What Quentin Tarantino Really Thought About Natural Born Killers

"Seeing this movie once is not enough. The first time is for the visceral experience, the second time is for the meaning," Roger Ebert once said about Oliver Stone's 1994 crime/murder thriller, "Natural Born Killers." The harrowing and cruel saga of Mickey and Mallory Knox, two deranged lovers who embark upon a nationwide killing spree for the mere sake of sport is one of the most controversial and unapologetically audacious films of the past few decades. It's a deep, unflinching look into society's perverse obsession with violence and the media's penchant for turning devastating tragedies into colorful spectacles. Newlyweds Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) are diabolical revisualizations of Bonnie and Clyde who, in the midst of their inhuman and indiscriminate murder rampage, become worldwide celebrities for their bloody exploits. 

Their sadistic and chaotic antics pose the question of nature vs. nurture in regards to mankind's seemingly insatiable bloodlust, weaving together a multi-layered plot whose dazzling cinematic presentation is disturbing to behold at times. Ebert was right when he said that "Natural Born Killers" requires multiple viewings, but some people would argue that even once is one too many times. In fact, the man who originally wrote the film has postulated as much since its release 28 years ago. According to NME, Quentin Tarantino walked out of "Natural Born Killers" before he could finish it because he hated it so much. Apparently, after selling the script to Oliver Stone, he couldn't bear to watch what had become of it. 

Why did Quentin Tarantino hate Natural Born Killers?

In a 2019 interview with Indie Wire, Oliver Stone explained, "[Quentin Tarantino] wrote the original script, and we bought it. It was all done legally. A lot of money was paid. His opinion, yeah he didn't care for it, but I don't know if he ever saw it. He went around and said that and I don't think it was the right thing to do." 

So yes, renditions were made to Tarantino's original version of "Natural Born Killers," but what kind of sweeping changes made by Stone and his team could have been so prominent that the "Pulp Fiction" director wound up despising it so devotedly? According to Far Out Magazine, much of Tarantino's story was changed —certain attributes of his main characters that he viewed as inalienable were disregarded and revamped through a different prism. 

While Stone's script collectivizes all of Mother Nature's creatures into a boiling vat of blood and primordial predation, Tarantino asserted that Mickey and Mallory were the sole "menace to living creatures." There were also stylistic differences between Stone's manifestation of the story and anything Tarantino would traditionally be inclined to employ through a cinematic eye, most notably a surrealist angle to the film that at times had the characters appearing as cartoons and sitcom personalities (via Indian Express). He once declared to his fans at large, "I hated that f****** movie. If you like my stuff, don't watch that movie" (per Far Out Magazine).

Other disagreements that arose between Tarantino and Stone

Quentin Tarantino's disavowal of Mickey and Mallory through the eyes of Oliver Stone didn't end there. He regarded one particular scene that dealt with infidelity as especially contemptible, arguing that the murderous lovers would "never" cheat on one another. 

"The point of the thing is that they unnaturally live for each other at the expense of everyone else on the planet Earth," he once told Brian Koppelman in a 2021 podcast interview (per The Playlist). At any rate, Tarantino just wanted to wash his hands of the whole ordeal and pleaded with the "Natural Born Killers" crew to omit his name from the credits, according to Screen Rant

However, he wasn't fully ready to relinquish his precious progeny over to someone else entirely. Quentin Tarantino has made a common practice out of publishing paperback volumes of some of his hottest scripts (he even released a novelized rendition of "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood" in June of 2021). When he tried to do this with his original version of "Natural Born Killers," legal entities speaking on behalf of Oliver Stone attempted to sue him for copyright infringement. They insisted that he no longer held any publishing rights and that he'd forfeited them after selling his script to Stone. Nevertheless, he was eventually given clearance to do it (via Screen Rant). You can also find paperback versions of "True Romance," "Reservoir Dogs," and "Pulp Fiction" in their original formats (per Far Out Magazine).

Tarantino used Natural Born Killers to fund other projects

Some often wonder why Quentin Tarantino simply didn't direct "Natural Born Killers" himself. If he cared so much about its execution (pun intended), why not see to it on his own terms? Well, it wasn't the first and only script he had to part ways with, and if he hadn't done so, the director's arsenal of great films might look a little different today. According to Far Out Magazine, Tarantino resolved to sell two of his most cherished scripts, "Natural Born Killers" and "True Romance," in order to finance his debut project that hit screens in 1992: "Reservoir Dogs." 

Back in the early 1990s, Quentin Tarantino was still scraping by as a budding filmmaker in the ravenously competitive jungle that was Hollywood's movie scene, so he had to do what was necessary in order to make a name for himself and get his art off the ground. Had he possessed the necessary means to do so, there's a very good chance that he would have taken direct charge of "Natural Born Killers," in which case we'd now be watching a very different version of Mickey and Mallory Knox's brutal odyssey of lustful homicide.