“The Movie Critic” Was Supposed To Be Quentin Tarantino’s Final Film. Why Did It Fall Apart?

“I trust myself as a writer, I trust my process,” Quentin Tarantino declared onstage at the Adobe Max creative conference in 2016. “I never try to take anything out too soon. If I do, I realize it, and I put it back.” The acclaimed filmmaker added: “Not every film needs to be made. Not every movie should be made.”

And one of those movies that will not be made — as the world learned April 17 — is The Movie Critic, which was billed as Tarantino’s 10th and final film. The project initially focused on a writer working for a fictional porn magazine in the late 1970s and then it quietly evolved, amid a flurry of rewrites, into something resembling a spinoff of his ninth film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (with some potential meta twists, as we’ll explain later).

The decision came as quite a shock given the project was expected to film at least one sequence this year, and then go into full production in early 2025 with an A-list talent attached (Brad Pitt, reteaming with Tarantino for a third time). “I don’t recall him rewriting so much and pushing a start date once he had a movie in mind,” says one agency partner.

A studio was never officially announced, but two sources close to the now-scuttled project tell The Hollywood Reporter that Sony Pictures was firmly on board after ushering 2019’s Once Upon a Time to blockbuster status. That film grossed $377.4 million globally to rank as the writer-director’s biggest movie behind Django Unchained ($425.4 million). Tarantino felt like he found a new compatriot in Sony studio chief Tom Rothman after having made nearly all his previous films with Harvey Weinstein. Sources say the mood on the Sony lot isn’t one of disappointment, however. 

Those who know Tarantino (who had no comment for this story) aren’t saying precisely why he shelved the film, only that he had grown more excited by other ideas. “He has a lot of scripts that he’s thrown away,” says one longtime talent representative familiar with Tarantino’s thinking. The filmmaker had also previously emphasized that he liked the idea of “going out on top,” which perhaps added legacy-preserving pressure to his selection of a final film. Tarantino and Sony still have every intention of partnering on whichever project the filmmaker makes instead. “He is a pure artist,” says a source close to the filmmaker, who noted his nine movies have all been original stories in an era rife with familiar IP franchises (with one caveat — Jackie Brown was adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel). 

Tarantino originally confirmed his intention to make The Movie Critic last year, saying it was “based on a guy who really lived but was never really famous, and he used to write movie reviews for a porno rag.” While that character-study description hardly sounded as grabby as the ideas behind some of his fan-favorite titles such as the Kill Bill films and Pulp Fiction, few doubted the result would be anything less than an event picture. With the casting of Pitt to reprise his laconic-cool stuntman character Cliff Booth, The Movie Critic may have morphed into something more akin to his novelization of Once Upon, which had a lot more of Booth’s story than was seen in the movie (Tarantino reportedly spent five years writing Once Upon as a novel before deciding to make it as a movie — again showing that he can pivot deep into a process). 

The film’s exact story details are not known, but sources familiar with the project dropped a couple intriguing ideas to THR that Tarantino was toying with. One was that the Hollywood-set tale could serve as a Tarantino goodbye meta-verse with the director’s earlier movies existing in the same era of The Movie Critic (which could work, given that his films have a ’70s vibe). That way, Tarantino could bring back some of the stars of his earlier work to reprise their iconic characters in “movie within a movie” moments, or to play fictional versions of themselves as the actors who played those characters. Another idea was that the film could include a movie theater where some characters could potentially interact with a budding future auteur — such as a 16-year-old Tarantino, who worked as an usher at a Torrence porn theater (“I was tall enough to get away with it,” Tarantino once explained).

In recent months, the production has been — as Jules Winnfield might put it — beset on all sides by the tyrannies of casting rumors. At one point, The Movie Critic was going to shoot a short sequence in February with actor-wrestler Paul Walter Hauser, but a source close to the actor says “he was never involved.” There were also reports that previous Tarantino stars John Travolta, Jamie Foxx and Margot Robbie were going to take part in his cinematic farewell. There was even speculation that Tom Cruise would be in the film. Cruise, in Tarantino lore, was first eyed for Pitt’s Once Upon a Time role, but scheduling forced him to bow out. Fans were shipping a Cruise-Tarantino pairing, but The Movie Critic wasn’t actually going to bring them together. According to sources, Cruise hadn’t even met with the filmmaker for a role. 

One person who did meet with Tarantino, however, was actress Olivia Wilde. Wilde is said to have sat with Tarantino this year, though it’s not clear if that was for a role or just a general meeting. A source did point to a character in one draft of the script based on legendary film critic Pauline Kael.  

Another actor who might have been closing in on a role was David Krumholtz, last seen in Oppenheimer. Sources said Krumholtz was being eyed, though it’s unclear for what role.

Behind the scenes, Tarantino was surrounding himself with familiar collaborators. Producing the project was Stacey Sher, who produced The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained. And Victoria Thomas, who served as the casting director for the filmmaker’s Once Upon a Time, Hateful Eight and Django Unchained, was in the process of coming on board and is said to have been making some initial outreach to actors when the effort went belly up. 

One party definitely caught off guard: the California Film Commission, which last year conditionally granted Tarantino’s production banner L. Driver Productions more than $20 million to film in the state. As far as the commission is concerned, the movie is still an “active project” in its tax incentive program, notes a person familiar with the situation, who adds that a representative for Tarantino was in contact with the commission as recently as mid-April. The person said, “We’ve not been notified by them about dropping or pulling out or anything.”

The question now becomes: What next? Tarantino has been talking about retirement since as far back as 2009, when he said he wanted to quit directing films before he was 60 (the filmmaker turned 61 in March). He’s been talking about ending with 10 films since at least 2014. Some of his previously considered yet unmade projects include an R-rated Star Trek movie, a Kill Bill: Vol 3, and a Django and Zorro team-up. Whatever his eventual choice of project, the 10th-and-final designation will surely result in an unprecedented amount of fan and media anticipation for the film, which perhaps only adds to Tarantino’s self-generated burden to get his last one right. 

During that same creative conference eight years ago, Tarantino was excited about his 10-film plan and ending his directorial career with such an exclusive and enviable oeuvre (“Drop the mic, boom!” he exclaimed. “Tell everybody: ‘Match that shit!’”). He also mentioned a unique project he was toying with. “I’m working on a film critic project about the year in cinema 1970, especially in development of new Hollywood,” Tarantino said. “Am I doing it as a book? Am I doing it as a documentary? … I’m trying to figure out what to do with it.” 

Winston Cho contributed to this report.

A version of this story first appeared in the April 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top