In 2005, Quentin Tarantino was quoted as saying that he had written the script, a World War II story, but that he needed to convert it to a shooting script. He said that writing the script and preparing a shooting script were "two different things".
Quentin Tarantino intended for this to be as much a war film as a spaghetti western, and considered titling the movie "Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France". He gave that title instead to the first chapter of the film.
Isabelle Huppert was the first choice for Madame Mimieux, the former owner of the cinema featured in the film. But scheduling conflicts got in the way, so Quentin Tarantino cast Maggie Cheung in the role. The role wound up being cut out of the finished film.
On German advertisement materials all swastikas were removed or covered up, as it was unclear to the distributor if the swastikas violated German law (which prohibits the exhibition of Nazi symbols except for purposes such as historical accuracy).
When asked about the misspelled title, director Quentin Tarantino gave the following answer: "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."
Eli Roth directed the film-within-the-film, "Nation's Pride". Quentin Tarantino asked Roth to direct the short, and Roth requested his brother Gabriel Roth join him to direct behind a second camera, which Tarantino agreed to. In two days the brothers got 130 camera setups, and Tarantino was so pleased he gave Roth a third day that he was originally planning to shoot with actor Daniel Brühl. Roth got 50 more setups the third day, much to Tarantino's delight. The total running time of the short is 5:30, and was always intended to feel like pieces of a longer film, not a coherent short.
Rumor had it that Harvey Weinstein was trying to force Quentin Tarantino to cut 40 minutes of the movie (which ran 148 minutes) after getting feedback from Cannes Film Festival. However, Harvey denied this rumor, stating that Tarantino was reorganizing some scenes since he didn't have enough time to completely finish editing the film before sending it to Cannes, since he was given only six weeks to edit, whereas other directors are given normally six months to a year. In fact, the theatrical cut runs one minute longer than the cut that was premiered at Cannes.
The mock up posters for the propaganda film "Stolz der Nation" are historically accurate including a German censor approval stamp and they are rendered in the style of the actual film posters of that era, according to the book 'Film Posters of the Third Reich'.
Michael Fassbender's performance as Lt. Archie Hilcox is layered with irony due to his real life. Fassbender was born in Germany to German and Irish parents and raised in Ireland, now residing in London with fluency in German as his first language and English as his second, and a mastery of English accents and dialects. Here he plays an Englishman who goes undercover as a German, and who can speak German fluently, but cannot hide his accent.
WILHELM SCREAM: The Scream appears during two deaths in the film. The first half-second of the sound clip appears about 90 minutes into the movie, and the remainder of the scream appears about 20 minutes later. In the film-within-the-film, "Nation's Pride", the Wilhelm Scream can be heard when a soldier is shot and falls from an upper window.
When Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) mentions former UFA actress Lilian Harvey, Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) throws a tantrum and screams never to mention that name in his presence. Lilian Harvey had to flee Nazi Germany in 1939 after helping Jewish choreographer Jens Keith to escape to Switzerland.
When asked how he got into the violent, baseball bat-wielding mindset of "The Bear Jew", Eli Roth partially attributed his performance to the historically accurate costumes: "Being in wool underwear will make you want to kill anything." He also stated (in a separate interview) that his girlfriend had secretly added some Hannah Montana music onto his iPod; when he listened to it, it inexplicably made him able to tap into the violent nature of The Bear Jew.
The character of Kliest is only present as a telephone voice, spoken by the German actor Christian Brückner. Similarly, the character of the OSS Commander is only heard as a voice on the radio, played by Harvey Keitel. Christian Brückner provided the German dubbing voice for Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction.
Cloris Leachman originally appeared in the film as Mrs. Himmelstein, an elderly Jewish woman living in Boston. Although filmed, the scenes featuring Mrs. Himmelstein drinking tea with Donny Donowitz (and signing his trademark baseball bat afterward) were cut from the final film. Quentin Tarantino says that he might use the footage in the prequel instead.
Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) wears the insignia of the British Combined Operations Command, which included forces from all the British services as well as other allied forces as well as the famous Commandos.
When Brad Pitt's character, Lt. Aldo Raine, pretends to be an Italian actor near the end of the movie, he uses name "Enzo Girolami", which is the birth name of the director of original Inglorious Bastards (The Inglorious Bastards), Enzo G. Castellari.
Donowitz talks about "Teddy Ballgame" in Chapter 2. This is one of the many nicknames for Ted Williams, who in addition (arguably) to being the greatest hitter who ever lived, was also a war hero who interrupted his baseball career twice to serve in WWII and the Korean War.
One of the movie posters shows a bloody German helmet dangling from an equally bloody baseball bat. Typically, one would see the logo "Hillerich and Bradsby Louisville, Kentucky" branded on a bat. However, the city reads "Knoxville TN", which is Quentin Tarantino's hometown.
The role of Shosanna Dreyfus's father, Jakob (briefly seen hiding beneath the floorboards in Perrier LaPadite's farmhouse), was played by the Swiss actor Patrick Elias, whose father, Buddy Elias, is a first cousin of Anne Frank.
Roughly only 30% of the film is in spoken English, the language which dominates the film is either French or German, with a little Italian. Chapter Three of the film 'German Night in Paris' is completely devoid of any English. This is highly unusual for a Hollywood production.
The literary character Sherlock Holmes is referred to at least twice in the film. The first reference is Landa's smoking pipe, which is a Calabash Meerschaum, the exact same one that Holmes used. The other is Landa's line, "A damn good detective. Finding people is my specialty."
To prepare for her role, Mélanie Laurent worked as a film projectionist for a few weeks at New Beverly Cinema, projecting mostly cartoons and trailers before shows. The real test set by Quentin Tarantino was for her to screen Reservoir Dogs.
At the end of each take, actors would face the camera and say "Hello Sally", referring to Sally Menke, the film's editor. This practice has occurred since Quentin Tarantino's previous movies (such as Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Death Proof). Inglourious Basterds was the last film by Tarantino to be edited by Menke, whose work was honored in 2010 with her final Academy Award nomination for Best Editing, prior to her death later that year.
This is the second film that Brad Pitt and Diane Kruger have appeared in together. However it is the first in which they interact, as their respective characters never actually met in their first collaboration, Troy.
Ironically, because Diane Kruger's best known performances were in English speaking films, Quentin Tarantino thought she was an American, and doubted whether she could master the German dialogue and accent. Upon audition, she quickly proved to him that she was a native speaking German.
Only five characters in the movie appear in more than two chapters (Hans Landa, Aldo Raine, Donny Donowitz, Shosanna, and Adolf Hitler). Hans Landa appears in four chapters, the most of any character throughout the movie.
The dialogue is in English for approximately 42% of the running time, in German for 28%, in French for 22%, and in Italian for 1%. There is a 54-minute stretch in which less than nine minutes of dialogue are in English, including 25 straight minutes in which no English is spoken.
Archie Hicox's (Michael Fassbender) uniform: He wears the Commando Green Beret, the Combined Operations badge on his left arm, 'No.4 COMMANDO' flashes on his shoulders and an Intelligence Corps cap badge on his beret. This means he was an Intelligence Corps officer who passed the Commando Course at Achnacarry and was serving at the time as part of 'No.4 COMMANDO' (A Commando means both a commando trained individual and a battalion sized formation of commando troops). His 2 medals are the Military Cross (an award for bravery in the face of the enemy) and the Africa Star. This means he was in Africa 1942-43, during which time his conduct earned him the MC.
Gen. Ed. Fenech's (Mike Myers) uniform: He wears the 'No. 2' dress of the British Army, an Officer's Sam Browne belt, the red collar Georgettes of a General, however the view of his buttons is not clear enough to discern his regiment or corps. His medal ribbons include: either an OBE, CBE or KBE (you cannot tell from the ribbon), Transport Medal 1903 (South Africa or China), 1914 Star (with mention in dispatches), The British War Medal (WW1), the Victory Medal (WW1, with mention in dispatches), The General Service Medal (cannot tell which campaign) and then four more medals that I am unable to trace.
At the premiere, Col. Landa is wearing a golden medal around his neck which covers his tie. This is the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold with Swords to recognize non-combat contributions to the Third Reich war effort. Only nine awards were made during the war and it was actually instituted in October 1944 so it was impossible for Landa to be a recipient.
In the basement bar scene, one of the enlisted men refers to Karl May and says his character is Winnetou. This is a reference to the western-theme adventure books by German author Karl May (1842-1912). Winnetou was a Native American hero in several of the books. May was one of Adolf Hitler's favorite authors. However, the gesture of touching the heart and greeting with three fingers the man makes is a anachronism as it was a signature gesture of Winnetou in the movies from the sixties.
The large Nazi eagle displayed in the cinema lobby is based on a bronze eagle that was in the Reichs Chancellery in Berlin, by Kurt Schmid-Ehmen. The original Berlin eagle is now in the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
The title Inglourious Basterds was inspired by "The Inglorious Bastards", the English title of Enzo G. Castellari's The Inglorious Bastards, which is also about a group of American GIs wreaking havoc behind enemy lines, although the stories are wholly different in all other respects. (English Title: "The Inglorious Bastards". The Italian title literally translates as "That Cursed Armored Train".). Castellari returned the favor by calling his new movie Caribbean Basterds.
In the film, a group of German soldiers are playing a game where one has to guess what famous name is written on one's forehead. The note on the soldier played by Ken Duken reads Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who became known for being a double agent for Germany during World War I. This mirrors the role played by Diane Kruger: a famous actress turned double agent for the Allies during World War II.
Quentin Tarantino met with Brad Pitt at Chateau Miraval in France where he lives with Angelina Jolie. They talked about Brad playing the role of Aldo Raine over the course of a night and five bottles of the estate's own Pink Floyd rosé when he accepted the role.
Quentin Tarantino called Rod Taylor personally to offer him the role of Sir Winston Churchill. When Taylor learned the movie was going to be shot in Germany, he pointed out that Albert Finney lived across the pond in England and had played Churchill six or seven times. Tarantino replied, "If Rod Taylor turns me down, I'll call Albert Finney." Taylor accepted the part.
When Major Hellstrom reasons out that his card says King Kong, he is giving Quentin Tarantino's analysis of the movie as an allegory of the American slave trade. He explained this analysis in an interview on NPR with Terry Gross.
At the movie premiere, Josef Goebbels introduces Frederick Zoller to Emil Jannings (played by Hilmar Eichhorn), whom Goebbels calls "the world's greatest actor." Emil Jannings was a German-born star of silent movies. During the 1920's, he starred in several silent classics of German cinema directed by F.W. Murnau, including The Last Laugh and Faust. In 1927, Jannings moved to Hollywood to star in American movies. In 1928, he became the very first winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor (and the first person to ever receive an Academy Award) for his work in The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. But his Hollywood career ended when talkies came in, as Jannings' thick German accent made him difficult to understand. Jannings returned to Germany, where he co-starred with Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel. During the Third Reich era, Jannings starred in numerous films intended to promote Nazism, including Der Herrscher, Uncle Kruger, and Bismarck's Dismissal. Minister of Propoaganda Joseph Goebbels named Jannings as "Artist of the State." (In "Inglourious Basterds," Goebbels has Jannings show Zoller the ring given for this award, which Goebbels calls "the highest artistic honor that I give.") After the war, Jannings' film career was ended due to his association with the Nazis. He retired to a farm in Austria, where he died in 1950.
In a round table discussion with Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino; Tarantino said that Til Schweiger, being an actor born and raised in Germany, had always refused to put on a Nazi uniform for a film role. The only reason he agreed to for this film was because he got to kill Nazis.
The French village of Nadine depicted in the film doesn't really exist. However, on the map shown to Lt. Hicox, its location largely corresponds to the real-life town of Nanteuil-le-Haudouin. Moreover, the word "Haudouin" is still visible on the map, suggesting that it was accidentally left there, while the first part of the town name has been removed and replaced by "Nadine".
In Legends of the Fall, Brad Pitt plays a man who scalps two German soldiers and gets involved with bootlegging. In this film, he plays the leader of a group that scalps German soldiers and mentions a past involvement in bootlegging.
The shooting script includes a scene where Raine and his men intimidate the veterinarian into treating Bridget Von Hammersmark's bullet wound by shooting 2 of the dogs inside their cages. This scene was apparently filmed but cut from the final print, as during the scene with Hammersmark on the table if you look behind her you can see 2 of the cages with holes in the wire mesh, and blood stains and dead dogs within.
As the painter in the background of Adolf Hitler's introductory scene. (Levine admitted this by posting a picture of himself as the character on his Twitter account at 4:03 PM on August 21st, 2009.)
In the German propaganda film-within-a-film, "Nation's Pride", directed by Eli Roth, Tarantino voices an American soldier, who says, "I implore you, we must destroy that tower!". A Tarantino dummy also appears as the first scalped German in the film.
As with all his films, there are blatant mistakes and errors inserted on purpose. One example of this can be found in the English subtitles of characters speaking in a foreign language. Occasionally, the foreign word is inserted into the subtitle. Example: When Col. Landa is speaking to the French farmer, he says "Oui" which is French for "Yes". Instead of the word "Yes" appearing in the subtitle, the word "Oui" appears despite the fact that the rest of the French dialog is translated to English.
Tarantino typically has a trio of identical background characters moving together in unison. In this film, it is three German school girls in identical uniforms passing Col. Hans Landa as he goes down the staircase in the cinema.
Eli Roth's character, Sgt. Donnie Donowitz, is part of the Tarantino-verse, sharing the last name of the film producer character, Lee Donowitz, in the Tarantino-written True Romance, where Lee Donowitz produced a war film "Comin' Home in a Body Bag". According to an interview Tarantino conducted with Ron Bennington, Donny is Lee's father.
Twice during the scene in LaLouisiane. Once between Archie Hicox, Dieter Hellstrom and Hugo Stiglitz and just minutes later between Aldo Raine and Sgt. Wilhelm. Raine and Wilhelm also discuss the requirements for a "Mexican standoff".
[Copyright Under Title]
As with almost all of Tarantino's directed and produced films, the Roman numerated copyright appears during the opening credits, directly under the title of the film. Displaying the copyright info in the opening credits is a homage to this being done with films produced in the 60s and 70s.
Despite the similarity between the small role of Harvey Keitel in this film and his role in Pulp Fiction, Eli Roth confirmed that his character is not "The Wolf" in this film. He jokingly added that Samuel L. Jackson does not narrate under the guise of Jules Winfield.
The standoff between Aldo and Sgt. Wilhelm during the LaLouisiane scene is similar to a scene in Quentin Tarantino's other movie Kill Bill: Vol. 2 in which Beatrix Kiddo just finds out she is pregnant and is attacked by a hit woman. The two have a standoff in which she makes a deal with the hit woman to let her go as she is pregnant. Sgt. Wilhelm makes a deal with Aldo to let him go as he had become a father that night. The difference in the two scenarios is that Beatrix honors the deal and the hitwoman escapes, while Aldo honors the deal but Bridget von Hammersmark shoots and kills Sgt. Wilhelm.
In the original ending, Shosanna's movie for the Nazis was supposed to be in French. Mélanie Laurent was the one who suggested to Quentin Tarantino it should be done in English to make the finale more powerful.
Similarity between the movie and the movie-within-the-movie: Both have foreign language dialogs displayed as translated subtitles. In case of the movie-within-the-movie (Nation's Pride), this is seen when Pvt Fredrick Zoller's character speaks in English (subtitles displayed in German on the Cinema's screen) just before Shosanna Dreyfus overrides the movie with her message.
In the original script Samm Levine's role was much larger, with PFC Hirschberg being one of the primary members of the Basterds. However, in the film, Hirschberg only speaks one line, and he disappears before the closing scenes with his fate being left unresolved. In interviews, Samm Levine confirms that Hirschberg survives to the story's end, and written-but-not-filmed closing scenes had himself and other unspecified Basterds meeting up with Lt. Raine and PFC Utivich after they settled things with Col. Landa.
Eli Roth and Omar Doom were nearly incinerated filming the fire sequence in the theater. During tests the flame temperatures reached 400 degrees Centigrade, and during the take the set burned out of control and the temperature of the ceiling above them reached 1,200 degrees Centigrade (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.) Quentin Tarantino was seated on a crane operating the camera in a fireproof suit, and none of them wanted to back down and ruin the shot. Fire marshals said that another fifteen seconds of filming and the steel structure would have collapsed, incinerating the actors. Roth and Doom were treated for minor burns.
In earlier drafts of the screenplay Shosanna was a much more active member of the French resistance, sniping at soldiers from rooftops and even compiling a death list of high ranking Nazi officials to cross off. But when Quentin Tarantino did his "Kill Bill" series he worked those plot details into that story, and decided it was redundant, so instead he decided to make Shosanna a more realistic character and have her keep a low profile.
Quentin Tarantino continues his tradition of ripping on waiters in this film, by killing the French barmaid in the La Louisine tavern shoot-out. (Only two waiters are on screen in the film, the barmaid being the only one featured exclusively.)
Quentin Tarantino had all of the actors playing the Basterds go through a day of "scalping training" in preparation for the movie, and told them that the three best practice scalpers would be rewarded with close-ups of them doing just that in the film. One of these moments comes in the very last scene, when Pfc. Utivich scalps Landa's driver after Aldo shoots and kills him.