the car sequence featuring Clive Owen and Benicio del Toro.
The next film project was Grindhouse, which he co-directed with Rodriguez. Released in theaters on April 6, 2007, Tarantino’s contribution to the Grindhouse project was titled Death Proof. It began as a take on 1970s slasher films, but evolved dramatically as the project unfolded. Ticket sales were low despite mostly positive reviews.
Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglourious Basterds is the story of a group of guerilla U.S. soldiers in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Filming began in October 2008. The film opened on August 21, 2009 to very positive reviews and the #1 spot at the box office worldwide. It went on to become Tarantino’s highest grossing film, both in the United States and worldwide.
In 2011, production began on Django Unchained, about the revenge of a slave on his former master. The film stemmed from Tarantino’s desire to produce a spaghetti western set in America’s Deep South; inspired by the 1966 film Django, directed by Sergio Corbucci. Tarantino has called the proposed style “a southern”, stating that he wanted “to do movies that deal with America’s horrible past with slavery and stuff but do them like spaghetti westerns, not like big issue movies. I want to do them like they’re genre films, but they deal with everything that America has never dealt with because it’s ashamed of it, and other countries don’t really deal with because they don’t feel they have the right to”. Tarantino finished the script on April 26, 2011, and handed in the final draft to The Weinstein Company.
Agency William Morris Endeavor reported Christoph Waltz was cast to play a German bounty hunter, with Stacey Sher, Pilar Savone, and Reginald Hudlin producing. Although Will Smith and Idris Elba were heavily rumored to be up for the title role, Jamie Foxx has since been confirmed to play Django. Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson will play Stephen, a house slave. Leonardo DiCaprio has also been officially cast in the role of Calvin Candie, the primary antagonist in the film. Kevin Costner had been cast as Ace Woody, a “vile and sadistic trainer of slaves who are forced to fight in death matches for a plantation owner (DiCaprio)” before he later dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, and has been replaced by Kurt Russell. Kerry Washington has been cast as Broomhilda, the “long-suffering slave wife of Django.” Other cast members include Dennis Christopher as Candie family lawyer Leonide ‘Leo’ Moguy, Laura Cayouette as Candie’s sister, Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly, M. C. Gainey and Tom Savini as Big John and Ellis Brittle, two of the slave owners who separate Django and Broomhilda, Anthony LaPaglia and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Australian brothers, Jano and an unnamed character, respectively, who encounter Django while escorting slaves to a fight. However, Gordon-Levitt has not fully committed to the film, due to possible scheduling issues, and Gerald McRaney and Michael K. Williams in unknown roles. Tarantino-collaborator RZA was cast as a slave named Thadeus. According to various Tarantino websites, Sacha Baron Cohen was cast in the role as gambler Scotty Harmony who wishes to purchase Django’s wife from Calvin Candie. James Remar is also involved in the film, as is reportedly, Tarantino is also interested in including Lady Gaga in the film to some degree. The film is scheduled to be released on December 25, 2012.
Taking a step back from lavish sci-fi and fantasy, Scott made the under-rated, romantic police drama, ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, starring Tom Berenger, Lorraine Bracco and Mimi Rogers in 1987, and the stylishly violent ‘Black Rain’, a 1989 cop drama starring Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia, shot partially in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. Both achieved mild success at the box office.
Initially perceived as a miss-match, Scott then made ‘Thelma & Louise’ (1991) starring Genna Davis as Thelma, and Susan Sarandon as Louise. The movie was successful, and revived Scott’s reputation. However, his next project—an independent movie, ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’ —was less so. It is a visually striking film telling the story of Christopher Columbus. However, it was a box office failure, and Scott did not release another film for four years.
In 1995, with his brother Tony, Scott formed their own film and television production company, Scott Free Productions in Los Angeles. All his subsequent feature films, starting with ‘White Squall’ and ‘G. I. Jane’,starring then-superstar, Demi Moore, were produced under the Scott Free banner. Also in 1995 the two brothers purchased controlling interest in Shepperton Studios, which later merged with Pinewood Studios. Scott and his brother have produced the CBS series ‘Numb3rs’ (2005–2010), a crime drama about a genius mathematician who helps the FBI solve crimes, and critical and commercial hit, ‘The Good Wife’ (2009–), a legal drama concerning an attorney continuing her law practice while coping with her husband, a former state attorney trying to rebuild his political career after a major scandal.
The huge success of Scott’s film ‘Gladiator’ (2000) has been credited with reviving the nearly defunct “sword and sandal” historical genre. The film was a massive commercial success and earned Best Actor Awards around the globe for leading man Russell Crowe.
Scott then turned to ‘Hannibal’, the sequel to Jonathan Demme’s ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. In 2001, Scott released the war film, ‘Black Hawk Down’, which further established his position as a critically and financially successful film maker. The film won two Oscars.
In 2003 Scott directed ‘Matchstick Men’, starring Nicholas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman. It received mostly positive reviews and performed moderately at the box office. In 2005 he made the modestly successful ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, a movie about the Crusades which consciously sought to connect history to current events. The Moroccan government sent the Moroccan cavalry as extras in the epic battle scenes.
Unhappy with the theatrical version of the film (which he blamed on paying too much attention to the opinions of preview audiences), Scott supervised a director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, which was released on DVD in 2006. In an interview to promote the latter, when asked if he was against previewing in general, Scott stated: “It depends who’s in the driving seat. If you’ve got a lunatic doing my job, then you need to preview. But a good director should be experienced enough to judge what he thinks is the correct version to go out into the cinema.”
Scott teamed up again with Gladiator star Russell Crowe, directing the movie ‘A Good Year’, based on the best-selling book. The film was released on 10 November 2006, soon after, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and Subsidiary studio 20th Century Fox (who backed the film) dismissed A Good Year as “a flop” at a shareholders’ meeting only a few days after the film’s release.
Scott’s next directorial work was on gritty ‘American Gangster’, the story of real-life Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas. He was the third director to attempt the project after Antoine Fuqua and Terry George. Denzel Washington and Benicio del Toro had been cast in the initial Steven Zallian scripted project under the working title Tru Blu, both actors having been paid salaries of $20 m and $15 m respectively without doing any production on the film. Following George’s departure, Scott took over the project in early 2006. He had Zaillian rewrite the script to focus on the dynamic between Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts. Washington signed back on to the project as Lucas, and Crowe signed on to play Roberts. The film finally premiered in November 2007 to positive reviews and good box office.
In late 2008 Scott released the Middle-East set espionage thriller, ‘Body of Lies’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Crowe once again which opened to luke-warm ticket-sales and mixed reviews. Scott directed an adaptation of ‘Robin Hood’, which starred Russell Crowe in the title role and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian, and Max von Sydow and Mark Strong in key roles. The movie was released on 13 May 2010 in Australia and 14 May 2010 in America to mixed reviews.
Scott’s next film is ‘Prometheus‘, touted as a semi-prequel to his breakthrough hit, Alien. The internet is buzzing with theories as to exactly what the movie is about. It is due for release in July 2012.
Scott has been nominated for three Academy Awards for Directing, as well as Golden Globe and Emmy Awards. He was knighted in the 2003 New Year honours.
1991 brought Cape Fear, a remake of a cult 1962 movie of the same name, and the director’s seventh collaboration with De Niro. Another foray into the mainstream, the film was a stylized thriller taking its cues heavily from Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Laughton’s ‘The Night of the Hunter’ (1955). Cape Fear received a mixed critical reception and was lambasted in many quarters for its scenes depicting misogynistic violence. However, the lurid subject matter did give Scorsese a chance to experiment with a dazzling array of visual tricks and effects. The film garnered two Oscar nominations. Earning eighty million dollars domestically, it would stand as Scorsese’s most commercially successful release until The Aviator (2004), and then The Departed (2006).
The opulent and handsomely mounted The Age of Innocence (1993) was on the surface a huge departure for Scorsese, a period adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel about the constrictive high society of late-19th Century New York. It was highly lauded by critics upon original release, but was a box office bomb. As noted in Scorsese on Scorsese by editor/interviewer Ian Christie, the news that Scorsese wanted to make a film about a 19th Century failed romance raised many eyebrows among the film fraternity all the more when Scorsese made it clear that it was a personal project and not a studio for-hire job.
Recently, it has started to come back into the public eye, especially in countries such as the UK and France, but still is largely neglected in North America. The film earned five Academy Award nominations (including for Scorsese for Best Adapted Screenplay), winning the Costume Design Oscar.
1995’s expansive Casino, like The Age of Innocence before it, focused on a tightly wound male whose well-ordered life is disrupted by the arrival of unpredictable forces. The fact that it was a violent gangster film made it more palatable to fans of the director who perhaps were baffled by the apparent departure of the earlier film. Critically, however, Casino received mixed notices. In large part this was due to its huge stylistic similarities to his earlier Goodfellas, and its excessive violence that garnered it a reputation as possibly the most violent American gangster film ever made.
Scorsese still found time for a four hour documentary in 1995 offering a thorough trek through American cinema. It covered the silent era to 1969, a year after which Scorsese began his feature career, stating “I wouldn’t feel right commenting on myself or my contemporaries.”
If The Age of Innocence alienated and confused some fans, then Kundun (1997) went several steps further, offering an account of the early life of the Dalai Lama, the People’s Liberation Army’s entering of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama’s subsequent exile to India. Not least a departure in subject matter, Kundun also saw Scorsese employing a fresh narrative and visual approach. Traditional dramatic devices were substituted for a trance-like meditation achieved through an elaborate tableau of colourful visual images.
Bringing Out the Dead (1999) was a return to familiar territory, with the director and writer Paul Schrader constructing a pitch-black comic take on their own earlier Taxi Driver. Like previous Scorsese-Schrader collaborations, its final scenes of spiritual redemption explicitly recalled the films of Robert Bresson.
(It’s also worth noting that the film’s incident-filled nocturnal setting is reminiscent of After Hours.) It received generally positive reviews, although not the universal critical acclaim of some of his other films.
With a production budget said to be in excess of $100 million, Gangs of New York was Scorsese’s biggest and arguably most mainstream venture to date. Like The Age of Innocence, it was set in 19th-century New York, although focusing on the other end of the social scale (and like that film, also starring Daniel Day Lewis). The film also marked the first collaboration between Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who since then has become a fixture in later Scorsese films.
The production was highly troubled with many rumors referring to the director’s conflict with Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein. Despite denials of artistic compromise, Gangs of New York revealed itself to be the director’s most conventional film: standard film tropes which the director had traditionally avoided, such as characters existing purely for exposition purposes and explanatory flashbacks, here surfaced in abundance. The film still received generally positive reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 75% of the reviews they tallied for the film were positive and summarizing the critics by saying “Though flawed, the sprawling, messy Gangs of New York is redeemed by impressive production design and Day-Lewis’s electrifying performance.”
Gangs of New York earned Scorsese his first Golden Globe for Best Director. In February 2003, Gangs of New York received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, however it did not win in any category.