Quentin Tarantino Clarifies He’s Never Actually Seen ‘Selma,’ Meant Emmy Comment as a Question


Yesterday’s Bret Easton Ellis profile of Quentin Tarantino in the New York Times Style Magazine caught its fair share of flak, both for Ellis’s own opinions and quotes from the director himself.

Now, Tarantino has written to Indiewire’s Anne Thompson to clarify his statement that Ava DuVernay’s Selma “deserved an Emmy,” a comment that, combined with another passage on the relative merits of film and television, many readers interpreted as a dig. Here’s the Selma quote in full:

We touch on this year’s Oscars and the supposed Oscar snubbing of Ava DuVernay’s Martin Luther King movie ‘‘Selma,’’ which caused a kind of national sentimental-narrative outrage, compounded by the events in Ferguson, and which branded the Academy voters as old and out-of-it racists — despite the fact that ‘‘12 Years a Slave’’ had won Best Picture the year before. Tarantino shrugs diplomatically: ‘‘She did a really good job on ‘Selma’ but ‘Selma’ deserved an Emmy.’’ ‘‘Django Unchained,’’ with its depictions of antebellum-era institutionalized racism and Mandingo fights and black self-hatred, is a much more shocking and forward-thinking movie than ‘‘Selma,’’ and audiences turned it into the biggest hit of Tarantino’s career. But it was also attacked for, among other things, being written and directed by a white man.

And here’s Tarantino’s email to Thompson:

Dear Anne,
I’m writing you to pass on that the quote from the NY Times piece about “Selma” is wrong. I never saw “Selma.” If you look at the article, it was Bret who was talking about “Selma,” not me. I did say the line “it deserved a Emmy,” but when I said it, it was more like a question. Which basically meant, “it’s like a TV movie?” Which Bret and myself being from the same TV generation, was not only understood, but there was no slam intended. Both Bret and myself come from the seventies and eighties when there were a lot of historically based TV movies: the King mini-series written by Abby Mann staring Paul Winfield; “Crisis at Central High” with Joanne Woodward. And “Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys.” These were great TV movies. I’d be honored to be placed next to those films. However, I haven’t seen it. Does it look like a seventies TV movie? Yes. Does it play like one, I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. Q

While it definitely is worth noting that the more heinous Selma material comes from Ellis, as do the later comments regarding TV (“The best TV shows still have sets that look a little ragged and threadbare because of the reality of TV economics”), it’s also difficult to picture “She did a really good job on ‘Selma’ but ‘Selma’ deserved an Emmy” as a question rather than a statement.

Then again, Tarantino knows what he said better than anyone, so back to feverishly anticipating The Hateful Eight!