Great Character Writing Tips from Quentin Tarantino’s Interviews from Charlie Rose

Put Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Rose into a room together and you get gold. Rose coaxes out superb insights and information from the great director that is not only interesting for fans to hear, but extremely helpful for writers and filmmakers who like to learn from the best.

Here are some great insights from Tarantino’s interviews with Rose that focus on creating characters. Whether you’re an author, playwright or a filmmaker, they are fascinating to hear.

Collaborate when Creating a Character

In Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 interview with Charlie Rose, they two discuss the process of adapting Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch into what ultimately became the underrated crime caper/blaxploitation movie Jackie Brown. At the 14:54 mark of the interview, Tarantino talks about collaborating with an actor when creating a character. He refers to himself (the writer) as the character’s father or mother, and when an actor comes on board, they become the lover that will ultimately take the child away from its parents and build a new life together. It’s a great way of describing that relationship.

Stay True to Your Characters

Another interesting point from the same interview comes from when Charlie Rose asks Tarantino about Spike Lee’s criticism about the ‘N’ word being used too often in Jackie Brown. Tarantino describes perfectly that it is being true to a character that results in the issue that Lee has with the film, not any issue of race. Here is the exact quote:

“As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write. I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them, and I demand to tell the truth, as I see they are.”

Martin McDonagh came across similar issues with his film In Bruges, and he defended it in almost exactly the same way, by stating that the character of Ray (Colin Farrell’s character) has racist tendencies, but the film doesn’t at all, and if you want to be truthful to a story and a character, you have to be prepared to explore sensibilities that differ from your own.

Let’s face it, if writers didn’t explore these themes and take risks with character, the world of arts and entertainment would be a pretty bland place to visit.

Let the Characters Guide Your Story

Following the release of Kill Bill Vol. 2 in 2004, Tarantino and Charlie Rose got together to talk about the wilderness years following Jackie Brown, which consisted of Quentin getting what he calls ‘writersitis’, and led to him writing Inglorious Basterds, before turning to Kill Bill to write something small, down and dirty instead before returning to it. Kill Bill then became the two-part epic we all know and love.

During this interview, Rose asks Tarantino a simple but fascinating question: “What makes a Quentin Tarantino script?” It puzzles the director at first, but then he gives a great insight into his writing process, which consists of getting his characters in a room together and letting them talk, and allowing them to guide him through the story based on their environment.

Give Your Audience Something To Talk/Argue About

A great moment in Tarantino’s 2009 appearance on Charlie Rose comes when Rose asks the director about creating a backstory for a character that the actor can use to hone their portrayal. When Tarantino mentions the rope burn around Aldo Raine’s (Brad Pitt) neck – which is never referenced in the film but is there for all to see – Rose says that he wanted to know where it came from. Tarantino’s response is great. Here’s the quote:

“It’s up to you to supply where that rope burn came from. If I wanted you to know I would’ve told you. I like the idea that if you contemplate why there is a rope burn there, and somebody else contemplates why there’s a rope burn there and then somebody else contemplates it, and three different people come up with three different reasons: That’s three different movies you all saw. I like that idea.”

Tarantino also mentions the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, which is one of the greatest debates to be had in cinema. What is inside? Does it matter? It keeps us talking about the film for decades after it was created, which is what every writer, filmmaker or artist dreams of.

YouTube keep deleting these interviews, but I’m sure you can find them somewhere if you keep digging, as you definitely should. Tarantino’s interviews with Charlie Rose really are superb, and give real insight into the creative process of some of the best artists working today.

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