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Interview With BJ Novak About Inglourious Basterds

BJ Novak Attends Tarantino Fantasy Camp and Film School For Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds hits theaters this Friday and a few weekends ago I attended the LA press day to hear from a few of the film's stars. Over the next few days leading up to this weekend's release, we'll be bringing you some highlights from the cast starting with BJ Novak who is most familiar as Ryan on The Office. BJ has made a name for himself as a writer, but he was more than happy to bask in his chance to experience Quentin's writing and directing in Berlin last year. Here are some highlights:

  • On his favorite Tarantino films: I would put Pulp Fiction as maybe my favorite movie. It's certainly the one that influenced me the most and put me on the path that I went on [to become a writer]. To me [it's] like the White Album. You know, I like different things about everything Quentin does, but Pulp Fiction is so much number one that it might as well begin and end there for me.
  • On the initial meeting about the movie: I remember pacing in the book store across the street, going to the bathroom every ten minutes thinking how to stay cool with Tarantino. It turned into an hour conversation about his films and The Office and the script and whatever else came up. It was a great conversation. When I came in to read the parts, Quentin is such an actor in his heart that he got so wrapped up in who he was reading that he wasn’t paying much attention to what I was doing, which was hugely scary to me because I had really prepared this stuff and I was making certain facial expressions and certain timing and he was literally buried in his own script, sort of blowing me out of the room. The casting director literally interrupted him to say "Hey, I think BJ is doing something really interesting over there."
  • To see what BJ has to say about Brad Pitt and what sets this apart from Quentin's other work just

    • On Tarantino's directing style: Well, it’s very performative and expressive. What I liked about it was that I signed up for a life experience. I signed up to go to Tarantino Fantasy Camp and that’s what I got. I got the fantasy camp and the film school, just by being in the background holding a machine gun watching him debate something with the director of photography. Or watching him coax a different direction out of Diane Kruger. So that was my favorite part of his directing style is that he is very loud and thoughtful, so I could sort of follow what he was doing and learn from it.
    • On cast bonding in Germany: We were all kind of a little out of our element being in Germany all on our own. Quentin actually created a little community based around his love of film. He would screen a movie for us once a week — things that inspired him, things that he thought would inspire us, thing that he just happened to have lying around, things connected to people in the production. And there would be posters up like they were made by a dorm RA. He had so much enthusiasm and who’s going to turn down a chance to go to Tarantino Film School? Especially when the alternative is ordering Weiner schnitzel room service in your cold German hotel. So we would go down to this screening room at the studio and watch an obscure movie or even a mainstream movie. Quentin would give a rambling 25 minute introduction that taught you more about films than any class you’d ever taken. There’d be beer and pizza and it was awesome.

    • On being tempted to suggest rewrites: Never never never. That’s my day job and probably will be my day job for the rest of my life and I figured I probably only had one chance in life to say Tarantino dialogue and I wasn’t going to short change myself there. Not at all.
    • On why he loves Basterds: It's Pure Tarantino to me in that it blends many different elements perfectly of tension and comedy and dialogue and excitement. And I felt on the set that Quentin The Filmmaker was always trying to outsmart Quentin The Film Fan — he would often talk about what he thought the audience would expect him to do and what he was going to do instead. And I, knowing so much less about film, thought to myself "oh, I wasn’t expecting anything." What really inspired me to be a writer is how he really blends depth and dialogue and comedy with action and violence with sweetness.
    • On his intense showdown scene: The great thing abut that final showdown scene is that I think my character is as overwhelmed as I would have been. The good news is I’m sitting next to Brad Pitt — the ultimate all American hero who is going to keep his cool — and the bad news is I’m sitting across from one of the great movie villains you can imagine and I’m their prisoner. I think being the third guy in this classic movie showdown was overwhelming and scary for me. And it was completely overwhelming and scary for [my character Utivich] and I think that’s what you see in my eyes.
    Image Source: WireImage
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