In 1982—a full decade before the release of Reservoir Dogs—Quentin Tarantino was a young cinephile eager to interview John Milius for a planned book. Over on the website for L.A.’s New Beverly Cinema (which Tarantino also owns), the filmmaker shared a portion of his first conversation with Milius, who earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war epic Apocalypse Now. Tarantino introduces the text by saying, “This interview with writer-director John Milius was conducted when I was twenty years old (and boy does it show)”—and it really does, in an endearing way. The filmmaker continues:
The last film he had done at the time was Conan the Barbarian. I just called up his assistant and told her I was writing a book, and she set me up with an interview with him. I met with him twice for the interview. The first time was in his office on the Paramount lot. The second time was on the set of the film Uncommon Valor, which he was producing. He told me he didn’t want Gene Hackman for the lead, he wanted James Arness! Later I was to become friends with Big John. At the beginning of ‘95, before the Academy Awards, I was taken duck hunting by John Milius, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. John and I sat in a duck blind all day, sipping whiskey out of a flask, talking about movies and shooting the tail feathers off of ducks.
As anyone who’s seen the 2013 documentary about the filmmaker can tell you, Milius is a fascinating (and entertaining) interview subject, and given that Tarantino is famously chatty, it’s not surprising that the transcribed text represents just a fraction of their interviews. The pair discuss The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean, Conan The Barbarian, and then there’s the below exchange, in which Milius throws a little shade at Paul Schrader:
QT: You produced Hardcore for Paul Schrader?
JM: Yes. A wonderful script that turned out to be a lousy movie. I blame Paul’s direction for that.
QT: I heard at one point it was going to be Warren Beatty in the George C. Scott role. And absurdly going to be Beatty’s wife who runs off to do porno films and not his daughter?
JM: That was just embarrassing. (Beatty) Seducing Paul like a girl, talking him into it.
QT: Schrader said they made him change the ending from what he’d originally written?
JM: (Milius snorts) Nobody made him change anything, he did exactly what he wanted.
This leads to the two discussing how Schrader originally wrote Rolling Thunder (which stars a young Tommy Lee Jones) for Milius to direct, and ends on this nice exchange:
QT: I interviewed the director John Flynn, and he said Schrader’s script was un-filmable?
JM: No…it was terrific. (lost in thought, remembering it) Boy it was a good script, with wonderful stuff in it. Paul at his best.