The Austin Chronicle

Tarantino Sits in 'The Director's Chair'

By Richard Whittaker, August 13, 2014, 1:38pm, Picture in Picture

"I've been preparing for this interview for 22 years." Those are pretty much Robert Rodriguez's opening words as he sits down opposite his old friend Quentin Tarantino for his show The Director's Chair. The episode, debuting tonight on the El Rey Network, is as much bonding session as retrospective.

This is the third installment in this interview series with the simplest concept: Two directors, talking about directing. The first was a fan moment for Rodriguez, as he got the chance to sit down with the mighty John Carpenter. The second was a meeting of peers, as he talked with a true contemporary, the equally visually-driven Guillermo del Toro.

But this is a little different. This is two old friends chatting. The episode opens with Tarantino reminiscing about the pair hanging out in his first screening room (actually his old apartment on Crescent Heights in Los Angeles) before either of them had a studio credit. It's anecdotes like that – many drawn from notebooks Rodriguez has kept over the years – that seem like the fruit of careful research on the host's subject.

All that preparation pays off, because Rodriguez avoids every prepackaged question (and, trust me, it's actually tough to come up with an original question that an interviewee has never heard before). No one needs to hear more stories about his grindhouse childhood. Yet even the most hardcore fans will be surprised by how much Tarantino's oft-lambasted acting career, and especially his time in acting school, helped formulate him as a director and writer. Rodriguez isn't interested in headlines, but in real and serious questions about his friend's skill sets, and how he developed his approach to character and storytelling.

It makes sense that this episode is only part one of two, à la Kill Bill; this is the notoriously garrulous Tarantino, after all. The chronologically based interview cuts out just after Pulp Fiction (and, arguably, put a bullet in the skull of Tarantino's hated eighties). The anecdotes about play-acting Dino de Laurentiis' Flash Gordon and working on the Dolph Lundgren exercise video alone are worth admission for the chintz value, but when he touches on his relationship with his longtime editor, the late Sally Menke, it's a moment of a creator talking about a key collaborator.

The second half of the chat, airing later this month, will probably not be the end of this, since there will clearly be endless outtakes from everyone's favorite Oscar-winning motormouth. If this is what made the first cut, is it too much to hope for The Director's Chair: The Whole Bloody Affair?

El Rey presents The Director’s Chair with Quentin Tarantino Vol. 1, Wed. Aug. 13, 9pm ET/PT, 8pm Central. Vol. 2 debuts Wed., Aug. 27.

Copyright © 2017 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.