Interview exclusive: Tarantino hates feet
Quentin Tarantino on the artistic reasons behind 6 of his famous foot shots
When I meet Quentin Tarantino at the hotel where he has been doing press junkets for his latest film, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, one of the first things we start talking about is the popular notion that he has a foot fetish, which he is quick to deny.
“Oh, God. No. I fucking hate feet. Hate them,” he says.
I am shocked by this, as his films are full of lingering foot shots, which begs the obvious question: “Why include so many, if you hate them so much?”
“For the story,” he tells me. “I can defend every single shot of every single one of my movies.”
I accept his challenge.
Pulp Fiction, 1994
MC: When you introduce Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace, you do it with a tracking shot that follows her feet. Why is that?
QT: Because I didn’t want the audience to see what she looked like, not at first. I did the same thing with Bill in Kill Bill Vol. 1 — we only see his hands and hear his voice.
MC: But here it’s her feet.
QT: Well, yeah. Bill was sitting the whole time, whereas Mia is walking into the lounge where Vincent is waiting for her. I could keep her feet in shot the whole time; not her hands.
MC: But, you teased Bill for an entire film. With Mia, we follow her feet for a half-dozen seconds, hear her voice, then you cut to her face in the car outside Jack Rabbit Slim’s.
MC: Well, I’m merely suggesting that you could have introduced her differently. Perhaps tracked her from behind so we see her full body, not just her feet?
QT: But that would have given away how she looked. Everyone would have seen her black bob wig.
MC: But she was on the poster …
QT: Look, man. It was a creative choice, OK? My original idea was her interviewing Vincent with a super-8 camera.
MC: Oh yes, I’ve seen that scene.
QT: But I cut it as it was just a bit …
QT: Yes. But I have no regrets. I really like how that shot turned out. Oh, with one exception: I wish we’d cleaned the floor properly beforehand. You can see all the dust her feet pick up on the soles.
Jackie Brown, 1997
MC: Jackie Brown, in my opinion your strongest film, sees a close-up of Bridget Fonda’s feet as she stretches them out onto a coffee table; she’s wearing a number of toe rings.
QT: Yeah, right next to De Niro’s whisky glass. Isn’t that gross? Bleh.
MC: So, why do that?
QT: This was a reference to an obscure Swedish film I’m sure you’ve never heard of.
MC: I’m a cinephile, just like you: try me.
QT: OK, it’s called Øer dis öfterblegen, Part III.
MC: Oh, the porn film where they have that orgy in the snow which is then broken up by a mad bear?
QT: … I didn’t think you’d know it.
MC: I remember it. Hard to forget! What was the reference?
QT: Well, there is this character in that film, Ølga Übermienerschleischenfersten, who has all of these rings on her toes …
MC: So, is Fonda’s character, Melanie Ralston, based on her? If memory serves, she was a very different character, the only non sexually promiscuous woman in that entire film.
QT: Yeah, but she was blond.
Kill Bill Vol. 1, 2003
MC: Kill Bill Vol. 1 has this long shot where we sit in the back seat with Uma as she tries to regain control of her body after being in a coma for years.
QT: Yeah, it’s gross. I hated filming that, and had a barf bag on standby the whole time.
But it had to be in the movie.
QT: We needed to see her being vulnerable, OK? Physically vulnerable. If she just woke up from her coma, and she was feeling fine — I mean, she’s a fucking superhero in this universe, right? — where’s the tension? She’d just kill her way out of that place.
MC: But it’s a hospital …
QT: A hospital that employs some really bad motherfuckers, yeah.
MC: Couldn’t you have skipped the whole rape thing? Just had that amazing reaction shot Uma does of realizing she’s not dead, that Bill shot her, and that she’s no longer pregnant, then just cut to her in her car, ready to kill?
QT: No! No! I reject your hypothesis. She needed to be physically weak, for us to care more for her.
MC: But the audience just saw her get shot in the head when she was pregnant.
QT: Still. Then of course that meant she had to recover somehow.
MC: So you then make us watch a three-minute close-up of her trying to wiggle her big toe?
QT: Exactly. It had to be done.
Death Proof, 2007
MC: There are a number of shots in this movie of Jungle Julia’s feet — sticking out of the car window, hanging over the balustrade at the bar, landing, severed, on the road … But, arguably the most disturbing scene is when Kurt Russell’s character —
QT: Stuntman Mike.
MC: When Stuntman Mike licks his finger and drags it across the sole of Rosario Dawson’s — uh, Abernathy’s — foot.
QT: Yeah, that was creepy, huh?
MC: Yes, as I said: disturbing. Can you tell me why you included that?
QT: Because he’s creepy! This is a guy with a lot of pent-up sexual energy, energy he doesn’t know how to get rid of in a normal, healthy way.
MC: So … he licks his victims’ feet before killing them with his car?
QT: Well, sometimes, yeah!
MC: Wouldn’t that alert them to his being dangerous?
QT: If they caught him, sure.
MC: How did they not catch him doing that? That made no sense to me. I feel like if someone touched the sole of my foot when I was sleeping, especially with a wet finger, I’d reflexively kick them in the face.
QT: … Maybe Abernathy has thick skin?
Inglourious Basterds, 2009
MC: There’s a shot in Inglorious Basterds I’d like to talk about. The one where “The Jew-hunter” Hans Landa proves Bridget von Hammersmark’s treachery, by placing a shoe on her foot.
QT: Yep. What about it?
MC: A reference to Cinderella?
QT: Well, duh! Of course it is. The whole film is a fairy tale. I mean, come on, I preface it with “Once upon a time …” and the protagonists actually kill Hitler. I wanted to take some of those Grimm Brothers tropes and flip them. So, instead of the beautiful maiden getting her prince by having the shoe fit, it’s actually her undoing.
I really like that scene. Though you’ll see that Christoph is as squeamish as me when it comes to feet, and touches it the least amount possible …
MC: Okay, if I accept your thesis here, you’re saying that the shoe proves her guilt, and Landa kills her for it?
MC: By strangling her to death?
MC: Which was actually you strangling actress Diane Kruger until she lost consciousness?
QT: … Yes.
MC: Before he then goes and betrays the Nazis in the exact same way?
QT: I really like that scene.
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, 2019
MC: Finally, we have your latest film, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. I have to say, there are a lot of foot shots in this movie.
QT: Yeah, well, it’s set in the sixties. You know, hippies and all that.
MC: Sure, but I’d just like to read you a statistic here. Leonardo DiCaprio’s feet get one minute thirty-four seconds of screen-time; Brad Pitt’s feet are on screen for thirty-nine seconds; Margot Robbie’s for one minute twenty-six seconds and Margaret Qualley’s get a full minute to themselves.
QT: Is that … Is that accurate?
MC: I timed them myself.
MC: Can we start with DiCaprio? Why —
QT: No, I … Look, I need to go.
MC: But, you said you could defend every shot …
QT: Speaking of shots: I need a drink.
MC: Come on, Quentin. Can’t we —
QT: No, we cant. I’m shutting your butt down.
QT: Your butt. I’m shutting it down. Your butt is now shut. Down.
And that was that. Tarantino leapt out of his seat and was gone. My eyes darted around the busy room, where the stars of his ninth film were talking with subdued passion about the writer-director and his work.
I stretched out my legs, and wiggled my aching toes.
I wished he was still there so I could ask him for a foot massage.
In these fake news, deep-fake times it’s important to know what really happened, and this interview did not take place. Just a little fun, that comes from a place of love.
A former columnist for Cracked, Matt Cowan’s genre fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. He won first prize in the New Deal Writing Competition 2019 and was shortlisted for the TSS Flash Fiction 400. On Medium, his stories have been published by Lit Up, P.S. I Love You, The Weekly Knob, The Hit Job and The Writing Cooperative.