Quentin Tarantino explains how True Romance would’ve been different had he directed it himself. Before he became renowned as the the director of ’90s classics like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, Tarantino famously kicked off his Hollywood career as a screenwriter, selling a pair of scripts that would go on to become the memorable movies True Romance and Natural Born Killers.
Tarantino of course has been very vocal about his disdain for the movie Oliver Stone eventually made from his Natural Born Killers script (Stone extensively re-wrote the script until it was nothing like Tarantino’s original). True Romance on the other hand has been embraced by Tarantino, who has praised the way director Tony Scott handled his story. Unlike Natural Born Killers, which barely feels like a Tarantino film at all, True Romance seems suffused with Tarantino’s particular style and still lives on as a vital piece of the larger Tarantino universe.
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Speaking to Empire (in a Q&A the magazine published in its print edition a year ago but only released online recently), Tarantino discussed True Romance and explained how it would have been different had he directed it himself. He said:
I would have done my original ending, where Clarence dies. And I would have had all the comedy and all the romance, but it would have been a little rougher. And with it being a little rougher, we could have earned the more tear-jerking ending. I mean, with the fairy-tale popcorn movie that Tony made, that almost would have been a dirty trick, killing Clarence. You would have had to have earned the ending that I wrote, and I think I would have earned it more.
Of course, Scott’s version of the movie sees Christian Slater’s character Clarence get shot in the eye but survive, going on to live happily ever after with his girlfriend Alabama (Patricia Arquette). As Tarantino explains, he was fine with Scott changing the ending because Scott’s vision for the story overall was different, and the adjustment was required in order to make sense with what was essentially a less realistic and more glossy take.
In the same Q&A, Tarantino also discussed how he wrote the character Drexl to give himself someone to play in the movie at a time when it seemed like it would be a low-budget film he himself might direct. However, once the film was taken on by Scott and the budget went up, real actor Gary Oldman was brought in to take on the role instead. Ultimately, it was a good move hiring Oldman as he created a truly memorable and creepy character. With his limited acting skills, Tarantino’s performance as Drexl would have no doubt been much less effective (and possibly downright terrible).
Overall, it sounds like Tarantino’s own directorial take on True Romance would have been closer in tone to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, early films of his that maintained a certain grittiness while paying homage to all his many cinematic influences. The influences are still there in Scott’s True Romance of course, but the surface is much glossier and the whole movie feels much slicker and more polished than Tarantino’s early works. Though Scott’s shinier True Romance is certainly a good film in its own right, it’s hard not to wish Tarantino had gotten the chance to direct it himself and bring his original vision with its rougher tone and more downbeat ending fully to life.
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