This summer, the big screen has played host to several cast members of NBC’s The Office, including John Krasinski (Away We Go), Ed Helms (The Hangover) and Oscar Nunez (The Proposal). But for B.J. Novak, who also serves as a writer and producer on the hit series, getting time off to make Inglourious Basterds was a little bit trickier.

“It’s especially hard for me because the writers don’t really have any hiatus at all,” Novak explains. “It’s hard enough for the actors. But the writers only get a couple weeks a year off. Unless you can really cash in all your chips and favours, like I did with this movie.”

But for Novak, calling in those favours was completely worth it, as the opportunity to take part in a Quentin Tarantino film was just too good to pass up.

“He’s always been one of the five people I would invite to that fabled dinner,” Novak says. And while on location in Europe, the director did not disappoint. “We would be out until four or five in the morning in Berlin, eating, drinking, talking about movies — or in my case listening about movies. But at some point, I was like, ‘Dude I have to get to sleep,’ you know?”

Getting to watch one of his role models in action was an invaluable experience. “It was a bit of a reminder of what made me want to be a writer in the first place, which was watching Pulp Fiction at 14,” Novak says.

“On set, I always felt Tarantino the filmmaker was trying to outsmart Tarantino the film fan. He was playing chess against his young self sitting in a movie theatre wondering what was going to happen next.”

As one of the titular Basterds, Novak had to suit up as part of a covert team of Jewish American soldiers led by Brad Pitt setting out to kill Nazis, which meant taking on the type of weapons training not necessarily offered to the staff of Dunder-Mifflin.

“I’d certainly never fired a machine gun before, and I’d certainly never scalped a Nazi before,” Novak explains.

Needless to say, it’s not the type of Second World War film audiences are probably familiar with.

“There’s an awful lot of holocaust movies. There’s an awful lot of horror-of-war movies. Some are brilliant, and some are pretentious and crappy — and they win awards anyway,” Novak says. “This is very much not Schindler’s List. I think anyone that sees Brad Pitt with that mustache knows this is not Schindler’s List.”

Quentin’s cut
Quentin Tarantino isn’t afraid of long movies. After all, his last major project — before 2007’s Grindhouse project with Robert Rodriguez — was the epic Kill Bill, which had to be split into two films, each quite lengthy in their own right. “Every movie is different, every filmmaker is different,” Tarantino says. “Everything needs the time that it needs.”

But he had to know that when his latest, the bulging Second World War fantasy Inglourious Basterds, came out, people would be eyeballing the running time. In fact, since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the director took another stab at trimming it — and the movie ended up one minute longer.

“It’s a minute longer than the Cannes cut, but it feels 20 minutes shorter,” he insists. “I think that my movie is exactly the right length to tell the story.”

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