That One Guy: The Tarantino Edition

Well, over the holiday break, I got to see “Django Unchained.”  It was glorious.  Seriously, what a great film.  I’m not here to worship at the altar of  Quentin.  I do love the majority of his films, but let’s be honest; they’re not all home-runs.  Sometimes he barely gets on base (ahem…Jackie Brown, anyone?) But one of the things that I absolutely enjoy about QT’s body of work is how he continues certain themes and uses his favorite actors over and over (ahem…Sam Jackson, anyone?)  It’s like he has his own repertory theater group that stages all their favorite plays over and over, only instead of doing another stage production of “Picnic” or “Bus Stop” they pay homage to some of Tarantino’s favorite old-timey schlock and cheese.  It’s awesome.  Now, I won’t bore you with the obvious actors and roles.  You know these.  But Here are a few of Quentin’s supporting players and where you might know them from.  For example…

Tom Savini

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Okay, Tom is sort of a stretch, as he’s really more of a Robert Rodriguez minion.  But his appearance in some Rodriguez/Tarantino collaborations puts him on the list.  Tom is a Hollywood renaissance man, and has been directing, doing stunts, and makeup/SFX for years. One of his early film gigs was in the original “Dawn of the Dead” way back in 1978!  Most of you will probably recognize him as Sex Machine from “From Dusk Till Dawn.”  Yes, the guy with the cock-and-balls gun on his codpiece.  He’s also been involved with both “Creepshow” movies, the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” along with “Machete” and “Grindhouse.”  Adding to the list of great directors he’s worked with (as if Romero, Tarantino, and Rodriguez weren’t enough) he had a role in Kevin Smith’s “Zach and Miri Make a Porno.”  Savini is the ultimate “hey, who the hell is that guy?  I know him from somewhere…” actor.  Plus, he looks like Tig’s dad.

Michael Parks

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You’ve seen this guy a million times and not even known it.  Yes, he has a bit part in “Django” and played the part of Earl McGraw in both “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof.”  But when it hits you that he also played Earl McGraw in “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Kill Bill Vol. I” your head starts to spin.  THEN you realize that he’s also the Mexican pimp Esteban Vihaio in “Kill Bill Vol. II” and you feel like you need to sit down.  It also dawns on you that Parks is actually one helluva fine actor, and you wonder why the hell he isn’t at least as famous as Mickey Rourke.  Tarantino doubtless chose Parks to appear in his films out of QT’s love of old-school crime and cop dramas, and Michael Parks appeared in beaucoup 70’s cops-and-robber shows like Baretta, McCloud, Get Christie Love!, Police Story, and a dozen other programs that have been referenced in QT films since “Reservoir Dogs.”

Michael Bowen

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This guy is the true enigma.  He’s nobody.  He’s everybody.  He’s most recognizable as Buck in both Kill Bill films.  “Oh!  Okay!” you say.  What if I also blew your mind and told you he was the same guy who played Mark Dargus in “Jackie Brown?”  HA!!  Yes!  Mark Dargus!  (It’s okay.  I don’t remember him, either.)  Or what about his role as a tracker in “Django Unchained?”  Yeah, still nothing.  Really, the only other roles you’ll recognize him from are NOT Tarantino films.  Roles like DannyPickett on “LOST.”  Yes.  Yes, that guy.  I get the feeling that Tarantino is deliberately setting this guy up to be a future rediscovered actor, much like Michael Parks.  Perhaps twenty years from now some new hot-shit director will say “Get me that guy from the Tarantino films!  No, the other guy!”  And you’ll be able to say “Oh, yeah!  I’ve loved that guy since he played Larry in ‘Night of the Comet!'”

Honorable mentions:

Sonny Chiba – Some people are unaware that “True Romance” was a Tarantino film.  He wrote it, anyway.  In fact, it was the first screenplay he completed.  The character of Clarence Worley was supposed to represent Tarantino himself, back in his days as a video store clerk.  Clarence absolutely loves kung-fu movies, especially those starring Sonny Chiba.  Years later, QT picks Sonny to play the legendary swordsmith Hattori Hanzo in the “Kill Bill” movies, films on which he also served as a fight choreographer.  Not bad for a dude that’s been acting professionally since 1959.

Pam Grier – Yeah, the TV shows and blacksploitation films Quentin loves to reference?  Pam Grier.  ‘Nuff said.

Quentin Tarantino – Okay, look: the dude is not a great actor.  And sometimes he does stuff like adopt a fake Australian accent for his role in Django. Theses decisions make you shake your head, and even worse, they pull you out of the  story and make you painfully aware that you’re watching a movie.  But sometimes he’s actually funny, like when he played the exasperated Jimmie in “Pulp Fiction” or the obviously headed-for-a-psychotic-break Richie in “Dusk Til Dawn.” When he sticks to cute little cameos, he’s okay.  When he does “Destiny Turns on the Radio” he’s absolutely horrible.  And to think that he originally planned to play Mr. Pink in “Reservoir Dogs.”  Choosing Steve Buschemi to take over the role was the first of many great ideas he’s had.  Cheers, Quentin.  Y’done good.

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