A scandal is brewing in either cinema or journalism, depending on who you believe. On Saturday, Indiewire reported that composer Ennio Morricone, in an interview with the German edition of Playboy, had some terrible things to say about director Quentin Tarantino, whose film The Hateful Eight Morricone scored. The interview, which appears in the print edition, was excerpted on Playboy’s website. On Sunday, Variety reports, Morricone flatly denied participating in an interview with Playboy Germany at all, never mind calling Tarantino a “cretin” whose movies are “trash.” Morricone says his lawyers will be seeking civil and criminal penalties.
If the interview wasn’t made up out of whole cloth, there’s not a lot of room for Morricone to argue that his quotes were taken out of context or garbled in translation. The headline is “Ennio Morricone: ‘Quentin Tarantino kann mich mal,’ ” which loosely translates to “Ennio Morricone: ‘Quentin Tarantino can lick my ass,’ ” and things do not get better from there. In a section headlined “Der Mann ist ein Kretin,” Playboy has Morricone deliver a coherent and scathing assessment of Tarantino’s work:
“The man is a cretin,” says Morricone. “He just steals from others and reassembles it. There’s nothing original about that. And he’s not a director, either. He’s not comparable to real Hollywood greats like John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, or Billy Wilder. They were great. Tarantino only cooks with old ingredients.”
Morricone, in Playboy Germany’s telling, went on to call Tarantino’s films “trash” and explain that people were mistaken to think he was moved by winning his first competitive Oscar at the 2016 Academy Awards. In fact, he clarified, if he seemed emotional, it was only because he had been suffering from back pain during the flight to America and the ceremony itself and was thrilled he could finally leave. He went on to call the Oscars an “embarrassment,” “pompous,” and a “frippery.” Let’s go to the tape, from the era in which every Oscar speech featured a reaction shot of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein:
Ambiguous! Now, in a lengthy statement, Morricone says the interview never happened.
It has come to my attention that Playboy Germany has come out with an article in which I have called Tarantino a cretin and consider his films garbage. This is totally false. I have never called Tarantino a cretin and certainly do not consider his films garbage. I have given a mandate to my lawyer in Italy to take civil and criminal action.
I consider Tarantino a great director. I am very fond of my collaboration with him and the relationship we have developed during the time we have spent together. He is courageous and has an enormous personality. I credit Tarantino for being one of the people responsible for getting me an Oscar, which is for sure one of the greatest acomplishments of my career, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to compose music for his film.
In London, during a press conference in front of Tarantino, I clearly stated that I consider Quentin one of the greatest directors of this time.
There’s not a lot of overlap between competing realities here: in one, Morricone gave an unusually frank interview which he later regretted and disavowed, throwing Playboy Germany under the bus in the process. In the other, a writer for Playboy Germany decided to Stephen Glass together an interview with Ennio Morricone out of his or her own cultural hobby horses and hoped no one would notice. Either way, this is going to ruin friendships and careers. But there is a third possibility: a shadow economy of Ennio Morricone impersonators scattered across the continent, harmoniously giving interviews, attending Q&A’s, entertaining at birthday parties, and positively shredding on the ocarina every chance they get. Now that one of the Fauxicones has gone outlaw, the others will have to team up and hunt their former comrade down—before a mysterious bounty hunter working for the railroads sends the whole Morricone Gang to Boot Hill! Admittedly, the Tristero Morricone scenario is the least likely explanation for this whole mess—but it definitely has the best score.