It might be Quentin Tarantino’s turn to squirm under scrutiny for Hollywood’s misdeeds — perhaps more as an enabler than a perpetrator. Tarantino has begun work on a film about Charles Manson, as yet unnamed, and has signed Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the principals. Margot Robbie (I, Tonya and Suicide Squad) has been cast as Sharon Tate, the most famous of the Manson murder victims. Tate was married at the time to Roman Polanski, who would shortly thereafter find himself at the center of a much different criminal investigation.
Tarantino has said that Polanski would be a “key figure” in the new movie and that he’s looking for an “authentic Polish thespian” to play him. What kind of treatment will Tarantino give Polanski? A newly rediscovered 2003 interview with Howard Stern suggests that Tarantino sees Polanski as a misunderstood hero — and his victim as the cause of his trouble, as Jezebel reports:
Asked by Stern why Hollywood embraces “this mad man, this director who raped a 13-year-old,” Tarantino replied:
“He didn’t rape a 13-year-old. It was statutory rape…he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down—it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world. You can’t throw the word rape around. It’s like throwing the word ‘racist’ around. It doesn’t apply to everything people use it for.”
Tarantino: No, that was not the case AT ALL. She wanted to have it and dated the guy and—
Quivers: She was 13!
Tarantino: And by the way, we’re talking about America’s morals, not talking about the morals in Europe and everything.
Stern: Wait a minute. If you have sex with a 13-year-old girl and you’re a grown man, you know that that’s wrong.
Quivers: …giving her booze and pills…
Tarantino: Look, she was down with this.
This took place 15 years ago, when Hollywood was still congratulating itself over honoring Polanski while he remained on the lam after his rape conviction in Los Angeles. At the time, this victim was the only one to come forward; later, several more women accused Polanski of sexually assaulting them while they were underage. Just like with Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood knew for decades about Polanski, especially because he’d actually been convicted of sexual assault in Los Angeles. And yet, just like with Weinstein, people like Tarantino found excuses for Polanski because they liked his films and thought they could make money off of him.
That’s not Tarantino’s only headache today, either. Uma Thurman has finally gone public with her own experiences with Weinstein after dealing with the shame of keeping quiet for so long. Tarantino figures into this tale too in a complicated manner. Tarantino helped her hold off Weinstein before making Kill Bill, but Tarantino also demanded that she personally do a driving stunt with a car that Thurman had been warned was unsafe:
“Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear no, like any director,” she says. “He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. He said: ‘I promise you the car is fine. It’s a straight piece of road.’” He persuaded her to do it, and instructed: “ ‘Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair won’t blow the right way and I’ll make you do it again.’ But that was a deathbox that I was in. The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.” (Tarantino did not respond to requests for comment.)
Thurman then shows me the footage that she says has taken her 15 years to get. “Solving my own Nancy Drew mystery,” she says.
It’s from the point of view of a camera mounted to the back of the Karmann Ghia. It’s frightening to watch Thurman wrestle with the car, as it drifts off the road and smashes into a palm tree, her contorted torso heaving helplessly until crew members appear in the frame to pull her out of the wreckage. Tarantino leans in and Thurman flashes a relieved smile when she realizes that she can briefly stand.
“The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me,” she says. “I felt this searing pain and thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to walk again,’” she says. “When I came back from the hospital in a neck brace with my knees damaged and a large massive egg on my head and a concussion, I wanted to see the car and I was very upset. Quentin and I had an enormous fight, and I accused him of trying to kill me. And he was very angry at that, I guess understandably, because he didn’t feel he had tried to kill me.”
Tarantino and the Weinsteins prevented Thurman from getting her hands on the raw film for nearly fifteen years, releasing it to her only just recently. Tarantino now calls this his “biggest regret of my life.”
Tarantino should have plenty of regrets from which to choose, frankly. His championing of Polanski and dismissal of a 13-year-old victim as “being down with it” should rank right near the top, too — as it should for all of Hollywood’s elite who have enabled Polanski and Weinstein until their victims finally shamed them for it.