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Tarantino’s Lost Projects: ‘40 Lashes Less One’

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From WANG

Almost more interesting than the films Quentin Tarantino has chosen to do are the ones he has either been rumored to be behind or has stated himself that he would like to do.  In honor of Quentin Tarantino week here on the site, we thought it was time to go back and look over some of these lost projects.  Some of them never got past the concept stage.  Some might even still be lingering somewhere in the back of QT’s mind.  Who knows?  Maybe this time next decade, all of these might be in his queue.  It took this long to get ‘Inglourious Basterds’ to completion.  There might still be hope for these yet.

First up is Quentin’s proposed adaptation of ‘40 Lashes Less One.’  Based on the Elmore Leonard Western novel, the story centers around two prisoners who are facing a death sentence at Yuma prison. One is black and the other is an Apache halfbreed.  They are given a chance for freedom in exchange for hunting down and killing the five, most notorious outlaws in the West.

News of this project came about in 2000, three years after ‘Jackie Brown’ and right in the middle of the biggest Tarantino drought we would see since his debut in 1992.  It was rumored to be starring Samuel L. Jackson and either Adam Sandler or Bruce Willis.  Miramax owned the rights to the novel at the time (they have since switched over to Tarantino’s sole possession), and, since Tarantino is a huge Leonard fan, it was looking pretty good that this would be next on his plate.  Time went by, and nothing came about.

In May of 2001, as the film world was gearing up for Cannes, rumors began popping up all around that Tarantino had secretly shot a film and that he was going to debut it at a super secret screening at the film fest.  Someone who calls themselves The QT sent in a report a few days before Cannes kicked off to Aint It Cool News.  This person claimed they had been perusing Tarantino’s producing partner, Roger Avery’s website.  Under the “filmmaker’s journal” section of the site, Avery had given this update:

39 is this week’s lucky number.  Cannes you dig it?

Needless to say, this got the Internet world frothing at the mouth that this “secret” movie Tarantino would be showing would be his ‘40 Lashes Less One’ adaptation.  Cannes 2001 came and went, and there was no ‘40 Lashes Less One’ to be found.

In the last, few years, with Tarantino pumping out films on a pretty regular basis now, this notion of him adapting the Leonard novel has gone by the wayside.  This isn’t to say the project is entirely dead, though.  In a chat-room interview in 2007 onTarantino.info, the director was asked if ‘40 Lashes Less One’ was still on his to-do list.  Here was the response:

Yeah it is, I actually own the rights to that novel. It’s a terrific novel. I could never let go of it. I’ve written about, like 20 pages of the adaptation of it. But I might very well do it some time. It’s the only thing that I have just kind of held on to, that I can’t quite let go. I might do it some time.

In recent months, Tarantino has stated that he would like to do a Western next.  Could this be the adaptation of ‘40 Lashes Less One’ finally getting itself out of the director’s mind and onto the screen?  Only time will tell.