What do you get when you mix Manhattan district attorneys, corrupt billionaires, and Silicon Valley unicorns? Well, apparently that all adds up to Quentin Tarantino.
The “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” auteur signed on to narrate Showtime’s limited series “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber,” premiering February 26 — and that’s mostly because of his love of co-creators David Levien and Brian Koppelman’s work on “Billions.”
“Super Pumped” tells the story of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Uma Thurman portrays Arianna Huffington, while Hank Azaria stars as Apple’s Tim Cook. Kyle Chandler, Baba Tafti, Kerry Bishé, Mousa Hussein Kraish, and Elisabeth Shue round out the cast. “Super Pumped” hails from Levien and Koppelman, as well as Beth Schacter, who serves as the current showrunner on “Billions.”
Koppelman reportedly pitched Tarantino the narration gig as part of an email invitation to appear on Koppelman’s “The Moment” podcast in July 2021. Tarantino said yes to both.
“I wrote back, ‘You know you said yes to both things?’ and he said, perfect Tarantino-ish, ‘Yeah I know what I said yes to,’” Koppelman told The Wrap in February 2022. “What David [Levien] and I knew was in the last two years – if you listen to the podcast you know what a big deal Quentin’s work is to us – he wrote to us that he had become a really big ‘Billions’ watcher and fan. He watches it very closely and is very engaged with every reference and every character’s journey. So that’s why we thought maybe it was possible he would do it. We knew he liked our work to some extent, or was engaging it.”
While Tarantino previously directed himself as the narrator for “The Hateful Eight” in 2015, Levin and Koppelman noted the filmmaker was “totally open” to feedback on set.
“He was amazing because he showed up like a performer and was totally open to our input and wanted us to be happy with it,” Levien said. “He didn’t bring his directorial authority to it, he was like, ‘Let me just read it out loud, you’ll hear what I do, and then you’ll tell me,’ basically. And of course he was basically right on it when he read it, and we would just give tiny thoughts about things.”
Levien added, “He was so enthusiastic and game, honestly it was surreal and one of the most fun things we’ve ever done in our career.”
Koppelman noted that there was one instance of Tarantino giving creative input, virtually no less.
“The only time Quentin got directorial at all, we did two sessions and the second session he was over in Israel where he lives part of the time so it was over Zoom, and the only directorial thing was he was like, ‘I don’t really love how this camera is with the Zoom,’” Koppelman said. “And we were like, ‘You know what, you set that up!’”
As for why Tarantino was the best pick for the “Super Pumped” role, Koppelman simply points out: Because it’s Tarantino.
“When people ask why Quentin Tarantino,” Koppelman revealed, “the only answer I can come up with is, ‘Because he said yes.’”
“Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” premieres Sunday, February 26, on Showtime.
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