Tarantino revealed the best character he’s ever written and discussed retiring after 10 movies.

Quentin Tarantino Jerusalem Film Festival

Hollywood icon Quentin Tarantino regaled a sold-out crowd at Jerusalem Cinematheque on Friday with tales from his directing career and his enduring love for cinema.

The famously loquacious film-maker spoke with enthusiasm and energy about his craft, comparing his method to that of a 13-year-old child imagining writing an episode of his favourite TV series.

“If you’re a kid, you don’t know any of the rules and regulations, you just want to make the greatest Star Trek episode ever, a wild, crazy version of it — that actually sounds fucking exciting,” said the director, whose nine features include debut Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. “My take on genre is not dissimilar; I want to deliver the pleasures that are there but I want to do it my way.”

Tarantino was speaking before a screening of his second feature, 1994’s Pulp Fiction, which was shown on a 35mm print flown in from the director’s personal archive. He is attending the festival this year as a guest of honour. At Thursday’s opening ceremony, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award by festival director Noa Regev and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat.

On working with frequently starry ensemble casts, Tarantino described the respectful relationship he has with his actors.

“When I have direction, I walk over to them and talk about it, it’s very intimate,” he noted. “I don’t scream at them across the set.”

However, he does have one golden rule: learn your lines. “You have to know my dialogue backwards and forwards,” he said. “Anything else and I could fire you and start again because you’re just disrespecting me. I am paying them to say my dialogue. That is their job. I like my actors, but I love my characters.”

He described moments when his cast almost transform into his characters: “I’m looking for that take where an actor just kicks into something — actors describe it as flying, they’re not them anymore, it’s the reason they become actors.” Christoph Waltz’s performance as sinister colonel Hans Landa in Second World War action thriller Inglourious Basterds achieved that level of lucidity, Tarantino believes. 

“Landa is the best character I’ve ever written and maybe the best I ever will write,” he said. “I didn’t realise [when I was first writing him] that he was a linguistic genius. He’s probably one of the only Nazis in history who could speak perfect Yiddish.”

Tarantino revealed that after an unfruitful auditioning process for the role, he almost shelved the entire film: “I was getting worried. Unless I found the perfect Landa, I was going to pull the movie. I gave myself one more week and then I was going to pull the plug. Then Christoph Waltz came in and it was obvious that he was the guy; he could do everything. He was amazing, he gave us our movie back.”

The director also reconfirmed prior proclamations that he will retire from film-making after his tenth feature, meaning he has two more to go following The Hateful Eight (Tarantino counts Kill Bill: Vol 1 and 2 as a single film). But nor does he rule out returning to the medium later in life: “I am planning to stop at 10 [films], but at 75 I might decide I have another story to do.”