Last week, members of the cast and crew from Inglorious Basterds stormed the red carpet at the New Beverly Cinema to celebrate the release of their film on DVD/Blu-ray. Though just a DVD premiere, spotlights shone into the night, flashbulbs flashed, and pens scribbled on notepads. There were a few surprises – the arrival of stunt-woman extraordinaire and Tarantino alum Zoe Bell, for instance. Or the lovely Diane Krueger (Nina Von Hammersmark) arriving with a dapperly dressed Joshua Jackson on her arm.
But for the most part, the focus of the evening was the cast and crew of the critically acclaimed World War II opus. Among them, most of the titular Basterds, including: Sam Levine, Eli Roth, Omar Doom, B.J. Novak, producer Lawrence Bender and, of course, the biggest “basterd” of them all – Quentin Tarantino.
Collider grabbed a few words with some of the cast before enjoying an evening of disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured Nazi scum. Hit the jump to read what they said:
Collider: I’m a huge fan of yours from way back in Freaks and Geeks.
Sam Levine: Oh thanks man. That means a lot.
Which leads nicely to my first question – was Quentin a fan of the show?
Sam Levine: Oh yeah, Quentin’s a big Freaks and Geeks fan. He’s known Judd for, I guess, ever. He was a fan of the show while it was still on T.V. if you can believe that one! Yeah, there were like eighty fans of that show when it was on T.V. and he happened to be one of them.
So he was a fan of the show and thought you’d be right for the part?
Sam Levine: (laughs) Yeah, I guess he saw something in Neil Schweiber that said ‘I get the feeling that little Jewish guy wants to kick some Nazi ass. So I’m glad he had that foresight.
So do you still keep in touch with Judd and the old cast?
Sam Levine: Absolutely, yeah, I see those guys all the time. Couldn’t be more proud to be in a group like that. We all started together and everyone’s gone on to such amazing things.
It’s a shame that it’s one of those shows were a reunion would be impossible…
Sam Levine: Yeah! I mean, there’ll never be a reunion show but we’ve done live on stage stuff where we get together and talk about the show and thank the fans. And we did one of those last January up in San Francisco. And I mean, there’s nothing scheduled right now, but as long as the fans keep talking about the show and buying the DVDs, there will be definitely be another reunion at some point. I don’t think there’s a day goes by, and I speak for everyone else I think, where I don’t think of Freaks and Geeks as being the corner-stone of our careers.
What’s the difference between working with Judd Apatow and working with Quentin?
Sam Levine: I’d say the difference between Quentin and Judd is one of them uses a lot more blood and weapons. But that’s Judd and that’s off camera. No, but seriously, there’s such a different style. But they’re both great directors.
So working for Quentin – fun or challenging?
Sam Levine: Oh, it’s fun and challenging. It’s a challenge that I looked forward to every day. I feel like Quentin gets the best out of everyone of us. You just want to impress him and that makes everyone just that much better. He told us the first day that the most important thing to him was the difference between action and cut and if you can’t give it everything you’ve got then go work somewhere else. He read from a Joseph Mankiewicz book on day one. Sort of to say, “This is the school I subscribe to. Just to let you guys know.”
What was it like the first time you got the screenplay for the film?
Sam Levine: The first time I read the script – it was after I already met with him [Quentin]. He said – “Here, read it this weekend. Come back and we’ll read some stuff on Monday.” And I could not put it down… it was simply the best script I’ve ever read. It’s 165 pages and I think I read it in under two hours. And as soon I was done, I called my agent and said, “We have to make this happen. I have to be in this film.” And it suddenly occurred to me, if it didn’t happen and I didn’t get in, I would be crushed! As soon as I was done the screenplay, I even went back and read that first scene between Landa and LaPedite again. It was incredible.
Landa is such an incredible character just on the page. Were you surprised at what Christoph Waltz brought to the part? Making an incredibly written character that much more fleshed out?
Sam Levine: When I read the character of Landa, I could not visualize who to cast in this part. He had to speak French, German, even a little Italian. I know Quentin and Lawrence have talked about this, but it was essentially a un-cast-able part. They almost called off production because they couldn’t find it. And seeing what Christoph did in that role, I cannot imagine anyone else even trying. He invented this character Hans Landa and I’m so in awe of the talent he brought to it. The fact that I’m even in the same movie as that is just mind-blowing to me.
Do you feel like there’s a risk of you being type cast given the roles you played and was it nice to have someone recognize your potential to kick some serious ass?
Sam Levine: Oh absolutely! I feared for a long time that I’d only ever get to play the geek in movies and then I realized some people have made fine careers only playing one thing! But when Quentin came along and asked me to do this… I used to hope some director would see me in that way, and for it to be Quentin of all directors, that was just amazing.
Did you know Quentin before or did he know your work and seek you out?
Sam Levine: I met Quentin five years ago at Jimmy Kimmel Live. Where I sought him out because I was a huge fan of his. We talked for a while and at the end of it, he said, “Hey man, I hope we get to work together some day.” And I said, “Yeah. That’d be alright!” So five years down the line, now I’m a bastard.
Collider: Now you’ve been a friend of Quentin’s for a long time. What was it like to work with him?
Omar Doom: Yeah, I have my friendship with him and then when we’re on set he’s my boss. Because when makes a movie he knows exactly what he’s doing and I feel completely free to put myself at his disposal.
So there’s a certain amount of compartmentalization that goes on between Quentin your friend and Quentin the director?
Omar Doom: Exactly. Exactly. You know, when we’re shooting he’s got to worry about a million things. He’s the captain of the ship. But then when the closing hours happen, it’s a different kind of thing.
So working with Quentin – fun or challenging?
Omar Doom: This movie was definitely more challenging than the last one. ‘Death Proof’ was a little more laid back. Basterds’ was definitely more hectic. We were trying to do so much in such a short amount of time. But again, I’m completely at his disposal. Nobody could believe that he pulled it off, but he did and we’re here.
So did you meet Quentin through your music?
Omar Doom: No. We met just hanging out in the late 90s. It wasn’t related to film or anything else. We just met through mutual friends, hanging out.
Anything you’d like to plug for our readers?
Omar Doom: Yeah, they can go to Omardoom.com or www.myspace.com/omardoom to check out my solo album.
Collider: First off, how do you feel about the development your character’s had on “The Office”, that he’s gone from being on top of the world to, well, not?
B.J. Novak: I like that I get to do so many different things. A lot of the characters stay pretty stable on The Office. That’s part of the joke behind it. And it’s great to be a character that actually gets to change and transform. It’s always for the worse, but it’s transformation.
That’s an interesting point. On The Office, you kind of play, for lack of a better term…
B.J. Novak: You can say it.
Well, a douche, right?
B.J. Novak: [Laughs] And in this film I get to play a bastard.
Was it nice to do something different in that sense?
B.J. Novak: It was nice to play a character I kind of liked, sure. As opposed to a character that I have to find a way to like. But with everything when you’re performing, you really enjoy it. You have to show that you love something about this. Even if you love being bad or love being lost or whatever. But it’s easier when you’re not a total douchebag.
Quentin – fun to work with or challenging to work with?
B.J. Novak: Well, the first word that comes to mind is fun. But challenging too, for sure. I would say inspiring though. Everyone knew the level of quality this script was. So everyone was rightly terrified to drop the ball. So when an amazing script is put in front of you, the challenge is to live up to it.
Was Quentin a fan of your work on The Office?
B.J. Novak: Yeah, sure, to his own degree. I wouldn’t compare it to the kind of fan I am of his work. But he had a few Ryan and Kelly exchanges that he remembered that he quoted back to me when we met.
Collider: Hey man, good to see you.
Eli Roth: Hi.
(At this point, Eli reaches over and hugs B.J. Novak.)
So one of the things I talked with Omar about was a scene from the screenplay that didn’t make it into the movie in which you two spoke fake Italian to each other.
Eli Roth: Yeah. We had a fun time shooting it, but unfortunately it made the ending too silly when it needed to be more serious. We had plenty of silly in there already, especially with the scenes on the red carpet. It was just oddly over-kill. The wrong kind of over-kill.
It was the part in the screenplay where I dropped the script I was laughing so hard…
Eli Roth: It worked and we got it. It’s just one of those things that in the context of the whole piece, you put it together and suddenly, everything seems a little less serious.
So you shot “Nation’s Pride“. What was it like acting in a scene in which you watched a movie you directed?
Eli Roth: It was fun. It was surreal. It was surreal. Seeing this movie I directed among three hundred Nazi extras. Y’know, my parents were there. And it was amazing to show up in Berlin and we’re on a stage where Goebbels used to shoot his propaganda movies? It was surreal on top of meta on top of bizarre. The weirdest was when we took a break for lunch, we went in and watched Obama get inaugurated. So I watched Obama be inaugurated in the middle of the premiere of ‘Nation’s Pride’, surrounded by three hundred Nazi extras.
Was it tough to shoot that movie as well?
Eli Roth: Oh, it was the hardest thing. I had to shoot a battle scene in two days in November with very short day light – 8:30 to 4:00. I got my brother Gabriel out there with a second camera and in two days we got a hundred and thirty shots. We were throwing people off buildings. We lit a building on fire and threw someone out of it. Two hundred shots, five and a half minutes total.
So what’s next for you as a director?
Eli Roth: Next is a sci-fi movie called Endangered Species. I also am just finishing up a horror movie called Cotton which I produced. We just finished a sound mix on it and it’s really, really scary.
Can you give us the pitch for either?
Eli Roth: Cotton is kind of an exorcism movie but it’s not gory. It’s more in the paranormal vein.
And Endangered Species?
Eli Roth: It’s called Endangered Species and that’s all I can say about it.
Thanks for your time man.
Eli Roth: Thank you.
Before the film, Tarantino, serving as maestro, also screened seven classic trailers from his personal collection which inspired the making of Inglorious Basterds. Movies he called “men on a mission” stories. Among them:
- The Five Man Army
- Hornet’s Nest
- Kill Them All and Come Back Alone
- Kelly’s Heroes
- The Big Red One
- The Inglorious Bastards
The lesson learned by this humble reporter? Apparently, every war movie that came out between 1960 and 1970 starred Lee Marvin, Donald Sutherland and possibly Telly Savalas.
Inglorious Basterds is now available on DVD and Blu-ray