Written by Quentin Tarantino
Even three years
after its release, I still find Tarantino’s boldness admirable and refreshing.
He’s true to history while unapologetically changing it. Small liberties
capture the time period, like the German propaganda film Nation’s Pride or the “Jew hunter” Hans Landa. The greatest
changes are so implausible they can’t be taken literally. Of course no pack of
American Jews parachuted into France to be Nazis to the Nazis. Nor did they
assassinate the regime in a Parisian film house. Nazis were the closest things
to cartoonishly evil villains that existed in real life. And yet, few of their
henchmen faced those they persecuted. Tarantino isn’t fashioning a history
lesson, but a tale of revenge. He therefore serves Hitler and Goebbels up on a
I personally think
it’s Tarantino’s strongest, well-crafted film.
And that’s why Inglourious
Basterds is such a
fascinating read. Not even a script by Quentin Tarantino - a maestro director
with final cut – remains fully intact on screen. Moreover, not even Quentin
Tarantino – one of the strongest writers around – gets it fully right on the
Here are the biggest
changes between the script and the final product. All, I think, for the better.
4. Madame Mimieux
In the film, Mimieux
is the name Shosanna uses in Paris to mask her Jewish identity. But in the
screenplay, Madame Mimieux is the original theatre owner who catches the newly orphaned
Shosanna sleeping in her theatre (page 37 in the link above) and takes her under her wing. It’s
a ten-page sequence spanning four years in which Mimieux teaches Shosanna
about film. How it’s handled, how it’s projected, and how sensitive it is to
heat. We also see a relationship develop with Marcel and Shosanna assuming
Mimieux’s identity after she dies (her death is unexplained).
Why was it cut?
Because less is
more. The audience can fill the gaps in Shosanna’s rebound by cutting to the
present, figuring out how she went from the woods to theatre owner. Additionally, no essential set-ups occur in the sequence. Yes, it’s more
effective when an apprenticing Shosanna has a cigarette slapped from her hand
when she lights up around nitrate film, but the later narration educates the
audience just as well.
Scenes were actually
filmed with Maggie Cheung as Mimeux, which means the choice was made in post with
Tarantino’s late great editor, Sally Menke. I think aside from maybe being
non-essential, the sequence stalls the beginning of the final thrust of the
narrative. They were rightfully cut.
3. Operation Kino
There’s one big
change in the Nation’s Pride
premiere. In the script, Donny uses the bathroom and catches the eye of a
swastika-scarred Gestapo officer. A gunfight ensues which ends in his death
(page 156). Why did this change? Because Tarantino had a better idea in one of
the more memorable scenes of 2009: Donny mowing down Hitler and Goebbels with a
machine gun. It’s aggressive and cinematic, Hitler’s plastic face chewed apart
by bullets. In the script, they are blown up like everyone else.
2. The History of
Just before Donny
bludgeons his first Nazi (at least, on screen), we’re taken back a year or so
to his time in Boston. He buys the bat then takes it to an elderly Jewish woman
(played by Cloris Leachman). He tells her he plans to “make things right” in
Europe with his bat, then asks her to write the names of anyone whose life she
fears for. Though initially put-off by his crass behavior, she eagerly obliges
The scene reads
quite well. It’s a struggle for Donny to get her to hear him out, much less
take part in his quest, but by the end of the scene she realizes his passion
and commends his strength. So why was it cut?
The sequence occurs
as a flashback from the scene with The Basterds in the woods. THAT scene is
another flashback from Hitler interrogating Private Butz (the surviving German
soldier). Going from Hitler to The Basterds to Butz might be one tangent too
many. And however effective and compelling the bat scene was, the sequence as a
whole is sturdy without it.
This was Tarantino
and Menke’s wisest cut.
After her family is
murdered, Shosanna flees her hiding place and takes off towards the woods.
Landa steadies his Luger, pulls back the hammer, and... lowers his weapon? “Au
revoir, Shosanna!” It’s a great scene on film.
In the script, the
next scene is Landa driving away from the farm. He explains to his driver the
many reasons he allowed an enemy of the state to flee (page 17): she’s
harmless, weak, alone, has no hiding place, no one nearby will want to offer
I can almost see why
Tarantino had Landa explain himself. Reading Landa on the page is different
than seeing and hearing Christoph Waltz’s Landa. On the page, perhaps you need
some sort of rationale behind Landa’s action. But having Landa explain himself
sort of weakens a great character both on the page and on the screen.
Waltz’s performance removes the need for a rationale. We’re meant to always be
questioning him, wondering what he really has up his sleeve with each question
and action. But with a lesser actor, would the rationale have remained? Let’s