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SYFY WIRE gremlins

Quentin Tarantino reveals how a headless Gremlin scored him a deep dive with Joe Dante

By Josh Weiss
Quentin Tarantino Gremlins

About 10 years before Reservoir Dogs turned Quentin Tarantino into a household name, the filmmaker was interviewing other famous auteurs for a book project that never panned out.

"It was on film directors," he said during a recent guest appearance on the Pure Cinema Podcast. "I thought I would start on the interviews and then write the pieces. The book was called Cinema of the Outrageous ... I never finished it because I was 20 and I was a flake and I was too young and far too flaky to write a book. But I had every intention of writing the book and I started off with interviews."

Quentin Tarantino

He then went on to recount how the book gained him access to the set of Gremlins in the early 1980s. Thanks to a technical malfunction with one of the gremlin puppets, Tarantino was able to chat with director Joe Dante for an extended period of time before the issue was resolved.

"They had me behind a partition because I wasn’t supposed to see what a gremlin looked like. I had all this access to [Dante] because a gremlin's head fell off and so, it took them a while to fix the gremlin head," he continued. "I’m sitting there talking to him, and then they fixed it, but they see he's talking, so they just let us talk for a while. I’m literally just this guy visiting the set, and they could [have been] shooting at least 20 minutes earlier, but they’re just letting him talk. At some point he goes, 'Ok, you know what? I’m gonna to wrap this up. I kinda see that they’re done and they’re kind of waiting for me to come, but they don’t want to say anything.'"

This is the second story about Tarantino's epic exploits in Hollywood to surface this week. On Monday, we learned that Pierce Brosnan was pitched a James Bond movie by the Pulp Fiction writer/director while the two go drunk on martinis (of course).

It's a little ironic that Tarantino was there on a day when a puppet accidentally lost its head because a gremlin is beheaded in the actual movie when Mrs. Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) is attacked by one hiding in the family's Christmas tree. In an earlier draft of the script (written by Chris Columbus), Mrs. Peltzer was the one decapitated. 


Thankfully, Dante — presumably working on feedback from executive producer Steven Spielberg — curtailed some of the film's darker inclinations. While the finished product is definitely still in the realm of a dark comedy, it never abandons its tongue-in-cheek approach for outright horror, allowing (most of) the humans to maintain the upper hand.

Paying homage to the B-movies of the 1950s, Gremlins is about a small town, Kingston Falls, that becomes overrun by an army of short, mean-spirited creatures that love causing all sorts of chaos. The movie charmed audiences and brought in over $150 million globally against an $11 million budget. Along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it also helped inspire the PG-13 rating.

Considered to be one of the greatest pieces of cinema made during the '80s, Gremlins led to a direct sequel (The New Batch) in 1990, swapping Kingston Falls for New York City. An animated prequel series about Mr. Wing's adventures with Gizmo (Secrets of the Mogwai) is in the works at HBO Max.