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Quentin Tarantino Directed ‘ER’ in One-Takes So NBC Would Be Forced to Use His Cut

Tarantino directed the 24th episode of "ER," which aired May 1995.

Quentin Tarantino arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Quentin Tarantino

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Julianna Margulies, and the cast of NBC’s landmark medical drama “ER” reunited this week on a Zoom call to benefit the Waterkeeper Alliance, the global clean water nonprofit. “ER” cast member Gloria Reuben serves as the president of the organization. Reuben participated in the event, which also included Anthony Edwards, Ming-Na Wen, Goran Visnjic, CCH Pounder, and more. When the conversation turned to directors struggling to vibe with the “ER” team, Margulies revealed the ingenious way Quentin Tarantino guaranteed NBC had to use his cut of the episode.

“When Quentin Tarantino came to direct us, he was such a big fan of the show, he only did one take,” Margulies said. “So they didn’t have a choice to edit. We would rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. We would do one take and he would go, ‘Great, let’s move on!’ And I asked him why he was doing that and he said, ‘It’ll be my cut no matter what.'”

Tarantino directed the 24th episode of the first season of “ER,” titled “Motherhood.” The episode was the penultimate installment of the show’s debut run. “Motherhood” aired May 11, 1995 and drew 33 million viewers. After his triumph with “Pulp Fiction” the year before, NBC of course was willing to have the hottest director around helm an episode of their new hit series.

The “ER” cast expressed frustration with directors who would come to set and only want to create sentimental episodes for the series without realizing the cast was pushing for continuity with their characters.

“People don’t understand that on our show, because they have to do prep and post, you can’t have the same director directing [every episode] like on a sitcom,” Clooney said. “So you’ll have a director who comes in who doesn’t really know the show, or directed it like four episodes ago, and they come in and they’ll be a kid dying or a woman dying, and he’s like, ‘Oh this makes you cry.” But you’re like, ‘I cried last week.’ It became our job, as all these actors would agree, to protect the characters. It’s not the director’s fault, they just didn’t see it. It was a fascinating time.”

Watch the full “ER” cast reunion in the video below.

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