Terry Gross conducted an interesting interview with Quentin Tarantino in which he explained how he originally wanted to be an actor. He only started writing because he was taking acting classes and needed audition scenes to perform…
I didn’t, like, study writing, I studied acting. And when I first started writing, it was literally in acting classes. And what would happen is – now it’s really easy to get scripts and stuff, but back then, you know oftentimes you’d buy the novelization to a movie if you wanted to get an idea of what the scene, you know, what happened in the scene.
Because like, you’re an actor, you want to do a scene in class. But one of the things I’ve always had is I’ve always had a really good memory. So I would go and watch a movie and then I would see a scene in the movie and I’d go, hey, I’d like to do that in class this Wednesday. And so what I would do is I would just remember the scene and I’d go home and I’d write out the scene from memory. And anything I didn’t remember I would just fill in the blanks myself and then go and give it to a classmate and then we’d do it.
And then one day I was going to do a scene from “Marty.” I had seen the Rod Steiger teleplay of Paddy Chayefsky’s “Marty” on television. And I remembered the scene so I wrote it down and I, you know, gave my chicken scratch version to a guy name Ronnie Coleman who is – and later became a roommate of mine for a little bit.
Anyway, I gave it to Ronnie to do the scene. Well, Ronnie actually had a like a paperback of the original “Marty” play. And he goes Quentin, you rewrote Paddy Chayefsky.
I go, what do you mean? He goes well you wrote a whole monologue about a fountain. There’s no fountain in his original screenplay.
There’s, you wrote a, you added a monologue to it. And I go oh, sorry about that. He goes oh, don’t be sorry. It’s great. It was the best thing in there. Now look, I’m sure that monologue was not the best thing in Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay. But my point, but the thing that was interesting is it was the first time somebody had ever complimented me on this thing that I didn’t take seriously.
I was just writing stuff to do in class and just really filling in the blanks. And if I couldn’t come up, if I didn’t have a scene I wanted to do in class, then I’d come up with something and I’d write it. But it was literally just to do something in class…
And at some point in that acting class I just realized that I need to be a director – for two reasons. One, directors were already my heroes at this point. I wanted to; when I wanted to be an actor I wanted to work with this director. Not work with this actor, I wanted to work for this director.
And so as the acting class is going on I just realized I just knew more about cinema than the other people in the class. I cared about cinema and they cared about themselves. But two, was actually at a certain point I just realized that I loved movies too much to simply appear in them. I wanted the movies to be my movies.
Great example of how, sometimes, the thing you’re not taking seriously is exactly what you should be doing. You don’t always know what you’re best at or what you really love doing — especially at the beginning. Leaving an opening allows evolution to happen.