Walton Goggins interview: The Hateful Eight

Walton Goggins chats about working with Tarantino, The Hateful Eight, and House Of 1000 Corpses...

Walton Goggins is excited about The Hateful Eight. The film is really good, he’s terrific in it and, as one of the lead characters in the new Quentin Tarantino film, it’s perhaps his most high profile role to date. He has a lot to be excited about.

Even his hair looks excited, jutting up wildly. He’s animated and moves a lot, but he’s not wired and out of control. He just exudes enthusiasm and seems happy to be where he is, talking about his work. He’s great fun to talk to; enthusiastic and warm interview subjects are something of a gift. Here’s how our chat with Walton Goggins went.

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How do you respond, when you get that script (for The Hateful Eight)?

You know, Quentin doesn’t really have to ask how anybody feels about his material. I read it at his house and he’s inside, and he just hears an actor saying “Oh my god. Oh my god! OH MY GOD!” and you just hear this laugh, this signature laugh that Quentin has.

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It’s just a very rare opportunity to get words like this from the mind of a man like Quentin Tarantino. You get them, and they’re just like lyrical poetry. At the end of it, he just walked out and he saw the smile on my face. I said “I have one question for you. Am I the Sheriff, or am I not?”

And he said “I want you to answer that question and I don’t want to know your answer.” So, he gave me that power and I made my decision.

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Are you sharing that decision, or is that for you?

That’s for me. It’s like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, really. I haven’t even shared it with my wife.

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That actually feeds into something I had down to ask you about. You have the character on the page, but how do work out the rest of the stuff? Is that you, is it collaborated with Quentin?

All of this is from Quentin’s imagination. The way that he tells his stories is so curated, he distils down the essence of what he had in his mind. So I don’t know that it’s possible for an actor not to participate in a very intimate collaboration with Quentin. For me, that certainly was the case.

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One of the things I noticed about your character is, it’s quite a big performance, but I think it would be easy to miss amongst all of the speeches and everything else, that the physical side of your character tells us a lot about him. It almost tells us a different story about him. So how does that come?

Well, I really look at it this way, and I leave it up to you what you give away or what you don’t give away. We both share this responsibility.

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(very mild spoilers in just the next two paragraphs)

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For me, Chris Mannix, when you first meet him, he’s in an arrested state of development. He’s like an unruly seventeen-year-old; a person who has never had an original idea, someone whose view is informed by his father, his father’s reputation and his milieu. Then, something happens, and he reverts to being a lost, four-year-old little boy who is in way over his head. Over the course of the remaining time left in the story, he becomes a man, someone who can think for himself.

And for me, and I’m so happy to hear you say that, because no one has asked me that question. But his physical mannerisms, ‘cause he’s an agitator, man. He’s a rabble-rouser. He just likes to poke people and the physical manifestation of that person, and that journey, is reflected. He’s a guy who is big, Quentin Tarantino big, and then becomes very, very, very small. And very intimate. I suppose, the way one does when they mature.

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I love how into their characters people seem to be.

Well, Quentin inspires that. The cast that he assembles, he has written the material for, for the most part. And it is not the 90% that you bring to his story that he’s looking for. It’s not the collaboration with Quentin, his ideas that give you the final 10%. It is the magic that happens beyond that. He knows that he will get that. He sets conditions for that kind of creativity to happen.

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So, for all of us, it’s a real honour when you get an invitation to play in Quentin’s sand box. And you are consumed with the story. First and foremost because it’s Quentin, and secondly because you just don’t want to let the man down.

So, the Mannix character was written specifically with you…?

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Well, I think it was. I think maybe they looked at a couple of other people, but I had an opportunity to work with Quentin on Django, and it was a transcendent experience for me. And he was a fan of my work. I was on a show in the States called Justified, which was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. So, I’ve been in that world, in that Quentin-speak. While it’s not Tarantino’s dialogue, it is probably as close as you will get, because Quentin was so influenced by Elmore, and Elmore was such a big fan of what Quentin does. So, the writers on my show spent every week trying to write in that vein. I think that played a part in it.

I would like to ask you about working with Kurt Russell.

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Oh-ho-ho.

How was that moustache in person?

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Well, it’s all of these… it’s Kurt and Jennifer (Jason Leigh) and Tim (Roth) and it’s Samuel L. Jackson and Damien Bachir. These guys are icons, man. Michael Madsen. Bruce Dern? He’s my hero, man! These guys are my heroes.

No one can command a room the way that Kurt Russell does. And Sam. Both of those guys just fill it up when they walk into it, even if they don’t speak. You just notice, wherever they are standing in a room, there is a large amount of energy coming from them.

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But Kurt and his moustache, there was a scene in particular. It’s in the movie, but I’m not giving anything away by saying this. We were in the stagecoach, and there is a conversation that happens where tempers flare, where opinions are made clear, and at one point, Kurt was so fucking angry, he was so angry in this stagecoach at Chris Mannix and his world view. In that fit of anger, he didn’t know what to do with his hands. He couldn’t grab a gun, he knows the legalities. He couldn’t do anything, but one time he just grabbed his moustache and he just cleared his moustache out (mimes grabbing the top of a moustache and jetting his hands down along it), and it was the funniest thing that I have ever seen. I couldn’t hold it together. I think he’d fucked up one take, because he did it spontaneously and realised what he did, what that is and what that represented, and he lost it I think at the same time I lost it. So that’s the only thing that saved me from ruining his take.

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What an honour, to be the man that Kurt Russell cleared his moustache at.

Yeah, right? I made Kurt Russell so mad he cleared his moustache out.

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(So, at this point, we got our last question warning, and it was dead early)

What is your favourite Jason Statham film?

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Uhhh. A Jason Statham film. I mean, I’m gonna get this wrong. I don’t watch a lot of Jason Statham films… but, I guess The Expendables? The Expendables was great. Ah, it’s not The Punisher, what was the name of, he’s a badass in everything that he does. So I’ll go with The Expendables.

(Right, so that should be the end of the interview, right? We’d chatted The Hateful Eight, I’d had my last question warning, we’d done the Statham question; it was time to go home. Except, it wasn’t really. I had a minute left of my time slot. The thing with the Statham question is, it’s short, so it’s not a good match for a standard last question warning.

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So, I reasoned that I had a chance to ask Walton Goggins about anything, almost separate from the interview. He was happy to answer another question, the time was there, and so I went for it. Goggins has had a fascinating career, and I know Den of Geek readers would be keen to hear from him on Justified, Sons Of Anarchy, Django Unchained, Predators, Machete Kills and Robert Rodriguez’s Texas studio, The Shield or any number of other films and TV shows he’s appeared in. In that moment, though, I sort of forgot that you all even existed, and asked him about the film I wanted to hear about. The first film I saw him in, and the one I will always associate him with in my head.)

House Of 1000 Corpses. I love it so much. I know it’s been a long time but do you have any memories of it or anything you can tell me about it?

I have so many memories of it. Rob Zombie is a visual treasure, man. The things that he does in his show, it would make sense that he would translate that to cinema.

The first time I met him, I was really intimidated. I had no idea; like, I know the guy’s music and I’ve been to his shows, but I didn’t know what he would be like in person. When he asked me to come and play, I walked into the room and he was at the far end of the room, looking like Rob Zombie. And I’m expecting him to “Arrrr!”, whatever that is. He just walks up and says “Hi, how are ya? I’m Rob. Nice to meet ya.” Just, so normal! So demure and soft and kind and open. It was the beginning of what has been a fifteen-year relationship. I just love and respect the man so much.

Thank you, Walton Goggins.

The Hateful Eight is in UK cinemas from 8th January.