Gulp, fiction?: Is Quentin Tarantino really planning his last film?

Donald Clarke: The director is supposedly making a movie about famed critic Pauline Kael, but take that with a grain of salt

A fog of qualified excitement spread across the film world last week as murmurs concerning “Quentin Tarantino’s final film” emerged. Our old friend Mr A Source told The Hollywood Reporter that the director was prepping a script to shoot this autumn. The loose-lipped insider claimed the film was “set in late 1970s Los Angeles with a female lead at its centre”.

The trade paper went on to argue it was “possible” the film would focus on The New Yorker’s legendary critic Pauline Kael. We were reminded that, in those late 1970s, Ms Kael, moving from fox’s den to henhouse, suffered a brief, unsuccessful period as a consultant to Paramount Studios. The Irish Times now snarkily mentions Brian Clough’s 44 days as manager of Leeds United and wonders if The Film Critic will owe a debt to Tom Hooper’s The Damned United.

As the Oscars fade in the rear-view mirror and we scramble for rubbish to fill up the yawning hours, it seems easier to believe the story than waste effort on raising eyebrows. The chattering cinephiles have already had great fun casting the Kael role. Jennifer Jason Leigh, surely capable of catching the critic’s acidic tone – and exactly the right age – is the runaway favourite for a role that doesn’t yet (and may never) exist. Also figuring strongly are Michelle Pfeiffer, Judy Davis, Leslie Manville and, still pals with QT despite fallings-out over Kill Bill, the distinctly unKaelean Uma Thurman. Will The Film Critic be at Cannes in 2025? Is he really serious about retiring? Can I do a tired joke about Tarantino’s habit of shooting his female stars’ naked feet?

Let us all calm down. Much as both the director’s fans and detractors yearn to chew this prospect to ribbons there is every possibility it won’t happen – or that it won’t happen in this form. Just a few months ago, Tarantino confirmed he had written eight episodes of a TV series that he planned to shoot “next year” (now this year). Speaking to the 2 Bears 1 Cave podcast, he gave the impression he was nowhere close to launching a new feature. Then again, that is just what he would say. Right?


The truth is that Tarantino boasts an unrivalled virtual canon of projects proposed, abandoned, speculated about, casually addressed and merely imagined. Only Martin Scorsese – remember when he was juggling biopics of both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin? – has been associated with more potentially tasty dishes that never made it on to the dinner table.

Tarantino reckons he might stop at 10 features. In the alternative universe where all his proposed projects came to fruition he has maybe 30 or 40 titles to his name. Where to begin? The one that refused to go away was his Star Trek sequel. As recently as 2019, just as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was debuting on the Croisette, the director was making positive noises. “It’s a very big possibility,” he said. “I haven’t been dealing with those guys for a while because I’ve been making my movie. But we’ve talked about a story and a script.” By the end of the year, it was reported that he had moved on.

Then there was his long-harboured passion to direct a James Bond film. Around 20 years ago, he was on board with the idea of going back to Casino Royale, the first 007 novel, but, unlike the film that eventually emerged, Tarantino’s version would invite Pierce Brosnan back to appear in a period piece. That could have worked. He is not the only person who would like to see the spy in the 1960s again.

In 2012, he proposed Killer Crow, a completion of the “trilogy” that began with Inglourious Basterds and Django. That film would, apparently, follow a party of black soldiers in the second World War as they (what else?) take revenge after being betrayed by their superiors. There was a kung fu film in Mandarin. There was a plan to bring Michael Madsen’s character from Reservoir Dogs together with John Travolta’s character from Pulp Fiction in the Vega Brothers. I was indecently excited about his scheme to adapt Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match espionage trilogy, but that has been among the weeds for decades. There is a great deal more where those came from.

If Tarantino really does end his feature career with The Film Critic it will be a loss for all those who love his finished films and love to hate his finished films. We will also lose one of the great alternative careers in cinematic history. He can no longer convincingly speculate about an incoming Luke Cage film, Hawksian screwball comedy or Elmore Leonard adaptation. Wasn’t there also a Silver Surfer screenplay?

The virtual QT Metaverse will be a poorer place.