The Weinstein Company needs Quentin Tarantino's World War II flick to reach the largest audience possible.

Selling 'Basterds'

on July 09, 2009 by Christian Toto


Fans at Saturday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship event in Las Vegas are going to get something more than a furious display of feet and fisticuffs.

The pay-per-view event will feature footage from Inglourious Basterds, the upcoming Quentin Tarantino war film starring Brad Pitt as the head of a Nazi-busting unit.

Basterds, a period piece inspired by the 1970s movie of the same name - but different spelling—will be advertised in the ring and on a billboard in the Las Vegas arena hosting the fights.

Clearly, The Weinstein Company is directly targeting action fans, but is that the right way to approach a dialogue-heavy film featuring unfamiliar faces and stretches spoken in different languages?

Stephen Garrett, co-founder of Kinetic Trailers, says the film has plenty of the elements required for a crackerjack marketing campaign, from Adolf Hitler going apoplectic to Pitt’s ornery speech about collecting Nazi scalps.

But a certain amount of bait and switch may be in order when it comes to marketing these Basterds.

“The teaser doesn’t make it look like it’s a foreign language film,” Garrett says. “But the movie has as many as four different languages and a lot of subtitles.”

Tarantino hasn’t worked with a star like Brad Pitt before, an actor at the peak of his fame. Typically, the director tries to resuscitate the careers of older stars (John Travolta, Pulp Fiction ) or works with unknowns (Zoey Bell from Death Proof ). But even that potential draw has a downside.

“I was surprised how little Brad Pitt is in the movie. It’s only a supporting role,” says Garrett, who saw a cut of the film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Comic actor Mike Myers of Wayne’s World fame also appears in the film, but only for a few minutes and in a straight role.

Audiences know Tarantino as much for his action-soaked films as his penchant for wry dialogue. But Basterds plays up the latter far more than the former. Garrett says working in several languages cut down on the excessive chatter but the bulk of the action won‘t be seen on screen.

Tarantino’s breakout hit Reservoir Dogs featured a bank job the audience never got a chance to witness.

“[ Basterds ] is an ambitious, sophisticated film and people are expecting something different, this band of American soldiers going around killing Nazis,” he says. “That happens off screen.”

Basterd ’s release date—August 21—may offer its own rewards for the studio.

“August can play toward a more adult action film,” he says. “If they can get people in the seats with the anticipation of seeing a lot of violence, then you’ll have a good opening.”

Larry Collins, vice president of film with Carmike Cinemas, thinks the twin appeal of Tarantino and Pitt should be enough to woo younger audiences on opening weekend.

Collins did his own market research to explain why.

“I can go by my son who is 23 and loves Tarantino movies. Brad Pitt and Tarantino are major selling points,” Collins says.

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