My Favorite Mistake: Lars Ulrich on Saying No to Quentin Tarantino

Eliana Aponte / Reuters-Landov

Quentin Tarantino wants to have dinner. OK, we can facilitate that ... A week later, we’re hanging out in a restaurant in San Francisco, swapping stories about the most turbulent flights we’ve ever been on, triggered by a particularly nasty flight he’d just taken from China. In between the mischief and half-truths, we get to the point of the visit, which concerns his next cinematic endeavor, titled Kill Bill.

One of the most surreal 30 minutes of my life was having Q.T. six inches from my face, eyes dancing, intensely animated, explaining in intricate detail how he had written and choreographed the two main fight scenes in the film to the Metallica songs “Enter Sandman” and “Sad but True.” Fists would impact faces on accents. Kicks would land on cymbal hits. Bodies would twirl along with the rhythm of the music. Tarantino’s next-level movie magic married to Metallica music, all turned up to 11.

I was already fast-forwarding 18 months, sitting in an Enormodome, watching this spectacle unfold before my eyes with the biggest smile on my face. True cinematic poetry in motion. The greatest marriage between music and film the world had ever seen.

We were high on this idea for the rest of the evening, and the elation continued for days. Finally, ta-da!! The Script. All 180 pages. Man, was it thick and dense. I threw myself headfirst into the shenanigans. Then something slowly started happening. Story, language, twists, turns, kung fu banter, and jargon—as I got further and further into it, I became more and more puzzled.

Page by page, I realized that most of this was written in a language that was outside of my realm of understanding. I had never encountered a narrative like this, set in, to me, a very foreign culture of martial arts and Asian myths. I just couldn’t wrap my thick Danish head around it. I championed his movies, loved him as a person, but at the end of the 180 pages, I sat there somewhat bewildered and felt very uncool for not getting it. I wasn’t capable of appreciating its brilliance. Then I started overthinking it. “Do it, do it,” my gut screamed, but my head was confused. Cautious. I experienced a rare inability to pull the trigger.

Over the next few weeks the whole thing fizzled out as I continued not trusting my instincts. In the end, I never got back to him. Probably the single biggest mistake I’ve made in the creative department. Of course Kill Bill turned out to be above and beyond brilliant, as have his subsequent movies, which have all been a significant part of my life in the 2000s.

To this day I still worship the ground Q.T. walks on.

If only ...

Career Arc

1981: Drummer Lars Ulrich meets singer James Hetfield in Los Angeles. They form the band Metallica.

1991: Metallica releases its fifth album, named after the band. The record goes on to sell 15million copies.

2001: Music-swapping website Napster settles landmark lawsuit filed by Metallica.

2001: Film director Quentin Tarantino asks Ulrich to provide a soundtrack for Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

2011: Metallica and Lou Reed to release new album, Lulu, on Oct. 31.

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