Writer-director Quentin Tarantino has lived something of a charmed life. He’s a master auteur who, ever since Miramax Films picked up 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs,” was backed, supported, and nourished by one powerful patron: Harvey Weinstein. In some ways, Tarantino made movies in a bubble.
As Weinstein fell, Tarantino entered the real world in more ways than one. After asking for time to process, Tarantino had to acknowledge that when he dated then-girlfriend Mira Sorvino, she told him she had been assaulted by Weinstein. And so he did, in the New York Times last October, effectively distancing himself from his long-time mentor.
Now, Tarantino is forced to face his own behavior — not only with his muse Uma Thurman on the set of “Kill Bill,” but also on the promotional circuit for that film in 2003, when he insisted on telling Howard Stern that Roman Polanski rape victim was a “party girl.” His interview included the damning claim that “I don’t believe it’s rape, not at 13, not for these 13-year-old party girls.”
The next day, Geimer surfaced to insist that yes, by any definition, it was rape. On Wednesday, Tarantino contacted Geimer by phone to extend his apology. And here is his official statement to that effect:
I want to publicly apologize to Samantha Geimer for my cavalier remarks on “The Howard Stern Show” speculating about her and the crime that was committed against her. Fifteen years later, I realize how wrong I was. Ms. Geimer WAS raped by Roman Polanski. When Howard brought up Polanski, I incorrectly played devil’s advocate in the debate for the sake of being provocative. I didn’t take Ms. Geimer’s feelings into consideration and for that I am truly sorry.
So, Ms. Geimer, I was ignorant, and insensitive, and above all, incorrect.
I am sorry Samantha.
How the public and industry will react to Tarantino in the aftermath remains to be seen. In November, when #MeToo was brand new and Tarantino was navigating his move into life after Weinstein, five studios bid on his ninth movie and he chose Sony for his Charles Manson-era 1969 story. Will Sony — and Paramount, which is developing a “Star Trek” movie off the filmmaker’s pitch — feel the pressure to pull back on Tarantino?
I hope not. I am not alone in wanting Tarantino to keep making movies. He’s one of our finest and fearless filmmakers, no matter how idiotically he behaved on the Howard Stern Show. Who else could have envisioned Jews actually killing Hitler in “Inglourius Basterds” or slaves bucking their masters in “Django Unchained”? Political correctness is not his strong suit and never will be.
Telling a story with an historic record is a radical departure for Tarantino. It’s unknown what source materials he’s using and Tarantino has only adapted other people’s work once, when Elmore Leonard’s “Rum Punch” became “Jackie Brown.” While “Basterds” featured embellished supporting roles for Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, this would mark his first foray into a film with main characters from the real world, including Manson and the four members of his Manson family — who, on August 8, 1969 murdered five people including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, the wife of Polanski, in their Benedict Canyon home.
When Polanski was revealed as a main character in the movie, online reaction was swift and negative. In the #MeToo and #TimesUp environment, Polanski is no longer regarded with sympathy. Along with Woody Allen, it’s safe to say that the filmmaker, who won an Oscar for “The Pianist” after years of living in exile in Paris, is toxic.
Now Tarantino is working to purge his own mistakes, with Thurman telling The New York Times what happened to her at the hands of Weinstein as well as Tarantino, when the director did not protect her from driving a convertible that crashed in “Kill Bill.” However, Tarantino chose not to speak to Maureen Dowd and took much of the brunt. (Somehow, others — including producer Lawrence Bender — were left out of the piece.) At that point, Tarantino went to Deadline’s Mike Fleming and told his side of the story; Thurman seemed to forgive him.
For Tarantino, the stakes are high. This extends well past any #MeToo moment, or the success of his first film without Weinstein. By his own estimation, he is coming to the end of his cinematic legacy: He’s long said that he wants to make just 10 films. So while he could always change his mind about his career path (as Steven Soderbergh did), he’s down to the last two. “Hopefully, the way I define success when I finish my career,” he told the 2016 Adobe Max conference, “is that i’m considered one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived. And going further, a great artist, not just filmmaker.”