Brow Beat

Audio Resurfaces of Quentin Tarantino Defending Roman Polanski, Calling 13-Year-Old Victim “Down With It”

Quentin Tarantino speaks onstage during the panel for the Reservoir Dogs screening at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Quentin Tarantino.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if a famous man’s name is in the headlines in connection with the #MeToo movement, his past remarks defending a convicted rapist will resurface shortly thereafter. A New York Times piece about Uma Thurman’s #MeToo story has thrown Quentin Tarantino into the spotlight, not because he is accused of sexual misconduct, but because of his professional ties to Harvey Weinstein, who Thurman has accused of assault, and because of a car crash that took place on the set of Kill Bill. (Weinstein’s team has characterized the incident as Weinstein making an “awkward pass” at Thurman and claims there was no physical contact.)

Tarantino has since shared his version of those events, calling the crash “one of the biggest regrets of my life” and talking about Weinstein’s alleged harassment of both Thurman and Tarantino’s ex, Mira Sorvino. Thurman has also made a point of praising Tarantino for releasing footage from the crash and shifted the blame toward Weinstein and the film’s other producers. Still, the increased scrutiny on Tarantino led Jezebel to resurface an interview from 2003 with Howard Stern, in which Tarantino defends director Roman Polanski over his conviction for sex with a minor, calling the 13-year-old victim a “party girl” and stating that he did not consider what Polanski did “rape.”

The initial YouTube video of the interview been pulled due to a copyright claim by Sirius XM, but below, you’ll find a partial transcription of the conversation between Tarantino, Stern, and Robin Quivers on The Howard Stern Show on Nov. 19, 2003. (We’ve omitted the call-in portion that followed, and we have identified a fourth, unidentified speaker as “??”)The full audio can still be found over at Jezebel.

Howard Stern: You gotta explain this, I’ve been dying to get a hold of you for this reason. Gary Garver, our reporter out in Hollywood, interviewed you. Here’s what you said. I’ve gotta ask you about this. This I don’t understand. Your movie, I understand. This I don’t. You ready?

Quentin Tarantino: Yeah.

HS: Here we go.

[clip]

Gary Garver: Hey, Quentin, how you doing, man?

QT: Hey.

GG: How’s it going, man?

QT: Pretty good.

GG: Nice to meet you. What’ve you done to make the world a better place?

QT: I don’t know! What do you think I’ve done?

GG: Cool movies.

QT: Oh. I’ll stand with that.

GG: Pulp Fiction’s awesome.

QT: Yeah!

GG: Were you happy when Roman Polanski won the Oscar?

QT: Yeah, that was pretty cool, actually, yeah.

GG: What’s so great about a rapist being the recipient of Hollywood’s highest honor?

QT: I don’t … I don’t consider him a rapist.

[end clip]

HS: All right. That’s … How could you defend … See, I don’t understand this. How come Hollywood embraces this madman, this director who raped a 13-year-old?

QT: He didn’t rape a 13-year-old, it was statutory rape, all right?

HS: Yeah, all right—

Robin Quivers: Well—

QT: That’s not quite the same thing, all right?

RQ: Come on!

HS: Enough said!

QT: That’s statutory rape, you know, he had sex with a, with a minor, all right? That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape …

HS: Right—

QT: … You’re talking about violent, throwing them down, it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world. You can’t throw, you know, throwing the word rape around is like throwing the word racist around, all right? You know, it just doesn’t apply to everything that people use it for, all right? You know, he was, he’s guilty of having sex with a minor.

RQ: That she didn’t want to have.

QT: No! That was not the case at all. She wanted to have it, and dated …

RQ: Well, but the transcripts …

QT: … dated, dated the guy …

RQ: Dated. She’s 13!

QT: … and found out—well, yeah, by the way, we’re talking about America’s morals, we’re not talking about the morals in Europe and everything, all right?

HS: Wait a second. If you have sex with a 13-year-old girl, and you’re a grown man, you know that that’s wrong.

RQ: And you’re giving her booze and pills…

QT: Look. She was down with it.

HS: Ooooooh.

RQ: Oh, you’re crazy. You’re crazy.

QT: And she’s talked about it, she’s talked about it. Now, now that she’s an adult.

RQ: You are so crazy.

QT: I’m, I’m right. She’s talked about it since, about, “No, he didn’t really do anything to me, it was a technicality from being 13.”

HS: Would you ever seduce a 13-year-old with pills and booze?

QT: No, no, no, no. You can’t, you’re killing it with this “pills and booze” thing, all right?

HS: Why—but it’s true!

QT: No more than if she was eighteen or nineteen or twenty.

HS: Oh, that is such—

RQ: There’s—yeah, please, let’s review this.

HS: All right, I’m gonna read the transcript.

QT: Wait a minute, no. The transcripts are like, now she’s trying to take care of her mom, who’s pissed off at her, so now she’s saying this, she’s saying that, now that she’s an adult—

RQ: What are you talking about? This was when it happened!

HS: Listen to this.

QT: I know, that’s what I’m saying, her mom is now on her, she has to say, “He did this, he did that.” Now that she’s an adult, she’s got a whole different story.

HS: [reading from transcript] “What did Mr. Polanski say?”
“He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take you home soon.”
“What did you do?”
“I told him, I said that I wanted to get, I wanted to go home.”
“What did Mr. Polanski say?”
“He told me to go in the other room and lie down. I was going, ‘No, I better go home,’ because I was afraid. So I went and I sat down on the couch.”
“And were you afraid of him?”
“Him?”
See?

QT: And what was the answer?

HS: Then they just go, “Him?” I don’t, that was weird.

QT: It’s a very provocative question with no answer.

HS: “What happened when you sat down on the couch?”
“He sat down beside me and he asked if I was okay. I said, ‘No.’ You know, ‘Keep away.’”

QT: Okay.

HS: “And then what happened?”
“And then he went down and he started performing cuddliness.” Because she’s 13. “Cuddliness.”

QT: Okay, then, okay, now let me talk for a second here.

HS: She didn’t even know what the word “cunnilingus” was, she said “cuddliness.”

QT: Okay, now let me…

HS: Go ahead. Do you know Roman Polanski?

QT: Oh, I don’t—I’ve met him once, but he’s not a friend or anything like that.

HS: All right.

QT: Now, if you were going to really do equal time, you’d have his book, Roman by Polanski, and read his chapter about what he says happens, all right?

RQ: Well of course he’s going to say she was into it!

QT: And of course she’s going to say this because she knew she was in trouble with her mom!

RQ: So why do you side with him?

QT: Because his, I, his version sounds more likely.

RQ: Uhhhhhhhhhhhh.

QT: Sounds really, really more likely. She was not …

RQ: You know how he could have avoided all this? Not being with a 13-year-old.

HS: Go get a woman your own age.

QT: He likes girls!

RQ: He likes babies!

HS: But 13-year-olds?

??: This is the way I always put it in perspective with guns, too.

HS: I know what you’re going to say.

QT: What, I’m not doing it!

??: If you had a 13-year-old daughter, the most mature 13-year-old daughter in the world. She looks seventeen. And your 13-year-old daughter—you leave her alone with a guy who’s supposed to photograph her, who’s 25 or 30. And you find out that he had “cuddliness” with her. You’d freak, wouldn’t you?

QT: Yes.

HS: He had intercourse with her.

??: There’d be a bullet in Polanski’s head.

HS: Yeah, you’d kill him.

QT: Yes, yes, I would.

HS: You would kill him.

QT: I’d beat the hell out of him.

HS: Within an inch of his life.

QT: Yeah, I’d beat the hell out of him. But! But the situation was not that she was against all this. She was down to party with Roman. And they partied.

RQ: It is against the law. Let’s get right down to it, it is against the law.

HS: But you’re the adult. The adult is supposed to know better.

QT: OK, but. OK. But let’s talk about it the way it is. She was down with a party. He was down with a party, but she was—

RQ: She was 13, she doesn’t get to say she’s down with a party. She can’t sign a contract, she can’t rent an apartment, she can’t do anything. She has to get her parents’ permission for anything she wants to do.

QT: I know.

RQ: She cannot make the decision.

QT: But now we’re not talking about rape anymore, or we’re not talking about doing it against her will.

RQ: Absolutely we are!

HS: It’s rape. It’s rape.

QT: No we’re not!

HS: Yes! Yes!

RQ: Absolutely.

HS: Yes.

QT: Now you’re talking about, it’s just, it’s a minor situation …

HS: It is rape.

QT: … it’s a situation that she’s a minor.

HS: It’s rape. He should have done jail time.

QT: Is it against the law? You’re right.

HS: He should have done jail time.

QT: Well, in this book, though, do you know what happened?

HS: I will never let him come back into this country. I won’t. He’s not coming into the country.

QT: In his book, he talks about why he slipped.

HS: Why do you like him so much? Why do you think? Because he’s a director?

QT: I don’t like—I’ve read the book, so I actually …

HS: You’re a director, he’s a director, is that what’s going on here?

QT: I have a little bit of information on this, all right, as opposed to just popping off on this and that and the other.

HS: Yeah, any time a person’s 13, an adult has sex with them, I believe that’s rape.

QT: Look, okay, I don’t believe that’s rape, I believe it’s against the law, all right?

HS: I believe it’s rape.

QT: I don’t believe it’s rape. I mean, not at 13. Not for these 13-year-old party girls.

RQ: Oh my god.

HS: All right …

RQ: A “13-year-old party girl,” what is that?

HS: Let me ask you, all right, couldn’t he have had an eighteen-year-old party girl?

QT: When did you guys turn into Bill O’…

HS: Bill O’Reilly?

QT: Bill O’Reilly when I wasn’t looking, all right?

HS: But wait a second. I have a daughter who is 11. She is such a little girl. And even, I have a daughter, seventeen, who while she’s old enough certainly, you know, you still see that youthful innocence. You know, I’ve had three daughters. I know what it is to have a 13-year-old daughter. There is no way, emotionally, they’re equipped to run off with a 40-year-old Roman Polanski. And have him say, “Come on, baby, let’s drink, let’s take some pills,” you know what I’m saying? It’s up to Roman Polanski to go, “You know what? You’re really young. And you know what, maybe this is insane, I have an attraction for you, but you have to go home.”

QT: Yeah, look, okay, in this situation, I agree with you.

HS: Right.

QT: What I’ve had—the only thing I’m having a problem with …

HS: Go ahead.

QT: … is using super big buzzwords that don’t quite apply to the situation, when you say that word, to what you imagine.

HS: It is. It is. You’ve gotta get off the ecstasy and listen to me. Now tell me about ecstasy.

QT: What about it?

HS: Do you do it a lot?

QT: Oh, God, no, not at all, man, I was just—

HS: Not at all?

QT: No, I mean, do I do it a lot, no.

HS: How is it? Is it good?

QT: It’s kinda fun!

HS: It’s fun.

QT: It’s fun when I do it.

HS: Do you do it with Uma?

QT: No, no. I don’t do it that often.

HS: Because you could probably get her top off.

QT: I don’t really do it that often. But by the way, here, one thing. Now here, I won’t mind taking about it, because what you’re quoting is the Playboy interview. Right? I’ve been reading Playboy since I was 13, all right? Throw me in jail, all right?

RQ: Oh my God.

HS: It’s different for a boy…

QT: THROW MY MOM IN JAIL!

RQ: Nobody’s saying that. And actually, at 13 …

QT: Is it the same thing? No, but you can get there from there.

RQ: No no no, if you party at 13 with a 13-year-old, that’s one thing. I don’t think a 40-year-old should be partying with them.

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Marissa Martinelli

Marissa Martinelli is a Slate editorial assistant.