The most disgruntled and tense animosities between strong-willed people who are all determined to achieve their respective goal, no matter how drastically conflicting they are, can often times arise from like-minded individuals who originally respected and admired each other. That idea is intriguingly presented in writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s new western, ‘The Hateful Eight,’ the follow-up to his 2012 Oscar-winning drama, ‘Django Unchained,’ a similiar genre piece that also grippingly chronicles racial and political issues among conflicting characters.
‘The Hateful Eight’s distributor, The Weinstein Company, debuted the film in a limited theatrical roadshow release in 70mm format on Christmas. The drama is also set to receive a wide digital theatrical distribution on New Year’s Eve. To celebrate the Western’s release, Tarantino was joined by several of the drama’s actors from the ensemble cast, including Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern recently at a press conference at The Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. The filmmaker and actors happily expressed their appreciation for each other’s work and ideas in the movie, which is enthrallingly driven by characters who regularly clash over their conflicting and distinct ideas and views.
‘The Hateful Eight,’ which is set several years after the Civil War, begins as a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, who include bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell) and his fugitive, Daisy Domergue (Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, who’s known as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers, the first being Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and the second being Chris Mannix (Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass.
When the four arrive at the haberdashery, they’re surprised that they’re greeted by four unfamiliar faces, instead of the proprietor. The group includes Bob (Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother; Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), the hangman of Red Rock; cow-puncher Joe Gage (Madsen); and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, the eight travelers soon realize that they may not all make it to Red Rock after all.
Tarantino began the press conference by discussing his unique release strategy for ‘The Hateful Eight,’ which initially opened on 100 theaters in 44 domestic markets on 70mm. The film will maintain its 70mm projection for two weeks, as it also expands wide into nationwide theaters. The filmmaker also noted his appreciation that The Weinstein Company decided to showcase the movie in “some of the biggest, funnest movie palaces, like The Music Box (Theatre) in Chicago, The Hollywood theater in Portland, the Fox Theatre in Detroit and the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. We’re utilizing all the places that have 70mm capabilities. For all the other places (that don’t have the 70mm capabilities), we just moved the screens in.” The director added that the process has “been a Herculean effort,” but he’s proud that he and the distributor were able to make the unique release happen.
With ‘Django Unchained’ also incorporating Western influences into its story, Tarantino admitted that he is currently enthralled with the genre. “I think part of the idea was the fact that normally, I do a movie in a genre that I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it…but then I learn how to do on the job,” the writer-director revealed. “I learned how to do a Western (while making ‘Django Unchained’), and realized I wasn’t done with the genre, and what I felt I had to say. I think what I had to say (dealt) with race in America, which a lot of westerns had avoided for such a long time.”
Tarantino added that with ‘Django Unchained,’ he dealt with such an important issue as slavery in America in a responsible way. ‘The Hateful Eight’ also explored the subject in some respects, but since the story takes place after the Civil War ended, he was able to “do my western without having this history with a capital H hanging over the whole piece.”
Russell and Leigh, who were two of the distinct lead characters of the ensemble cast in ‘The Hateful Eight,’ then delved into the process of working with each other to help bring Tarantino’s vision of Ruth and Domergue to the screen. The Golden Globe-nominated actor first started discussing the process of working with his co-star, particularly since they spent most of their time on screen chained together. “When Jennifer and I started to rehearse, we didn’t really think there would be much of a problem with the chain. We also didn’t think it would represent anything. Nothing could have turned out to be further from the truth. Everything that we did was formed by how that chain was dealt with,” Russell revealed. He added that they being chained together all day during their five-month shoot helped them to get to know each other extremely well.
Leigh admitted that the character Tarantino formed in the script allowed her to make Domergue so unique and distinct once they began filming. “With Daisy, there is a lot that is mercurial, and we wanted to find it together. So much of Daisy is informed by John Ruth, because she is always reacting to what he’s done.” The Golden Globe-nominated actress added that her character “thinks she’s a lot smarter than John Ruth. She feels like she’s playing him in a lot of the movie.”
The performer also said that she enjoyed working with Tarantino because he’s always surprising his actors. “There’s a moment where it all shifts, and John Ruth..is suddenly very smart and dark…she has to rejudge him, just like everyone else in the movie,” Leigh revealed. She added that it was “so exciting as an actress to not know that was coming..,when I felt it happen in the room, I swear my blood went cold, and it was a phenomenal experience.”
Russell chimed in on the sentiment, specifically noting there was an unspoken bond that happened between he and Leigh as they were on the set. While the actor revealed it was the first time the actress heard him verbally admit it, due to who John Ruth was, he noted that he felt everything that happened between him and Domergue while they were filming was his doing. But he added that he “really appreciated what she was going through.”
Madsen also discussed the ruthless and despicable nature of the rest of the characters in ‘The Hateful Eight,’ and how he balanced Gage’s thoughts that he was equally heroic. “I read a biography of James Cagney, and he said that if you play somebody who’s very evil, you should probably find something good in that person somewhere. So there’s always a duality in what you do.” The actor added that “The best thing about making a picture for Quentin is that he lets your character have duality, if you’re capable of doing it.”
Roth, like Madsen, previously collaborated with Tarantino before signing onto his role in ‘The Hateful Eight.’ The Oscar-nominated actor, who first worked with the writer-director on his acclaimed 1992 writing and directorial debuts, the neo-noir crime thriller, ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ described the filmmaker as being the same when they reunited for ‘The Hateful Eight.’ “I was around at the very beginning. Then, I had this huge break from working with him, but I did get to see how his world has changed,” Roth noted. “The set has changed, including the music that’s playing between setups…He’s accrued so much knowledge of cinema and how to tell his stories.”
Tarantino also chimed in on the experience of making ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ and how he’s grown as a director since then. “I was probably, along with the PAs (Production Assistants), the least experienced person on the set. I was just getting through the process,” the filmmaker admitted.
Bechir, who collaborated with Tarantino for the first time on the Western, also commented on his experience of bringing one of the writer’s characters to the screen. “You always want to be able to one day say a Tarantino line in a film. So the first time we had a table reading, I was very happy and excited about it. But then, to listen to every single line in the mouths of all of this group of fantastic actors, was beautiful.”
The Oscar-nominated actor added that he was happy to discover that the filmmaker is “a warm and very generous, loving man. Then whole experience has been a confirmation of whatever I thought–that the biggest artists are the nicest.”
Goggins, who previously worked with Tarantino on ‘Django Unchained,’ echoed Bechir’s sentiment of appreciating the fact that he was given the opportunity to play a character that Tarantino had written. Goggins noted that he and his co-stars didn’t improvise, or suggest alternate lines, while shooting ‘The Hateful Eight,’ as he asked, “Why would you mess with perfection?” He added that “It’s every actor’s dream to get an opportunity to say a Quentin Tarantino monologue or a line of dialogue. So there is no need to change even to add a line. The way the dialogue comes out of his imagination really is perfect.”
Like Bechir, Dern, who has worked with several legendary filmmakers throughout his 55-year career, including Alfred Hitchcock, has also never worked with Tarantino before signing on to star in ‘The Hateful Eight.’ But the Oscar-nominated actor admitted that the two-time Academy Award-winning writer-director “does a couple of things that the other people I’ve worked with don’t do. He has the greatest attention to detail I’ve ever seen…he gives you an opportunity as an actor, and everyone behind the camera as well, the chance to get better.”
The performer added that he thinks the filmmaker’s “material is so good, original and unique…The big part of it is that you’re so excited that he chose you and not Ned Beatty or Jimmy Caan,” Dern exclaimed, which received laughter from his fellow actors, the filmmaker and the reporters. “You’re also excited to go to work every day because he just might do something that’s never been done before.”
Tarantino then discussed how he has cast Jackson in most of his films, including ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Jackie Brown,’ ‘Kill Bill: Volume 2,’ ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ ‘Django Unchained’ and ‘The Hateful Eight.’ “I don’t know if Sam has become a better actor as time goes on, because I think he was always really great. But a stature has risen, and his persona has become bigger,” the filmmaker praised of the actor. The writer further expressed his admiration or Jackson’s acting ability, saying “I love him, because nobody says my dialogue quite like the way Sam does…It’s not standup comedy, but it has a comedic rhythm, and he nails that fairly well.”
The filmmaker became more somber when he then began talking about the serious subject of the boycott threats that police officers’ unions have made against ‘The Hateful Eight.’ The threats were made after the scribe-helmer made statements recently about police brutality. “I hope that doesn’t happen,” he revealed. “Just because some union mouthpieces are calling for a boycott doesn’t mean that the different officers on the street are going to necessarily follow suit. I have to say I believe the statements are very true. I intend to go maybe further with that as time goes on.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the LAPD rank and file, and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs joined forces with the New York Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police to boycott against the director and his latest film. The officers became upset with Tarentino after he reportedly made comments about how they work at a police brutality protest in New York City on October 24. The reported remarks were made just days after a New York police officer, Randolph Holder, was killed in the line of duty.
“Nevertheless, I think you can actually decry police brutality and still understand that there’s good work that the police do. I think I’ve made that pretty clear,” Tarantino stated at ‘The Hateful Eight’s press conference. “I do know that there’s a whole lot of police out there who are real big fans of my work, and I just hope that they’re not going to take (Police Benevolent Association President) Patrick Lynch’s word for what I said.”
The filmmaker added that “What I said is what I said, and you can actually look it up and read it. I’ve actually clarified my comments since then. Not walking back at all, but just a little more clarification. I still stand by what I say. I think there’s a lot of good cops out there, and they should agree with what I said, if they’re coming from the right place. So, I guess we’ll just see.”
The Oscar-winning director continued the discussion about how the government has had an influence on ‘The Hateful Eight,’ admitting that “I do think it is my most political movie to date. I don’t know if that was what I was initially thinking about, but as I sat down with a bunch of pieces of paper and just started putting the pen to it, it became that.” Tarantino added that he realized how much of political influence the drama had during the scene “when Warren and Chris Maddix have their political discussion in the stagecoach. When I finished writing that, I was like, this is kind of relevant to today, and is almost a blue state, red state western kind of deal.”
The scribe-helmer added that he appreciated the scene’s political motivations because “one of the things about westerns is they really reflect the decade in which they were made. If you look at the westerns that were the most popular in the 1950s, they really reflected an Eisenhower Ideal and this perceived sense of American prosperity, as well as the way of thinking that we won World War II by ourselves…If you look at the westerns of the late ‘60s in through the ‘70s, they reflected that it was a very cynical and jaundiced time in America.” The filmmaker added that after he finished writing the script and he started shooting the movie, the events that “had been happening in the last year-and-a-half, which we have been watching on TV, just made everything seem more relevant to what we were doing, which we maybe didn’t realize when we started.”
Tarantino then began discussing why he chose Ennio Morricone to write the score for his latest Western. “With this movie, I had a little voice in my ear that said, This movie deserves its own score. I take nothing away from the other movies that I’ve done using other scores. I think that was right for them. I just didn’t hear that voice then.” The filmmaker added that the Oscar-nominated composer, who previously worked with him on ‘Kill Bill,’ ‘Death Proof,’ ‘Inglourious Basterds’ and ‘Django Unchained,’ “was very interested (in working on ‘The Hateful Eight’). So, I took the first step, which was translating the script into Italian, and sent it to him. Then I went down to meet him in Rome,” which is where the composer lives.
As the two started talking about what kind of score Morricone was thinking about creating for ‘The Hateful Eight,’ the composer said, “I have this idea for a theme…I just see it’s driving forward…It’s ominous-sounding, and suggests the violence that will come.”
Tarantino also praised Morricone for being able to score the drama just based on what he read in the script, without seeing a rough cut of the film. “He wrote a couple of pieces of music that he thought could be really good for the material itself, but not be scene-specific,” the filmmaker revealed. The composer also wrote “some other music that he thought I could use for emotions. Then, he gave it to me, and let me put it in the movie, like the way I’ve always done before.”
Also speaking of the script, Tarantino added that he wanted to pen “three different drafts of the film…It was different from what I normally do. Usually I write these big, long, unwieldy novels…The middle’s always great, because by that point, you’ve committed to writing so much. You know more about the characters now than you could before you started writing,” the scribe explained. “Then there’s the end, and by that point, the characters have just taken it over, so they always dictate the ending to me.”
Tarantino added that one of the reasons that he likes making genre movies is that he can explore a lot of different possibilities for the characters. “But I wanted to do this one differently. I wanted to spend more time with the material” than he normally spends on the beginning, middle and end. “So I wanted to go through the process of telling the story three different times.”
The director also expressed his appreciation for the different stages of the production process, and which one he enjoys the most. “For me, it’s always a situation where the writing process is fantastic, and I love it. It’s my favorite part when I’m doing it. Then just as I’m getting tired of it, I’m done with it. I won’t really like pre-production anymore, because I want to get into filming right away. Then I start shooting and I think that’s fantastic,” Tarantino explained. “Then just as I’m getting sick of it, we start wrapping it up. Then it’s the same thing with editing. That becomes my favorite process as I’m doing it, and then just as I’m getting sick of it, we’re done.”
Continuing to speak about the editing process, and his collaboration with ‘The Hateful Eight’s editor, Fred Raskin, Tarantino revealed what it was like to work with him. Raskin, who worked as an assistant editor on both of the ‘Kill Bill’ films, then went on to edit ‘Django Unchained’ for Tarantino. While the filmmaker admitted he was hesitant to start working with the editor on ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 1,’ since they didn’t know before they collaborated on the action film, Tarantino noted they got along well together.
“It was a joy and a dream (to work with him on ‘The Hateful Eight’),” Tarantino also said as he continued praising Raskin. “One of the things that I just love about him is that he gets my material. He laughs and smiles at the same lines again and again, no matter how many times we hear it. You could work for four months with the guy, and he laughs and smiles at the same jokes every single time it plays. You can’t ask for any more than that in an editor.”
Having garnered critical acclaim and commercial success for ‘Django Unchained,’ as well as praise for ‘The Hateful Eight,’ Tarantino also noted that he’s interested in making a third Western. “I actually think if you were to call yourself a Western director today, you need to do at least three Westerns,” the filmmaker explained.
But the director’s considering adapting Elmore Leonard book, ‘Forty Lashes Less One,’ for television. “I’ve owned the rights for a while; I get them and I lose them, and then I get them and I lose them again. But there’s something about the piece that demands that I make it.” Tarantino added that he’s envisioning making the project a mini-series, and he would write and direct four or five hour-long episodes. “The book fits right along the lines of ‘The Hateful Eight’ and ‘Django Unchained,’ as it deals with race…It’s a really good book, and I’ve always wanted to tell the story, so we’ll see. I’m hoping I’ll do that eventually.”
Written by: Karen Benardello