Quentin Tarantino's most controversial moments

Sam Ashurst
Contributor
Director Quentin Tarantino gestures as he arrives for the Berlin premiere of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood", 2019. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch_

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is finally in UK cinemas, and - as is always the case when a Quentin Tarantino movie lands - it’s caused a whole bunch of controversy. Whether it’s the criticism that Margot Robbie doesn’t have enough lines, or the backlash around Tarantino’s portrayal of Bruce Lee, it’s led to a lot of online conversations.

But, obviously, this isn’t the first time Tarantino’s caused intense discussion among film fans (and beyond). We’ve rounded up some of the more serious examples of all the times QT’s behaviour caused major offence.

Uma Thurman’s crash

Quentin Tarantino (R) gives the 'V' sign as he stands with actress Uma Thurman (R) during red carpet arrivals for the world premier of Tarantino's film, 'Kill Bill Vol. 2'. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

One of the darkest entries on this list, even if it has led to a positive resolution between the director and Thurman (who he once called his muse), Tarantino was directly responsible for the actress receiving serious - potentially life-threatening - injuries on his set, after insisting she perform a stunt herself.

“Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear no, like any director,” she told The New York Times. “He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. He said: ‘I promise you the car is fine. It’s a straight piece of road.’” He persuaded her to do it, and instructed: “ ‘Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair won’t blow the right way and I’ll make you do it again.’ But that was a deathbox that I was in. The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road,” Thurman said.

Read more: Tarantino hits career high with 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood'

“The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me,” she says. “I felt this searing pain and thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to walk again,’” she says. “When I came back from the hospital in a neck brace with my knees damaged and a large massive egg on my head and a concussion, I wanted to see the car and I was very upset. Quentin and I had an enormous fight, and I accused him of trying to kill me. And he was very angry at that, I guess understandably, because he didn’t feel he had tried to kill me.”

Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino on the set of Kill Bill Vol. 1.

Tarantino responded to the article with an interview of his own, which presented his side of the story. “Uma was in turmoil about the uprising against me this whole weekend. She blames me for not talking to Maureen Dowd, saying, it’s your own damn fault. She never meant this to roll over onto me. We’ve been talking about it ad nauseum and I feel bad because she has been doing a Broadway play, at the same time.”

“The whole weekend, we’ve been talking. The uproar that happened against me, she was not prepared for. We have a long complicated history. We have been dealing with it for 22 years. We’re both one of the closest people in each other’s lives.”

Thurman responded with an Instagram post, sharing the notorious footage of the crash directly, while absolving Tarantino. “Quentin Tarantino, was deeply regretful and remains remorseful about this sorry event, and gave me the footage years later so I could expose it and let it see the light of day, regardless of it most likely being an event for which justice will never be possible.

he also did so with full knowledge it could cause him personal harm, and I am proud of him for doing the right thing and for his courage.”

Django Unchained action figures

Django Unchained's banned action figures (credit: Weinstein Company)

Tarantino has long been criticised for his use of the n-word - which doesn’t appear in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, though there are slurs against Mexicans - so the news he was making an exploitation movie about slavery was greeted with serious trepidation.

“American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti western,” director Spike Lee, who’s repeatedly spoken out against Tarantino’s language, said. “It was a Holocaust. My ancestors are slaves. Stolen from Africa. I will honour them."

One thing people probably weren’t expecting to be offended by were a bunch of action figures. But when the Weinstein Company allowed a set of toys to be released, including action figures portraying slave characters, it caused serious upset.

Read more: Quentin Tarantino defends the portrayal of Bruce Lee

Najee Ali, director of the Los Angeles civil rights organisation Project Islamic Hope, said the toys were "a slap in the face of our ancestors" and called for their removal from sale.

"We were outraged," Ali said. "We feel it trivialises the horrors of slavery and what African Americans experienced."

The toys were indeed removed from sale, with the Weinstein Company making the following statement. "In light of the reaction to the Django Unchained action figures we are removing them from distribution. We have tremendous respect for the audience and it was never our intent to offend anyone.”

“Action figures have been created for all of Quentin's films, including Inglourious Basterds, and as a matter of course [were] produced for Django Unchained as well. They were meant to be collectibles for people 17 years and older, which is the audience for the film."

Protesting against the police

When Tarantino took to the streets to join protests against police brutality following a series of deaths of young black men at the hands of officers, police unions responded by promising to boycott The Hateful Eight, itself a film about perilous race relations.

“I was under the impression I was an American and that I had first amendment rights, and there was no problem with me going to an anti-police brutality protest and speaking my mind,” Tarantino told Chris Hayes during the news and opinion show All In. “Just because I was at an anti-police brutality protest doesn’t mean I’m anti-police.”

“There’s a lot of statistics going around about how many unarmed people have been killed by the police, but we want them to stop being numbers. We want them to stop being statistics and start being people who were once living and breathing and are now dead,” he said.

Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained.

When asked about the allegation from Republican congressman Ted Poe of Texas that he was inciting violence against law enforcement, Tarantino responded, “That’s their way: they’re being inflammatory; they’re slandering me,” he said.

“I’m not a cop hater. Anybody who acknowledges that there’s a problem in law enforcement in this country right now is considered by law enforcement to be part of the problem – whether that be me, whether that be Bill de Blasio or whether that be President Barack Obama.”

Taking on Disney

If there’s one golden rule in the movie business, it’s don’t mess with the Mouse House. But Tarantino was so annoyed by Disney’s insistence one of his favourite cinemas pull The Hateful Eight to make way for The Force Awakenshe went on the record with his furious anger.

"It was real bad news and it f***ing p***ed me off," the director said on the latest episode of Howard Stern. "They are going out of their way to f*** me."

"It’s vindictive, it’s mean, and it’s extortion," Tarantino said.

Asked a year later if he was over it, Tarantino said, “No, they f***ed me over,” adding he would "never work (with Disney) in any way, shape or form after what they did to me.”

To be fair, Disney is doing fairly well without him, so we’re sure they don’t care.

Defending Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski is one of the most notorious figures in Hollywood, still in exile from America because of rape charges held against him after he raped a 13-year old girl in 1977.

Bizarrely, Tarantino decided to defend the director during an appearance on shock jock Howard’s Sterns radio show in 2003.

“He had sex with a minor,” Tarantino said. “That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down – it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world … she wanted to have [sex]! Dated the guy!”

The interview resurfaced last year, and caused a major backlash, Samantha Geimer responded, you can see her reaction in the video above.

The response lead to a rare public apology from Quentin.

“I want to publicly apologise 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 realise 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.”

Movie violence

The spectre of the debate around movie violence has been following Tarantino since he first allowed Mr Blonde to cut off a cop’s ear in Reservoir Dogs. With each of his films containing some sort of blood bath (and with Kill Bill Vol 1 essentially being a feature-length arterial spray).

Read more: Tom Cruise nearly starred in 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood'

The debate reached its peak with an argumentative exchange between the director and San Francisco film critic Jan Wohl. It probably contains Tarantino’s most definitive statement about why he includes violence in his films. “Because it’s so much fun, Jan - get it!”

“Shutting your b*** down”

This one’s directly related to the movie violence debate, but deserves its own entry because it’s so bizarre.

Asked by Channel 4 news’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy about the link between movie violence and real-life violence, Tarantino refused to respond.

“It’s my job to ask you to [flesh out the topic]” Guru-Murthy said.

“And I’m shutting your b*** down!” Tarantino replied, accidentally creating an iconic instant catchphrase.

"I'm not answering your question," he said. "I'm not your slave and you're not my master… It's none of your damn business what I think about that."

"The reason I don't want to talk about it is because I've already talked about it… I'm already on the record," he said. "I have explained this many times in the last 20 years."

Criticising movie composers

Compared to some of the topics we’ve covered, this is a bit silly, but Tarantino still received some backlash after criticising film composers, by saying they operate in a ghetto compared to the likes of Beethoven and Mozart.

He was trying to say that his composer Ennio Morricone deserved to be mentioned alongside the greats, but accidentally offended everyone in the room.

Check out the video above for the whole awkward speech, which also includes Tarantino claiming that he’s the first director to win Morricone a Golden Globe, which isn’t true either.

It’s a bizarre statement by someone who loves movies so much, but at least his heart was - sort of - in the right place. Even if his brain wasn’t.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is in UK cinemas now.