During a recent appearance on the Showtime talk show Desus & Mero, the longtime TV personality, 72, recalled once upon a time when a joke he made to Tarantino’s then-girlfriend allegedly led to a heated phone call from the director.
“I’m pretending that I’m stunned that this glorious movie star is dating this little ‘squirrelly guy,'” said Letterman, poking fun at Tarantino’s persona.
“Two days later, my assistant gets a call,” he continued. “She says to him, ‘Oh yes, Mr. Tarantino,’ and as all assistant do, they say, ‘May I ask what this is in regard to?’ And he said, ‘Oh, nothing, just to say hello.'”
According to Letterman, when he took the call, however, it wasn’t a casual check-in from the Oscar winner.
“He starts screaming at me: ‘I’m gonna beat you to death, I’m gonna kill you, I’m coming to New York, I’m gonna beat the crap out of you — how can you say that about me?'” said Letterman.
Letterman said he then put Tarantino on hold so that he could add his producer to the line to bear witness to the wild exchange.
As the writer/director, now 56 — whose latest movie Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is up for 10 nominations at the 2020 Academy Awards on Sunday — continued to allegedly rant, Letterman recalled him as being “full-blown, clinically goofy.”
“There’s no cooling off — it just keeps blowing up and blowing up,” Letterman remembered.
The comedian said he joked with the disgruntled director, saying that his team would fly him out ASAP to host the showdown, opting for a baseball bat rather than a fistfight.
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Years later, Tarantino was a guest on Letterman’s talk show, promoting his 2009 film Inglourious Basterds. In his dressing room minutes before the show, Letterman claims Tarantino apologized — though the host said he wasn’t sure if he provoked it himself.
“I got a lot of those calls in those days,” he said.
Representatives for Tarantino did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Desus & Mero, with hosts Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, airs Mondays and Thursdays at 11 p.m. ET on Showtime.