Originally published in the Once Upon A Time In Hollywood special issue of Birth.Movies.Death magazine in 2019.
Quentin Tarantino has famously said that he will make ten films, then retire. Whether or not that ends up coming true – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is his ninth film, after all – is open for debate. What’s more certain, though, is that Tarantino will not be making the various projects he’s hinted at over the years. Tarantino’s career is littered with abandoned and merely daydreamed-of films, and some of them are pretty surprising.
Tarantino is known for making films particular to his own sensibilities, but he’s been courted by blockbuster producers before – and even considered some franchise projects himself. Studios made aggressive offers after Reservoir Dogs, because he was a hot talent, and after Death Proof, because he needed a hit. Among the projects briefly considered, then abandoned:
- A Luke Cage movie in the mid-’90s for then only-a-license-holder Marvel, to star Laurence Fishburne;
- A remake of Westworld from producer Joel Silver, which would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger;
- The reboot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.;
- Green Lantern; and
- A Tom Cruise vehicle of some description that Tarantino mentioned in passing one time.
Twice, Tarantino has come a little closer to hopping aboard a major franchise. In the early 2000s, he met with Pierce Brosnan to discuss making a James Bond film, in his own style, based on Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. Obviously, Casino Royale ended up getting made, but by completely different people – much like the other projects listed above. Would he still consider Bond? Nope – that ship has sailed, he says. They had their chance.
More recently, and more strangely, is Tarantino’s Star Trek project. Successfully pitched to Paramount in 2017, and given a full writers’-room treatment, it was at one point set to be the next film in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, though the TREK films were subsequently put on hold. As recently as May 2019, Tarantino says it’s still “a very big possibility,” that a script has been written, and that he intends to resume discussions after Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is released. Karl Urban says the story is “bananas,” and given that the project would have pitted Kirk, Spock, and friends posing as Prohibition-era gangsters in order to repair a derelict USS Enterprise, he’s probably not kidding.
One thing Tarantino is exceptionally good at is talking about all the movies he’d like to make, which means there’s now a small library of unwritten flights of fancy borne of his encyclopedic film knowledge. Generally speaking, these only represent the director talking about the movies he likes and would like to try, but the potential for some of these with Tarantino at the helm is painfully tantalising:
- An original superhero film;
- A children’s movie;
- A science fiction film;
- A screwball romantic comedy in the vein of Howard Hawks;
- A softcore sexploitation movie, which he’s reluctant to do due to it likely revealing all his kinks;
- A ‘70s-style disaster movie a la Airport;
- A gangster movie in the 1930s WB mould; and
- A film of some sort set in Australia.
Though Tarantino is rightly best-known for creating his own characters and stories, he’s also a big enough fan of pre-existing ones that he’s considered doing adaptations of them. His uncomfortable feelings towards Jackie Brown, the odd duck in his filmography given its adaptation status, pretty much preclude these from happening, but the following notions have arisen, with varying degrees of plausibility:
- A film adaptation of crime/spy literary franchise Modesty Blaise, a straight-to-video version of which he ended up executive-producing;
- Following Jackie Brown, further adaptations of Elmore Leonard novels, including Killshot, Freaky Deaky, Bandits, and a falsely-rumoured secret production of Western 40 Lashes Less One, inspiration from which can be found in Kill Bill and Django Unchained;
- An adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel Less Than Zero;
- A remake of Lucio Fulci’s 1977 psychological horror film The Psychic, whose score was used memorably in Kill Bill, which would have starred Bridget Fonda;
- An adaptation of Len Deighton’s Berlin Game trilogy of Cold War spy novels;
- A rumoured, but denied, remake of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, starring – of all people – Britney Spears.
But originals are what QT is known for, and he’s discussed a number of films over the years that fans have clamored for – and that they’ll likely never get to see. Predictably, the most sought-after unmade Tarantino films are sequels.
One of the earliest rumoured Tarantino sequels would have teamed up two of his most famous characters: Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Reservoir Dogs’ Mr. Blonde, Vic Vega (Michael Madsen). The Vega Brothers film would have followed Vincent working for Marcellus Wallace in Amsterdam (presumably eating Royales with Cheese), with brother Vic coming to visit. Madsen says both he and Travolta are still keen to do it, but given that it’s a prequel – both characters were killed in their respective films – the teamup seems unlikely.
Similarly unlikely, given how Tarantino’s cinematic interests have changed, is a third volume to Kill Bill. A sequel to the revenge saga has been talked about since the original films came out, and for a while it looked like it was actually going to happen. The film would have taken place a decade after the events of original two-parter, exploring Beatrix Kiddo’s relationship with her daughter – and more pointedly, with Vernita Green’s daughter, who witnessed Beatrix killing her mother in Volume One. Tarantino has been silent on the Kill Bill 3 front of late, so we’ll probably have to be satisfied with just the two movies.
Not quite a sequel, but certainly a spinoff, would be Killer Crow. In its original draft, Inglourious Basterds had yet another story thread, following a squad of black WWII soldiers who desert and wreak revenge on the white officers who did them wrong. Then, hunted by both the Nazis and their own ex-commanders, they go on the warpath, likely killing a swathe of bad guys on their way to neutral Switzerland. It would have explored a number of issues present in blaxploitation cinema, and would certainly fit in with the director’s other period revenge films, Basterds and Django Unchained. According to Tarantino, the script needs polish, and he’s likely moved on from it, but it’s fun to imagine what Basterds would have looked like with Killer Crow merged in.
There’s one last thus-far unmade Tarantino project, too, and it’d be his first with a real historical figure as its central character. Specifically, it would deal with Tarantino’s “favourite American who ever lived,” John Brown, who helped kickstart the abolitionist movement in the 1850s by killing five supporters of slavery. He later commanded troops in a key battle that led to the American Civil War, and was hanged in Virginia as the first American ever convicted of treason. A controversial figure throughout history, with various accounts depicting him as a hero or a terrorist, Brown seems like the perfect subject material for Tarantino. His story has violence, righteous anger, thorny moral issues, a complex and flawed central character, and would be a hot subject in today’s heated political environment.
In 2009, Tarantino said a John Brown film would “probably be one of the last movies” he would ever make, and his latter-career output almost feels like it’s paving a path towards it. Whatever his tenth film ends up being, though, we’ve got a whole alternate universe’s worth of unmade Tarantino films to imagine.