The film will be divided into five chapters:
Actor Michael Madsen, who appeared in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, was originally reported to star in Inglorious Bastards, which had been scheduled for release in 2004. By 2002, Tarantino found Inglorious Bastards to be a bigger film than planned and saw that other directors were working on World War II films. Tarantino had produced three nearly finished scripts, saying, "[It was] some of the best writing I've ever done. But I couldn't come up with an ending. The director held off his planned film and moved on to direct the two-part film Kill Bill (2003-2004) with Uma Thurman in the lead role. After the completion of Kill Bill, Tarantino trimmed the length of the script, which was reportedly three films long, to 222 pages. The director eventually planned to begin production of Inglorious Bastards late in 2005. The revised premise focused on a group of soldiers who escape from their executions and embark on a mission to help the Allies. The director described the men as "not your normal hero types that are thrown into a big deal in the Second World War".
Tarantino also sought to present the film as a Spaghetti Western set in Nazi-occupied France. He explained his intent, "I'm going to find a place that actually resembles, in one way or another, the Spanish locales they had in spaghetti Westerns—a no man's land. With American soldiers and French peasants and the French resistance and Nazi occupiers, it was kind of a no man's land. That will really be my spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography. But the thing is, I won't be period specific about the movie. I'm not just gonna play a lot of Édith Piaf and Andrews Sisters. I can have rap, and I can do whatever I want. It's about filling in the viscera. The director described the scale of the project, "It'll be epic and have my take of the sociological battlefield at that time with the racism and barbarism on all sides—the Nazi side, the American side, the black and Jewish soldiers and the French, because it all takes place in France." Tarantino planned to set the film around the time of D-Day (June 6, 1944) and afterward.
In November 2004, the director decided to hold off production of Inglorious Bastards and instead film a kung fu film entirely in Mandarin. Tarantino ultimately directed the 2007 Grindhouse instead, returning to work on Inglorious Bastards after finishing promotion for Grindhouse. The director teamed with The Weinstein Company to prepare Inglorious Bastards for production. In September 2007, The Irish Times reported the film's scheduled release for 2008, writing, "Inglorious Bastards, a war movie that may eventually resemble The Dirty Dozen merged with Cross of Iron, has been predicted more often than the second coming of the Lord.
Several Tarantino fan sites have already begun posting reviews and excerpts from the film's script.
Tarantino originally talked to Simon Pegg about playing Lt. Archie Hicox, but the actor dropped out due to scheduling difficulties. Tarantino originally sought for Leonardo DiCaprio to be cast as Hans Landa, a Nazi leader targeted by resistance. The director decided to instead have the character played by a German actor. The role ultimately went to Christoph Waltz.
Actor Adam Sandler said that he and the director had been discussing Sandler's involvement with the film for the past number of years, but the actor had to turn down a role due to a scheduling conflict with Funny People.