12/18/2012 12:34 pm ET Updated Dec 18, 2012

Quentin Tarantino, 'Django Unchained' Director, On The Loss Of Sally Menke And Being The Mark Twain Of Our Time

Lesson learned: if you refer to a plot point in a Quentin Tarantino movie as "harebrained," Quentin Tarantino just might want to speak to you about your observation. You see, I wasn't supposed to interview Tarantino -- those duties had fallen to my esteemed editor. But while I was at the press day for "Django Unchained" to speak with Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, my editor and I were both informed that Tarantino would speak only to me. Seems he had read my review of "Django" and wanted to discuss some of the specifics with me (e.g. the aforementioned "harebrained" comment). What resulted was a spirited debate that (A) not many filmmakers would openly invite and (B) subverted the traditional interview format. We were basically just two film fans arguing over a movie -- only in this case one of the arguers created the movie in question.

Since "Django Unchained" -- the story of a freed slave's (Jamie Foxx) quest to reunite with his wife (Kerry Washington) -- doesn't open until Christmas Day, we've decided to hold off on publishing our discussion about specific plot points until you've had a chance to see the film. In the meantime, here are some excerpts from our conversation in which Tarantino addressed other topics -- including his thoughts on his pop-cultural legacy and the loss of his longtime editor and collaborator Sally Menke, who passed away in 2010.

You are such an aficionado of popular culture. Do you ever think of your own place in popular culture? Like a president thinks about his legacy?
Yeah. I mean, I would like to be thought of -- when everything is said and done -- not so much like in a group of directors. But, you know, more along the lines of people like Mark Twain or J.D. Salinger ... Bob Dylan. Just, you know artists of the 20th century. Not necessarily just "directors."

Mark Twain is an interesting answer. So a storyteller of our time?
Yeah. You know, I was always really flattered: Dennis Hopper referred to me, as a writer, as "the Mark Twain of our time."

"Django Unchained" is the first movie you've done without Sally Menke as your editor. Did you ever imagine what advice she would have given you on this movie?
You know, not so much. We were just kind of "getting to it." Actually, we did have a sign on the Avid [editing equipment], through the entire editing, that was "WWSD." What Would Sally Do? [Laughs.]

So did you catch yourself thinking that?
For one, I don't know what she would have done. So that would have been a fool's game. It was just more that ... I just miss her. Actually, more in the last stages of the journey. Because those were kind of like the stages -- you know, the mix and the color timing and everything -- where I would recede just a little bit, because I was pretty tired of the process by that time. And she would take one step forward and I would take one tiny step back. And she'd kind of lead the way.

"Django Unchained" opens in the U.S. on December 25. The rest of this conversation will be published after the film's release.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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