Sometimes, the old ways are the best. That saying could apply to Westerns in general, but more specifically it’s about how you make them in the case of The Hateful Eight. Indeed, when Quentin Tarantino walked into a grand Waldorf Astoria ballroom one December morning, alongside a gang of actors who embody seven of his titular eight—Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir, and Bruce Dern—he brought tokens of such reverence.
Prior to The Hateful Eight press conference, Quentin Tarantino had already announced that his eighth film and first full-throated, earnest Western would be a roadshow production. However, on this day, he would finally reveal the full breadth and reach of The Weinstein Company’s release strategy.
With much fanfare, the director and company of actors announced the picture would be shown in 100 theaters and in 44 cities across North America. It’s been almost 50 years since Khartoum was released in the dying Ultra Panavision 70mm format, but The Hateful Eight is resurrecting the style for a limited engagement.
The director compared this strategy to a touring show of The Book of Mormon coming to smaller venues. There will even be a fancy pants film program for those who do attend the movie in this preferred format, which you can see a photo of below (they were handed out at the conference).
“[Paramount] threw their entire weight behind Christopher Nolan when he did Interstellar,” Tarantino said. “Nevertheless, they only played in about 11 venues in the course of his 70mm run. We are playing in 44 markets in a hundred theaters with our run. And not only that, they literally are some of the biggest and fun-est big movie palaces left.”
But the conference was more than just this unveiling. In fact, Tarantino and his cast—when they could get a word in—had many more interesting thoughts to share….
Tarantino Compares Freedom of The Hateful Eight with Responsibilities of Django
The Hateful Eight marks Quentin Tarantino’s first film since Django Unchained. And at first glance, there is plenty of overlap since both deal with guns, cowboy hats, and a frequent amount of onscreen bigotry. Yet, Django is also a much more traditional revenge/adventure film with a much more likable moral center in Jamie Foxx’s righteous Django, an ex-slave who is determined to liberate his wife from the horrible bondage of a Mississippi plantation.
The post-Civil War set Hateful Eight is a closed off affair since it occurs during a single snowy day in Wyoming and has no altruistic heroes. Tarantino further explained the differences:
“In [Django] I kind of learned how to do a Western, and I realized I wasn’t done with the genre. I wasn’t done with what I had to say. And one of the things I felt I had to say in this regard was dealing with race in America, which a lot Westerns had avoided for such a long time. But I felt I had more to say. It’s also something else about Django too that you’re dealing with such a big subject, as far as slavery in America, that as fun as Django was, it was this downer sort of Damocles hanging over the whole thing that you always had to deal with. And you had to deal with it in a responsible way.
“So, there was actually an aspect of The Hateful Eight, even though I deal with similar issues, I can just sort of let it rip and now just do my Western without having this history with a capital ‘H’ hanging over the whole piece.”
Tarantino Confirms His Next Western Likely to Be TV Miniseries
Tarantino has often said that he wants to be considered a Western director—assuming you count the Southern and Antebellum set Django as a Western—but to do this, he needs at least one more such film. He also has talked recently about planning to adapt Elmore Leonard’s Forty Lashes Less One—a novel about the reluctant reliance between an African-American and a Native American in a Yuma prison—into a miniseries.
At the conference, Tarantino confirmed those plans are related and that instead of his next film being a Western, he intends Forty Lashes Less One to be his final word on the genre.
“The third Western could actually be a TV thing,” the filmmaker said. “I’ve owned the rights for a while—I get them and I lose them, and I get them and I lose them—but there’s something about the piece that really demands I make it. There’s an Elmore Leonard book called Forty Lashes Less One, and I think if you’re ready to call yourself a Western director today you need to do at least three Westerns. Back in the ‘50s it’d be like 12! But today, it’s three.
“If you really want to put your Westerns up on the shelf with people like [Anthony Mann], and I would really like to do Forty Lashes Less One as kind of a miniseries, like an hour an episode. I’d write it all and direct it all, but it’s four hours or five hours. Something like that. And it’d fit right along the lines, if you’ve ever read the book, it’d fit right along the lines of The Hateful Eight and Django. It deals with race, it all takes place in Yuma Territorial Prison, and it’s a really good book, and I’ve always wanted to tell the story. So, we’ll see, I’m hoping I do that eventually.”
Tarantino also added on a follow-up question that he would definitely shoot even a TV limited series on film. “I’ll never shoot on digital.”
Kurt Russell Reflects on a ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ He Developed with Jennifer Jason Leigh
One of the most intriguingly intimate pairings throughout The Hateful Eight is the relationship between Kurt Russell’s bigger than life John Ruth and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue. Due to an unspecified crime, Daisy is wanted dead or alive in the Wyoming territory, and Russell’s barrel-chested, Ethan Edwards-sounding John Ruth is the only bounty hunter in the territory tough enough to pay heed to the “alive” part. If he catches you, you hang.
That’s why Daisy spends the film shackled to Ruth’s wrist with a chain that keeps her from running. And spending the whole movie together makes them something of a reluctant team at points, even if Ruth is dragging her along every step of the way. And even off-screen, that kinship appears to continue for when the cameras aren’t rolling since Russell gladly gave Leigh the lead while they were attached to the wrist.
“If you’ve been chained together for like a week, week and a half, 24/7, you’re going to know a lot about that person,” Russell said. “And the Stockholm Syndrome is going to set up pretty fast. And it did over a five-month period of time, the course of Stockholm set up between Jennifer and I, and it informed everything that we did.”
Bruce Dern Compares Tarantino to Hitchcock and Kazan
During the course of the press conference, Bruce Dern’s long career inevitably came up in the discussion. It makes sense as this is his first film with Quentin Tarantino, but he has a long history of working with many of the legendary directors from the past, including Alfred Hitchcock in Marnie (1964) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1964), and Elia Kazan in Wild River (1960).
“I’ve been very lucky in my career, but this guy does a couple things the other people I’ve worked with [didn’t] do,” Dern said. “He has the greatest attention to detail that I’ve ever seen. Burt Lancaster once told me it’s Visconti. Well, [Tarantino] will take a seat right next to this guy, trust me.
“And the other thing he does is he gives you an opportunity as an actor, and everybody behind the camera as well, a chance to get better. His material is so good, so original, so unique if you will, that if you don’t get the part—the big part is you’re so excited that he chose you and not Ned Beatty or Jimmy Caan! So, you’re excited to go to work every day. I had this with Mr. Hitchcock for a few days, but I had this every day with Quentin. You’re excited to go to work everyday, because he might just do something that’s never been done.”
Quentin Tarantino Comments on Potential Police Boycott
As you might have heard, Quentin Tarantino is not the most popular man in the world with police unions. This is a continuing controversy stemming from comments Tarantino made in October when he said at a protest organized by RiseUpOctober that “I’m here to say I’m on the side of the murdered.” This comment was in reaction to the increasing number of unarmed African-American men who have been shot by police officers.
Among the immediate and publicized cries of indignation and backlash came a call for all police officers to boycott The Hateful Eight, which was first trumpeted by the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the NYPD’s largest union. Indeed, its president Patrick J. Lynch issued a memo calling on the boycott of all of Tarantino’s films.
Giving yet another response to these outcries yesterday, Tarantino said, “Just because some union mouthpieces are calling for a boycott doesn’t mean all the different officers on the street necessarily are going to follow suit. I have to say it’s kind of a drag, because the statements I’ve made I believe are very true, and I tend to go further with that as time goes on.
“Nevertheless, I think you can actually decry police brutality and understand that there is still good work that the police do. And I think I’ve made that pretty clear. I also do know that there are a lot of police out there who are big fans of my work, and I just hope that they aren’t going to take Patrick Lynch’s word for what I’ve said. What I said is what I said, and you can actually look it up and read it.”
Tarantino Talks About How He Courted Ennio Morricone to Score The Film
Tarantino explains the process better than anyone else could of how he got the film composer of The Good, The Bad and the The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West to write original music for The Hateful Eight.
“We made overtures towards working with each other during the last couple of movies, in particularly Inglorious Basterds and Django. And they never quite worked out per se, because of the timing and schedules. And also that’s not how I’ve ever done it before. So maybe I had a little trepidation to it. It just didn’t happen.
“With this movie, I had a little voice in my ear that said this movie deserves its own score… This material deserves its own theme that is its own personality. And he was very interested, and so I took the first step, which was translating the script into Italian and sending it to him. And we sent it to him and he read it, and his wife read it, and his son read it, and they all really liked it. His wife really liked it. I think that went a long way.
“And then we got together. I went to his lovely, beautiful apartment in Rome. I mean, maybe the greatest apartment I’ve seen in my life. And we’re there talking about it, and I go, ‘So what is it you kind of see or hear?’ And he goes, ‘Well, I have this idea for a theme… I just see it driving forward. It’s like the stagecoach driving through the snow, driving through the snow. Moving forward, moving forward. But it also is ominous sounding and suggests the violence that will come.’
“And at first, because he didn’t think he had time, he was going to write only just the theme and that was it. And I ended up seeing him the very next day at the Donatello Awards. And he goes, ‘I’m going to write you more!’ So, literally seven minutes of music became 12 minutes of music, became 20 minutes of music, became 32 minutes of music. I think he just sat down and got inspired.”
Tarantino also pointed out that Morricone only wrote the music based on the script, letting the filmmaker listen to the suites and choose how best to incorporate it into his film. It was such a rewarding process that he seems adamant about having Morricone score another film early enough that he could play it on the set during a shoot.
“So, it ended up being a very lovely encounter, and now I’m looking forward to having him do the score before I even shoot the movie, so we can really get down to it. But it’s become a lovely relationship and I actually kind of cherish it.”
Tarantino Wrote a Whole Draft Strictly from Daisy’s Perspective to Improve the Ending
Rather infamously, a parasitic website got its hands on the first draft of The Hateful Eight and released it online before Tarantino had even finished perfecting the story—he would indeed go on to write three drafts in total for the movie. At the press conference, he illustrated how things evolved by revealing the destiny of one of the film’s most enigmatic characters, Daisy Domergue, was changed and decided by a curious writing exercise: the whole second draft was penned from her point-of-view, which subsequently informed how Tarantino perceived in the final draft of the screenplay.
“Daisy’s end in the third draft, which is what it is in the movie, is where I thought I wanted to go in the first draft. But something stopped me from going there in that first draft. I almost felt I didn’t have the right to do that to her yet, because I didn’t know her well enough. So the second draft, and not in a tricky way but just in an emotional way as far as I was concerned, I wrote the whole draft from Daisy’s perspective. Just emotion. Not in a tricky prose way, but just in an emotional way, so I could really get to know her. I wanted to be on Daisy’s side for an entire draft of the story, so I could feel I really knew her.
“And then, after I felt I knew her, I could do what I needed to do.” [Ominous Laughter]
The Thing is a Major Influence on The Hateful Eight
And finally, at the end of the press conference, Quentin Tarantino remarked on how some have perceived the three hours of unmerciful tension in The Hateful Eight as akin to a horror movie. And considering both its influences and Morricone’s choices in scoring the film, this is not very surprising to the director.
“I don’t think this is influenced by that many other Westerns, but one movie it’s definitely influenced by is John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, which also had Kurt Russell and also had a score by Ennio Morricone,” he said. “But now that actually makes sense, because this movie is very influenced by Reservoir Dogs and that was very influenced by The Thing. The characters trapped in one room and they can’t trust anybody, and there’s a horrible blizzard going on outside.
“But the biggest influence when it came to that was the affect The Thing had on me in a movie theater on opening night. And I think it was the first time I was able to breakdown in a more critical way the affect of a film, i.e. the paranoia was so strong between those characters that, and I was trapped in such an enclosed space, that the paranoia just started bouncing off the walls until it had nowhere else to go but through the fourth wall and into the audience.
He continued to state how even Morricone’s music reflected this.
“I didn’t expect Ennio to give me a Western score. He had always said that a movie with Terrence Hill called Genius in 1973 or ’74 [it’s A Genius, Two Friends, and an Idiot from 1975] was his last official Western score. He always said he didn’t want to do Westerns anymore. So, even though this was a Western, I wasn’t expecting a score similar to like Two Mules for Sister Sarah or anything like that. I was figuring it was going to be dark, the way he described it. But he gave me a horror film score. And sometimes even a Gallo score, but there’s even elements of Giallo in this. Giallos are usually mysteries. There’s even a blacked glove killer in my movie!”
You can find out who that glove belongs to when The Hateful Eight opens in glorious 70mm on Dec. 25 and nationwide on Jan. 1.