Quentin Tarantino and the cast of The Hateful Eight share stories and anecdotes from their time on set working on The Hateful Eight.
Earlier this week, The Knockturnal had the chance to sit in on a press conference for the newest Quentin Tarantino film, The Hateful Eight. Sitting alongside Tarantino were numerous members of the cast, consisting of Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, and the legendary Bruce Dern. Tarantino and the cast talk about a wide variety of topics consisting of the police boycott on the film, working on a Western, courting Ennio Morricone to compose the score, ‘stockholm syndrome’, and much more.
Q: To Kurt and Jennifer, your characters are linked…sometimes physically so for extended periods of time. Can you talk about the pros and cons, the challenges of that kind of working relationship?
KR: “Well, first when Jennifer and I started to rehearse we didn’t think there’d be much of a problem with the chain. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Everything that we did was informed by how that chain was dealt with. So we had to learn to sort of get the Fred and Ginger altogether and that informed their relationship. So for me, there was John Ruth, and for Jennifer there was Domergue and together we were gonna be this team which we felt there was like anything else. If you had been chained together for like, a week and a half, 24/7…you’re gonna get to know a lot about that person. Stockholm syndrome’s gonna set up pretty fast and it did, in fact over a five month period of time. It informed everything that we did.”
Q: For Jennifer, is the character of Daisy all on the page or are there influences that Quentin mentioned or that you found helpful for your approach of this character?
JJL: “I mean so, so much of it obviously is on the page, because you’re doing such a great script and such a great character. With Daisy, there’s a lot that’s mercurial and we had to find, and we wanted to find it together. And so much of Daisy is informed by John Ruth because she is always reacting with him because of the chain, the hits, what I get from that…she thinks she’s a lot smarter than John Ruth and actually…she is. But there was…she feels like she’s playing him a lot of the movie. But there’s this one moment in the movie and this is what’s so great about doing a Tarantino movie and what’s so great about all these actors is that we’re always being surprised by everything.”
“There’s a moment where it all shifts, where John Ruth isn’t just a putz, you know, a fool that she is so much smarter than. He’s suddenly very smart and very dark when he goes and gathers all the guns from everyone. And then she has to rejudge him, just like everyone else in the movie. Everyone in the movie is terrible and hateful, everyone in the movie you also care for, everyone maybe has their weakness is the good part of them, in a certain way. And I just remember the day we shot that scene, ‘cause Daisy’s having a blast. Yeah, she’s going to the gallows but she knows she’s not going to the gallows, she’s gonna figure it out. But in that moment…it’s not so clear anymore. And that was so exciting as an actress to not know that was coming, to read it on the page and yet when it happened in the room I swear my blood went cold. I swear, it was phenomenal.”
Q: Among the actors here I’m curious, a lot of your characters are equal parts…not so equal charming and ruthless and despicable…do you all consider yourselves the hero in a weird way of the story?
MM: “I read an autobiography of James Cagney and he said that “if you play somebody who’s very noble, you should probably try to find the mean streak in that person or something dark. And if you play somebody who’s really evil, you should try to find something good in the person, somewhere. So there’s always a duality of what you do.” The best thing about making a picture for Quentin is that he lets your character of having a duality, if you’re capable of doing it.”
Q: For you Tim, having worked with Quentin before on Reservoir Dogs, did this experience feel like apples & oranges? Or is it pretty much what you remember from that first experience?
TR: “Well, the man’s the same. I was already around a little bit at the very beginning and then I had this huge break. So I did get to see how his world has changed, how this set has changed. The circus atmosphere that exists on his set. The crews so much more knowledgeable of cinema and how to tell his stories. I saw that big, big leap and it was exciting. We made Reservoir Dogs in about five weeks.”
QT: “Yeah, well in particular with the case of Reservoir Dogs, I was, along with the PA’s, I was the least experienced person on the set. Tim and Mike had made a lot of movies by that time. I was just getting through the process.”
Q: Walton, was there any improv on a Quentin set? Would you ever suggest a line?
WG: “There’s no improv in this press conference, he wrote everything. [Laughter] No, no! Why would you mess with perfection? We could say that because it is! It’s every actor’s dream to say a Quentin Tarantino monologue or a line of dialogue. There is no need to change, to even add a “the” or “and” or a comma, it really is perfect the way that it comes out of his imagination.”
Q: You’ve worked with some legends throughout your career, anything amalgamous in working with Quentin to any other filmmaker you’ve worked with?
DB: “I think, the first thing you’re curious about is the way everything’s going to work out. Not only because you have this huge director’s name in front of you but this amazing cast, this group of actors. I remember the first time we had a table reading, you always want to be able to say a Tarantino line in a film, so I was already very happy and excited about it. But then to listen to every single line in the mouths and the bodies of this group of fantastic actors, that was beautiful. Not only that, but I remember the first time reading it back in a hotel in Los Angeles, going back home and telling my girl, “everyone is so damn nice.” Because, you know, a small fish can be lost in a big ocean. The first thing that made me very happy when I met Quentin was to find a warm, generous, loving man and then the whole things just been a confirmation of what I always thought. The biggest artists are the nicest.”
Q: For you Mr. Dern, do you see any connections between…you’ve worked with Hitchcock, you’ve worked with Kazan, you’ve worked with some of the finest filmmaker in the history of the medium. What other connections can you see between Tarantino and those?
BD: “I’ve been very lucky in my career, but this guy does a couple things the other people I’ve worked with doesn’t do. 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 just might do something that’s never been done.”
Q: Quentin, there’s a group calling for a boycott of this movie and they don’t want members of the police across the country to see it. Do you think it’ll hurt your launch and is there anything you could say to put their mind at rest?
QT: “I think I’ve dealt with it in quite a few different venues so I don’t think I need to keep reiterating that aspect but I hope it doesn’t happen, I really do. 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.”
Q: Will film number eight and a half be a western?
QT: “The third Western could actually be a TV thing. 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.”
Q: How difficult was it and how important was it to get Ennio Morricone to do the score?
QT: “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. 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.”
The Hateful Eight is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, and James Parks. The Hateful Eight: Roadshow Version will be in theaters December 25, 2015, and the digital version will be in theaters on January 1, 2016.