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Where the Hell Did That Ennio Morricone Quote About Quentin Tarantino Come From?

To the extent that a 90-year-old Italian composer of film scores can cause a scandal with an interview quote, Ennio Morricone seemed to have done so this weekend. According to an excerpt of an interview with Morricone that was published online by German Playboy, he had called Quentin Tarantino a “cretin” who makes “trash” movies. But Morricone quickly denied making the remarks—in fact, he said, he’d never sat for an interview with German Playboy at all. On the other hand, the magazine is standing by its story. What the hell happened?

The quotes about Tarantino were especially biting given that Morricone had a fruitful working relationship with the younger American director. The composer is best known for his landmark work on Sergio Leone westerns of the 1960s like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but he’s had a long career since then, including a collaboration with Tarantino on 2015’s western homage The Hateful Eight, for which Morricone won an Oscar. And if Tarantino’s highly stylized and referential films aren’t your cup of tea, Morricone’s supposed criticism probably rang true: “He just steals from others and puts it together again. There is nothing original about that…He is just cooking up old stuff.”

But Morricone’s denial was about as forceful as it could possibly be. In a statement to the press, he called the quotes in German Playboy “totally false,” asserted that he believes Tarantino to be “one of the greatest directors of this time.” He claimed that he had “not given an interview to Playboy Germany,” and that he had “given a mandate to my lawyer in Italy to take civil and penal action.”

Either Morricone is lying, or forgetting, or the journalists involved made it up, or (clearly the best possible option) they got scammed by some weirdo pretending to be Morricone. We’ve got no real reason to doubt the integrity of German Playboy’s writers and editors, and the fourth thing seems too wacky to be true. But it would also be ridiculously brazen of Morricone to claim he hadn’t even been interviewed if he actually had. As of Monday morning New York time, it appeared that German Playboy had pulled the excerpt down: attempting to access the link led to a message reading “You do not have permission to access this page.” But by the afternoon, it was back. (Link probably NSFW.)

Hubert Burda Media, the parent company of German Playboy, has not responded to Spin’s request for a comment on the story. They did however issue a statement to Variety, denying Morricone’s denial and providing a date and location where the interview supposedly took place. They added, somewhat confusingly, that the Morricone interview was “about” Semmel Concerts, a German live music promoter that has organized performances of Morricone’s work, and that a representative of Semmel was also present.

“We are surprised that composer Ennio Morricone denies giving an interview to German Playboy,” the company wrote in part. “In fact, the conversation took place on June 30, 2018, at his estate in Rome. The interview, about the concert organizer Semmel Concerts, which was also present at the interview, had been agreed to with German Playboy. We also cannot understand that parts of the published statements were apparently not found to have been accurate.”

We could offer some half-baked speculative theories about what’s happening here, but the truth is we really don’t know. If you happen to know any backstory, or if you’re a conman who gets his kicks impersonating cultishly famous nonagenarians and you’re ready to share your story with the world, please do get in touch.

UPDATE (11/13): One day after German Playboy’s parent company issued a statement standing by its story (which we eventually received at Spin, for what it’s worth), the magazine’s editor is now saying he believes Morricone was at least partially misquoted. Editor Florian Boitin’s statement, via the Hollywood Reporter, is below:

“Up to now, we have considered the freelancer who conducted the Ennio Morricone interview on our behalf to be a renowned print and radio journalist,” Boitin said in a statement. “In the past, we have had no reason to doubt his journalistic integrity and skills. Based on the information now at our disposal, we must unfortunately assume that the words spoken in the interview have, in part, been reproduced incorrectly. We would like to express our regret should Mr. Morricone have been portrayed in a false light. We are working to clarify this matter and are exploring legal measures.”

Something still seems a little off, though. In his initial statement, Morricone claimed he hadn’t been interviewed by German Playboy at all, while Boitin says the “words spoken in the interview” were “reproduced incorrectly,” and only “in part.” Those two claims remain basically incompatible.