Quentin Tarantino Has Never Seen Natural Born Killers From Beginning To End

Quentin Tarantino is frequently cited as one of the best living directors in Hollywood. Through films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," he demonstrated his encyclopedic understanding of movies and his ability to remix familiar genres in original ways. In a 1994 interview with Empire, (via Far Out Magazine), Tarantino freely admitted, "I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it — if my work has anything it's that I'm taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together." 

Throughout his career, Tarantino has recreated popular sequences by Federico Fellini, John Ford, and Mike Nichols, just to name a few. He created his own distinctive style by blending these familiar images with shocking violence, witty dialogue, oddball protagonists, and impeccable needle drops. By watching and mimicking great films, Tarantino learned to craft successful characters and stories, and he also knows how it looks when it's done badly.

Before he made it big in Hollywood, Tarantino survived by selling scripts, two of which became films. Tony Scott's "True Romance" and Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" were both originally penned by Tarantino, but he has very different opinions about the movies. Tarantino told Empire that his version of "True Romance" would have been different than Scott's, but that the director "made the right choice for the movie he made." 

He isn't nearly as accepting of what happened to his other script. In an interview on Brian Koppelman's podcast, The Moment, Tarantino revealed that he was so disappointed by Stone's version of "Natural Born Killers" that he still hasn't seen the entire film (via The Playlist).

Rewriting Tarantino

It might appear that Tarantino swaggered into Hollywood and became a go-to filmmaker, but he sacrificed to make it, including selling his original work and watching others bring it to life. This can be a very hit or miss experience for a screenwriter especially when the new director makes changes to their original work. "True Romance" originally ended with the death of Clarence (Christian Slater), which Scott changed, but Tarantino respected that rewrite and believed it was the right choice. However, Tarantino isn't as gracious about Stone's changes to "Natural Born Killers."  

Tarantino sold "Natural Born Killers" for $10,000 to producers Jane Hamsher and Don Murphy, which must have felt like a steal when Academy Award winning director Oliver Stone was later hired to direct it. Despite his enthusiasm for the project, Stone wasn't all that impressed by certain elements of Tarantino's story — so he rewrote it. In an interview with Roger Ebert, Stone compared Tarantino's original script to grindhouse films, and described Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) as "crazy, stick figures." He told Ebert that the killers were the most intriguing part of the story, so he chose to focus on them:

"I think [Tarantino] was hurt that I rewrote it so much. But I told him that I really can't make what he, as a 26-year-old, would make as a first film. As a 47-year-old filmmaker, it doesn't interest me. I want another level of socio-political comment and I want to deal with the whole justice system. I want to deal with the killers; where they come from, who their parents are."

In his conversation with Ebert, Stone said that Tarantino was too focused on using "violence in the most new and shocking and unconventional way," but Tarantino insists that "Natural Born Killers" is about love.

'It was done for him!'

Despite Stone's claim that he focused solely on the characters, Tarantino believes that Stone fundamentally misunderstood Mickey and Mallory and their motivation. On Koppelman's podcast, Tarantino expressed frustration about Stone's rewrites, especially the addition of the couple cheating on each other. Tarantino insisted his version of the characters would "never" have done that, and that Stone didn't understand the strength of the love between Mickey and Mallory, which kills the entire point of the film. 

"The point of the thing," ​​Tarantino explained, "is they unnaturally live for each other at the expense of everyone else on the planet earth." Koppelman and Tarantino agree that the couple's "killing spree is the sacrament of their love," and the reason for all their violence, but it's hard to buy that when the supposed ride-or-die couple cheat on each other. 

Tarantino believes there is no excuse for Stone's obliviousness because his writing did all the hard work for him:

"One of the things about that script, in particular, was that I was trying to make it on the page. So when you read it, you saw the movie. And it's like why didn't [Oliver Stone] do at least half of that! It was done for him!"

Accusations of violence

Despite Stone's claims that he objects to Tarantino's obsession with violence, his rewrites in "Natural Born Killers" continue the tradition. Originally, Tarantino's script depicted two people who have such a deep, albeit toxic, connection that they are willing to sacrifice everything and everyone to protect it. It would have featured a dramatic love affair, a Bonnie and Clyde romanticism, and a deeper explanation for their brutality.

Instead, Stone belittled the couple's attachment by making them unfaithful, and created two unlikable psychopaths who kill for fame and pleasure. According to Stone, "Natural Born Killers" was meant to be a critique of the media and its obsession with crime, but the movie has been accused of inciting violence and inspiring murder, so it's safe to say that message didn't translate well.

"Natural Born Killers" has become a cult classic, but it's impossible not to wonder if Tarantino's version would have been better. He certainly seems to think so.