Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds, is one of the greatest Jewish revenge fantasies ever made. The film was well received both commercially and critically, making $321 million internationally, making it the highest grossing Tarantino film in his career up to that point until the release of Django Unchained. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.
While we Basterds fans wait patiently for the oft-teased prequel, here are a few facts about the original that you may not have known.
44. So it is Written
The film’s title card was actually taken from the cover page of Tarantino’s final draft from July 2008. It is in Tarantino’s handwriting and is endearingly child-like for a film about killing Nazis.
43. Get Spellcheck You Basterds!
This Inglourious Basterds wasn’t the first movie of that name. There was a 1978 Italian war film by name of Inglorious Bastards, which makes us wonder why the Italians know how to spell “inglorious” and “bastards” but Tarantino didn’t.
42. Unsolved Mystery
When asked about the deliberately misspelled title, Tarantino said, “Here’s the thing. I’m never going to explain that. You do an artistic flourish like that, and to explain it would just take the piss out of it and invalidate the whole stroke in the first place.”
41. Rolls Right Off the Tongue
Intending for this to be a war film within the genre of a spaghetti western, Tarantino originally wanted to call the movie Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France, or as fans would have called it, OUATINOF.
40. A Long Pregnancy
Tarantino started writing the film in 1998, a full eleven years before it actually got made. Tarantino put the film on the shelf to make Kill Bill and Death Proof first. Luckily, inflicting violence upon Nazis has never gone out of style.
39. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
In fact, Tarantino kept putting the film aside because he could never think of a good ending. It wasn’t until he finished Kill Bill that he finally came up with the ‘masterpiece’ ending.
38. Mrazing Out
In order to keep himself calm during the writing process, Tarantino reportedly listened to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” on repeat and if you look into your heart you’ll find love love love. And oh God, the song is stuck in our head. Kill us! Kill us before it’s too late!
37. Hugo Stiglitz: Certified Bad Ass
While he doesn’t actually appear on screen, Samuel L. Jackson can be heard in the movie narrating the Hugo Stiglitz’s backstory of an amateur Nazi killer gone pro.
36. A Man in Uniform
Til Schweiger, who played Hugo Stiglitz, was born and raised in Germany and had always refused roles that required him to put on a Nazi uniform. He agreed to this role only because he got to kill Nazis. So if you ever want Til Schweiger to act in your films, add a scene where he gets to kill a Nazi. Even if it’s a romantic comedy.
Tarantino originally wanted the part of Hans Landa to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio before he reconsidered and instead cast German actor Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his performance. DiCaprio wound up playing an evil plantation owner instead in Django Unchained.
34. Sorry Leo…
The first acting award ever for a Tarantino film was the aforementioned Christoph Waltz winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for a role that could have gone to DiCaprio. Then Waltz won another Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which co-starred DiCaprio. At this point, DiCaprio hadn’t yet won an Oscar and, honestly, it seemed like Waltz was straight-up mocking him.
33. Last Waltz
Tarantino almost scrapped the entire idea of doing the film as they couldn’t find anyone good enough to play Hans Landa and he feared he’d written a role that was unplayable. It wasn’t until they auditioned Waltz that they were willing to go ahead with the film.
32. Be Very Very Quiet
Although he plays the part of a notorious and merciless “Jew Hunter,” in real-life, Waltz has a son who is a rabbi. After his years of Talmudic studies,he probably would not approve of his father’s Jew hunting.
31. Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It
The pipe that Hans Landa smokes in the film is a Calabash Meerschaum, the same kind of pipe smoked by another famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, who no doubt would have made an excellent Jew hunter.
30. Cunning Linguist
Christoph Waltz speaks the most languages in the film, covering English, German, French, Italian, and Hebrew. If he ever needs work in the future, he would be the perfect spokesperson for Rosetta Stone.
Multilingual Christoph Waltz was his own voice actor for the German and French dubs of the movie.
28. They’re All Gonna Laugh at You!
The role of Donny Donowitz, AKA “The Bear Jew,” was originally slated for Adam Sandler who dropped out to do Funny People instead.
27. He’s Not Alone
When asked how he got into the mindset of the baseball bat-wielding, violently murderous Bear Jew, Eli Roth said that his girlfriend had secretly added some Hannah Montana onto his iPod and he couldn’t stop thinking about Hannah Montana, and that whenever Tarantino thought he was in the zone, he was merely in a place of insanity, driven there by Hannah Montana.
26. Quick Shooter
Eli Roth directed Nation’s Pride (Stolz der Nation), the film within the film. Roth set up a stunning number of shots in a short period of time, which is rather fitting for a movie about a sniper.
One of the signatures that Donny Donowitz collected on his baseball bat was that of Anne Frank, a well-known literary one-hit wonder.
24. Les Cousins Dangereux
The role of Shosanna Drefus’ father, Jakob, was played by Swiss actor Patrick Elias, whose father was Buddy Elias, a first cousin of Anne Frank. Which makes Patrick and Anne… second cousins? We literally have no idea how the whole cousin thing works.
23. Got You Pegged
Tarantino originally wanted Simon Pegg to play Archie Hicox and lead Operation Kino, but he had to drop out to shoot motion capture for Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. Pegg was replaced by Michael Fassbender which is perfect since he and Fassbender are basically twins.
22. Preparation Ouch
Fassbender was born in Germany and German was his first language. This came in handy as his character went undercover and had to speak long scenes of dialogue in fluent German. Too bad there was no preparation for getting shot in the pills.
21. Shot in the Cockney
Fassbender, who was born in Germany but raised in Ireland, is fluent in German first and English second, becoming a master of English accents. In the film, he plays an Englishman who goes undercover as a German, speaks German fluently, but is killed because he cannot hide his English accent.
20. Getting the Finger
Fassbender claims that, to this day, people still greet him on the street simply by holding up “The German 3.” Could be worse. People could be greeting him on the street with “The American 1.”
19. A National Treasure
Similarly, Diane Kruger, also a master of the English accent and best known for her performances in English-speaking films, inadvertently fooled Quentin Tarantino into believing she was American and caused him to doubt her ability to master the German dialogue and accent. She quickly proved him wrong during her audition by being actually German.
18. International Flavor
Only 30% of the film is in spoken English with the rest of the film dominated by French, German, and a little Italian. This is very unusual as Hollywood tends to prefer films entirely in English because many Americans only speak English and don’t like to combine movies with reading.
17. A Wuthering Glare
During his audition, Fassbender inquired about playing Hans Landa, to which Tarantino responded, “Look man. Any guy that gets cast as Heathcliff is not German enough to play by Landa, all right?”
16. Film Major
To prepare for her role as projectionist, Melanie Laurent spent ten days working in the projection booth of the New Beverly Cinema, an arthouse theater owned by Quentin Tarantino. She didn’t really like the work at first, blaming the old-fashioned equipment, but it turns out she was just projecting.
15. A Close Shave
To prepare for their role as Basterds, all the actors went through a day of “scalping training.” Tarantino told them that the three best Nazi scalpers would be rewarded with close-ups during the film which is a great contest for the actors, but a really sh*t contest for the Nazis.
14. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
All the swastikas had to be moved from the German versions of the film’s promotional materials since portraying Nazi symbols is banned in Germany because somebody ruined swastikas for everyone.
13. Black Raine
When Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is first introduced, he is shown wearing the insignia for the “Black Devils” the first Special Service Force composed of both Canadian and American soldiers which was considered a significant improvement to American-Canadian military relations given Canadian soldiers burned down the White House during the War of 1812. The Americans did eventually rebuild the White House. It looks nice.
12. Italian Sub
When he poses as an Italian actor in the cinema scene, Aldo Raine says his name is Enzo Girolami, which is the real name of Enzo G. Castellari, the director of the original Inglourious Basterds.
In the Quentin Tarantino Universe, the character of Lt. Aldo Raine is Floyd’s (the pothead on the couch from True Romance) great grandfather.
B.J. Novak had to take a leave of absence from The Office in order to play Pfc. Utivich. His absence on the show was explained by his character going to “Thailand with friends from high school.” We suppose that Ryan “going to 1940s Germany to scalp Nazis” might not have fit in with the tone of The Office, but the reaction from Jim would have been priceless.
9. Monkeying Around
In the film, a group of German soldiers play a game where they have to guess a famous name written on one’s forehead. The card that Hellstrom (the Gestapo major) has to identify is King Kong. King Kong which was one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite movies.
8. Art Imitates Life
Another one of the names in the game was Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic danger famous for being a double agent which mirrored the role of Bridget von Hammersmark, played by Diane Kruger, a famous actress turned double agent.
7. Realistic Asphyxiation
In the scene where Bridget von Hammersmark was choked to death, Tarantino was concerned that the choking scene wouldn’t be realistic enough, so he literally took matters into his own hands and did the scene himself, sat on top of Kruger, and strangled her to the point of unconsciousness, which has got to be some sort of HR violation.
6. Goodbye Sally
This film marked the end of a longtime collaboration between Tarantino and Menke who sadly passed away shortly after the film’s premiere. Of their working relationship, Tarantino sarcastically noted that “sometimes I get annoyed with her for not reading my mind 100% It’s not good enough that she reads it 80% of the time.”
5. Flag Burners
The Nazi flag falling down in the final scene was also unscripted, but happened because the steel that held it up melted.
4. If the Glove Fits
The odd little glove guns used by Donny and Omar to breach Hitler’s box are known as Sedgley OSS .38’s and were originally designed for covert operations and assassinations in the Pacific Theater. They were also known as “Glove Guns.” Because it’s a glove that’s a gun.
3. Hello Sally
At the end of each take, actors would face the camera and say “Hello Sally,” a nod to editor Sally Menke, who had worked on every Tarantino film up until this point. This practice of saying “Hello Sally” had occurred on all of Tarantino’s previous films.
The original cut of the film came in at well over three hours but Menke managed to cut the film down to a more cinema-friendly 153 minutes in just two days. Leave it up to the woman to tell a man that his stuff isn’t as long as he thinks it is.
1. Feeling Hot Hot Hot
During the filming of the fire sequence, the set burned out of control and the temperature of the ceiling above actors Eli Roth and Omar Doom reached 1,200 degrees Centigrade. Despite the intense heat, neither actor wanted to back down and ruin the shot. Fire marshals said that another fifteen seconds of filming would have resulted in the collapse of the steel structure and the incineration of Eli Roth and Omar Doom, who would have finally lived up to his name.