Jackie Brown: About The Production

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From the age of 15, when Quentin Tarantino first shoplifted from a local K-Mart, then read THE SWITCH, Elmore Leonard has been a key influence upon the writer-director's thinking about storytelling. Known for creating comedic dialogue, ironic and offbeat stories and colorful yet believable lowlifes, Leonard is one of America's most popular crime writers.

Curiously, THE SWITCH also marked the first appearance in Leonard's work of the mismatched partners in crime Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, who would reappear 15 years later in RUM PUNCH, the basis for JACKIE BROWN, with Ordell portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, and Louis by Robert De Niro.

"Man, I'm telling you, fate's been working its ass off, getting us all together here."
-- Ordell

JACKIE BROWN, Tarantino's first script adapted from a novel, marks an evolutionary development in Tarantino's thinking about character and conflict. PULP FICTION fans will recognize the writer-director's trademark salty dialogue and his deft handling of a complex narrative, but as Tarantino puts it, "the film is as much about what motivates these characters as about what happens next." Producer Lawrence Bender points out, "Quentin is doing something different. You still have all this great dialogue, these great characters and great circumstances between people and there's the way he shoots, but with all these things, you have this extra element. There's real sweetness amongst all this other craziness. In a certain aspect, this movie's a romance."

"It's a quiet film," Tarantino says, "but my idea of quiet may not be anyone else's."

Tarantino relished the challenge of adapting Leonard. "I wanted to keep his dry sense of humor without getting too 'joky'. That's very much the kind of balance I was after in JACKIE BROWN." The result is a seamless blending of Tarantino's sensibility with Leonard's.

Tarantino made several significant changes in the course of creating a screenplay out of the book. First, he shifted the locale from Elmore Leonard's home turf to his own from South Florida to the South Bay region of Los Angeles -- El Segundo, Torrance, Hawthorne and the adjacent beach communities. For him, the change was crucial; a way to retain the story's fine-tuned sense of lived-in reality in its transition from an Elmore Leonard novel to a Quentin Tarantino film.

"I don't know Miami at all," Tarantino explains, "but I know South Bay like the back of my hand. This was a way for me to make this movie personal to myself and to be confident that I could keep it real. In a South Bay context I knew exactly where each of these people would live, how they would dress, what their apartments would look like. Shooting in Miami I would not have come to those things as naturally."

He decided to cast '70's icon Pam Grier as the protagonist Jackie Brown, a role which in RUM PUNCH was a white woman named Jackie Burke. Notes producer Lawrence Bender, "Quentin has been a Pam Grier fan forever ...and she was just perfect for the role. She's got something extra no one else could have really brought to it; she embodies the essence of the character. Jackie's a gorgeous woman in her mid-40's who's had a tough life and has her back up against the wall. She's very vulnerable, and by making her black instead of white puts her that much more into jeopardy."

By casting Grier, Tarantino was able to blend in something of the mood of the blaxploitation movies of the '60's an '70' of which he is a fan. Topical, full of wildly colorful characters and outrageous situations, the urban action movies captured something of the political and social climate of the times. More importantly to the droves of teenagers, (like Tarantino) who fueled this industry, they kicked ass. JACKIE BROWN, although not directly inspired by the movies, shows their influence in subtle touches such as set design and a soundtrack influenced by soul hits of the '70's.

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