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Quentin Tarantino films that never happened

Ever since he broke out with his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs in 1992, Quentin Tarantino has never really been shy about his creative process. He's nothing if not chatty about what excites him, what bores him, and perhaps most interestingly to his fans, what he's thinking of working on next. Tarantino has always spoken openly about the kind of films he wants to make, even if he'll never actually make them, and that's led to years of potential projects and random ideas that have led nowhere.

In 2014, Tarantino did something few filmmakers would ever dream of, and put a ticking clock on his career, declaring that he plans to retire from directing after just ten features. His ninth film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is due to arrive later this year, which means that if he keeps his retirement promise, a lot of movie ideas will simply be left on the cutting room floor of his professional life. With that in mind, here are the Tarantino projects we'll likely never get to see.

Double V Vega

Though he's steered clear of sequels throughout his career, one of Tarantino's earliest public ideas for how to continue his filmography was a kind of dual sequel/prequel idea that would have united Vic "Mr. Blonde" Vega (Michael Madsen) from Reservoir Dogs and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) from Pulp Fiction in a single film. Titled Double V Vega, the project was initially conceived as a prequel, and would have been set during Vincent's time in Amsterdam prior to the events of Pulp Fiction. The idea of making a prequel became harder and harder to pull off as both actors aged, though, and by the late 2000s Tarantino was basically done with the idea.

"But we're a little older now, and since they both died — it would have to be a prequel," he said of the characters. "I actually came up with a way I could have done it, even being older and dead where they all had older brothers and both of their brothers got together because the two guys died. And they wanted revenge or something like that. But now, [the actors] are too old for that… I got to say, it's kind of unlikely now."

Kill Bill Vol. 3

Speaking of sequels, Tarantino has also long teased the possibility of making a third installment in the Kill Bill saga, after his initial massive film was split into two in 2003 and 2004. Back when Kill Bill Vol. 2 was released, Tarantino floated the idea that a third film could follow Vernita Green's daughter Nikki, who watched her mother (Vivica A. Fox) die in the first film and was told by the Bride (Uma Thurman) that she could come seek her revenge when she grew up. 

As recently as 2016, Tarantino was still entertaining the possibility of making that film. But in 2018, Thurman revealed a driving stunt that went dangerously wrong on the set of the original film. Tarantino, who provided footage from the stunt and cooperated with Thurman's efforts to reveal it, later said that a "trust was broken" because of the accident, and though he and Thurman still talk, issues like that put the future of a third installment in serious doubt.

Killer Crow

In addition to direct sequels to his works, Tarantino has also toyed with the idea of spiritual sequels to various projects. In 2012, after Django Unchained was released, he floated the notion of a third film in a trilogy — forming a thematic trio with Inglourious Basterds and Django — that would follow another story of people fighting back against their oppressors. The film, which he dubbed Killer Crow, would follow a group of black soldiers in World War II who were originally part of a subplot in Inglourious Basterds (which he once imagined as a miniseries) but later deleted. He was still interested in the idea as recently as 2015.

"The huge stuff that I took out could make its own movie, following a platoon of black troops that were court-martialed and they escape," Tarantino explained. "They are in France, they are going to be hung in London and their whole thing is to get to Switzerland. And they end up getting into an adventure and they meet the Basterds… I could still do that. I'm not done with it."

Forty Lashes Less One

After Pulp Fiction, Tarantino decided to turn his eye toward adapting another writer's work for the first time, and took on one of his favorite novelists, Elmore Leonard. Tarantino adapted Leonard's novel Rum Punch into the film Jackie Brown in 1997, and while he's since gone back to original stories, one Leonard novel might not have been enough for him. He has frequently flirted with the idea of tackling another, in particular the author's 1972 Western Forty Lashes Less One, which he's considered taking on as a TV miniseries rather than a feature film.

"I've owned the rights for a while — I get them and I lose them and then I get them," he said in 2015. "I actually think if you're going to call yourself a Western director today, you need to do at least three [films]. And I would really like to do [Forty Lashes] as a mini-series, like an hour an episode, four or five hours — I'd write and direct it all."

Luke Cage

Among his many other genre interests, Tarantino is also a lifelong comic book fan, and the idea that he might one day do a film based on a comic has never fully been snuffed out. Tarantino has confirmed that he once took a meeting for what became Green Lantern in its very early stages, and in 2015 he noted that once, before Pulp Fiction was released, he was also flirting with the idea of a film about another comics hero: Luke Cage.

"One of the things I wanted to do before Pulp Fiction to some degree or another… one of the outside projects that I considered doing was doing a Luke Cage movie," Tarantino said. Of course, this was years before the superhero movie boom became real, and Tarantino explained he eventually lost interest in the idea because people wouldn't stop talking about the right physical type to play Cage. Now, of course, Luke Cage has a different live-action life, but once upon a time he could have been in Tarantino's hands.

Casino Royale

Tarantino is one of the most identifiable and celebrated directors in Hollywood, but he's always steered clear of major franchise movie work. That doesn't mean he could never be persuaded to take on such a project, though. Once upon a time, in the days before Daniel Craig was signed on to play Agent 007, Tarantino expressed interest in directing a James Bond film, specifically a more grounded and character-driven take on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, Casino Royale

That film eventually did get made as the movie that launched Craig into the role, but Tarantino of course had nothing to do with it. After Casino Royale was released, he made it clear that he was no longer interested in the Bond franchise. It turns out if you want Quentin Tarantino to join your storied superspy tentpole series, you really only have a very narrow window to make it happen. "Casino Royale was the one I wanted to direct, they missed their opportunity," he said.

A John Brown biopic

With films like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Tarantino stepped into the realm of historical dramas. There, he could explore real issues of cruelty, racism, and the impact violence has on the soul through the lens of real history, without the constraints of following actual historical figures. At one time, though, Tarantino actually did want to follow one particular historical figure: the white abolitionist John Brown, who he once called "my favorite American."

"His idea was the minute white blood is shed the way black blood is shed, that's when s**t will start changing," he said in 2015. "And like all great Americans, he was hung for treason."

In the 2000s, Tarantino considered making a film about Brown, and perhaps even waiting long enough until he was old enough to play Brown himself. He eventually abandoned the idea in favor of films that were less constrained by historical detail. "I'm dealing with a lot of the things that I wanted to deal with," Tarantino said of this choice.

A '30s gangster film

Tarantino has enjoyed quite a bit of genre hopping throughout his career, leaping from heist movie to blaxploitation-tinged crime drama to World War II saga to kung-fu movie to Western, but there are still other genres he'd perhaps like to play in one day.

One genre he's not interested in, he said in 2015 while promoting The Hateful Eight, is horror, though he noted he had flirted with it through his Grindhouse film Death Proof. "I honestly don't think I have the right temperament," Tarantino said of his view on horror filmmaking.

A genre he would still like to explore, though, is gangster films, specifically of the type made and set in the 1930s. "It would be fun to do a '30s gangster movie, like Bonnie and Clyde or Dillinger, with the Tommy guns and that kind of thing. That's something I haven't done and that would be cool."

Other adaptations

Tarantino has, to date, only adapted one novel for the screen. Throughout his career, though, he has flirted with other literary adaptations beyond Leonard's works. One of the most persistent rumors attached to Tarantino's professional ambitions is a desire to make a new adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' classic novel Less Than Zero. While Tarantino himself hasn't been very vocal about it, Ellis has confirmed he's heard interest from Tarantino's camp.

Then there's another spy story, an adaptation of author Len Deighton's "Game, Set, and Match" trilogy that begins with the novel Berlin Game (which Max Cherry is shown reading during Jackie Brown). As recently as 2009, Tarantino was discussing the novels as an excuse to live and work in England for a while. "I love England. It would be a wonderful life experience to have an excuse to work here for six or nine months," he said.

Of course, no discussion of possible Tarantino adaptations is complete without Modesty Blaise, the comic strip character whose first novelized story is seen in Vincent Vega's hands during Pulp Fiction. Tarantino once considered doing a Modesty Blaise film, and was so interested that Miramax (the company he was attached to at the time) had a quick direct-to-video film called My Name Is Modesty churned out just so they could retain the rights long enough for Tarantino to make his version. That was in 2004, so obviously Tarantino has moved on.

A softcore sex film

There's one more genre that Tarantino has both expressed interest in exploring despite significant misgivings: sexploitation. Tarantino has long been a fan of the softcore sex films of the 1970s, as he is a fan of many cult subgenres, and in a 2007 interview he even explained that he'd figured out a plot for a film of his own.

"I came up with the idea of like a cool sex movie that would take place in Stockholm, with a couple of Americans visiting a couple of Swedish friends," he said. "Kind of like the girls in Death Proof, just going out drinking, having a good time, hooking up."

The problem? Tarantino worries that putting his own sexual interests up on screen would create a very tricky promotional process for the film. "If I actually do an erotic movie, I'm going to have to reveal what I find sexy, what turns me on. And when it comes to sex in movies, it's got to be kind of kinky, because that's what's cinematic, that's what's fun," he explained. "But my problem wouldn't be revealing myself. My problem would be doing a press tour talking about me revealing myself. And how creepy that would be, how creepy the questions would be."