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Tarantino Tackles Nazi-Occupied France in 'Inglourious Basterds'

American writer-director Quentin Tarantino sets his new film in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. His characters include a squad of American volunteers bent on terrorizing the German soldiers; a clever Nazi SS officer determined to stop them; and a Jewish refugee who launches a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. Here's a look at epic-length Inglourious Basterds.

"My name is Lieutenant Aldo Raine and I'm putting together a special team. We're going to be dropped into France dressed as civilians. We are going to be doing one thing and one thing only: killing Nazis. Sound good?"
"Yes sir!"

Brad Pitt stars as Lieutenant Aldo Raine (a none-too-subtle play on the name of 1950's movie tough guy Aldo Ray …one of filmmaker Tarantino's many references to cinema history peppered throughout the film). His special unit made up of Jewish-American soldiers has the task of terrorizing the occupying forces through brutal guerilla attacks.

Tarantino took the film's title from a 1978 Italian-made war film that he remembers from his years working as a video store clerk.

"I always got a kick out of the original," Tarantino says. "I like the 'rip-off' quality of Italian exploitation movies. They're kind of not serious. That's one of the things I like about them and this movie has that. Also I just love the title. I really did love the title, even back when I worked at 'Video Archives.' "Inglorious Bastards" became our name for a bunch of guys on a mission movie. It was the genre. That was the name we gave the genre. Now they call it 'macaroni combat.'"

Sort of the cousin to 'spaghetti western.' Tarantino took the title, but built a new story around it, filled with the long stretches of dialog that his fans enjoy along with the graphic violence that has become a Tarantino signature element. Tarantino pays tribute to many previous war films that he admires as he freely revises history for this 'wish-fulfillment' fantasy that includes a plot to assassinate Hitler at a gala movie premiere. However, despite its two-and-a-half hour length, the writer-director says the script does not explain everything he put in the film.

"I really like proposing things and bringing them up, but not answering them: letting you figure out stuff," Tarantino explains. "For instance, I don't explain the scar. You've got to explain the scar. How did he get the scar?"

The unexplained scar is around the neck of Brad Pitt's character. Pitt says if they get to do another film, the scar may be explained; and, on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere (with fans screaming in the background), the matinee idol says his reason for doing this film is simple.

"Quentin Tarantino and all that entails," Pitt says. "You kind of know, when it's coming your way, it's going to be something outrageous."

Pitt adds that he enjoyed being part of the intricate, extended story.

"You have this great international cast and what makes this one different is even the peripheral characters are not just there to support the main people or the story, they've all got something going on …something tasty …so everyone had a sense of self-worth and good fun and, again, it's outrageous. It's an outrageous story," Pitt says.

The interrogator is SS Colonel Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz.

"[Is] Landa the heavy or not the heavy? It's not that easy. It's far more complex than the good guy, the white hat, the black hat. No, more complex than that and therefore infinitely more fun," Waltz says.

The Viennese Waltz (he was born in the Austrian capital) won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for what he calls one of the great roles in the history of drama.

"The challenge to actually leave moral parameters aside and the challenge to approach this in a non-opinionated way is incredibly gratifying," Waltz says. "This is one of the parts where you test your existence; you test your limits; you test your own capabilities and your scope. It becomes like a benchmark for your own views and existence.

"A German soldier conducts a search of a house suspected of hiding Jews. He looks in the barn, he looks in the attic, he looks in the cellar...he looks everywhere he would hide. However, the reason the Fuhrer has brought me off my Alps in Austria and placed me in French cow country today is because I'm aware of what tremendous feats human beings are capable of once they abandon dignity."

Inglourious Basterds also features French-born Melanie Laurent, German actress Diane Kruger and Irish screen star Michael Fassbender. The members of the American squad include B.J. Novak of the TV comedy The Office and Eli Roth, writer-director of Hostel and other horror films produced by Quentin Tarantino. The film was shot on location in Germany and France.