Quentin Tarantino’s latest film opens in 70mm on December 25 and in wide release January 1 and it’s already making numerous top 10 lists for the best movies of the year.
I had the chance to attend the press conference for the film earlier in the month which featured the entire cast including Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir & Tim Roth as well as director/writer Quentin Tarantino. I have to say, this was one of the most fun press conferences I’ve been too. Tarantino has created a family with his movies and the chemistry is strong both off screen and on.
First off, if you’re not familiar with the plot of the film, The Hateful Eight set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, as a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and 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 they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with 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, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all.
Sitting and listening to all these people talk for 40 minutes was a treat and I know I wasn’t the only one who was sad when it ended. Below are a few highlights from the press conference. Warning: Some small spoilers may be below.
-Tarantino wrote almost all the roles for specific actors, all of whom he’d worked with previously. The only three roles he said were wild cards were Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Bob (Bichir) and Jody (Channing Tatum). Also, did you know that at one point Jennifer Lawrence met with Tarantino about playing Domergue?
-Tim Roth has worked with Tarantino previously but not since 1995 in Four Rooms. He was excited to work with Tarantino again and see all the new skills he’d picked up as a director and writer. He said, “It was brand new for me. It was almost like coming to Quentin fresh again.”
-The film was shot in 70mm, which is rarely done these days. When asked why he wanted to film that way, Tarantino said, “It gives intimacy. I shot a lot of close ups of [Samuel L Jackson] but I’ve never shot them as beautiful as I have in this movie. I felt, especially in Minnie’s Haberdashery, if film isn’t suspenseful, if the threat of violence or the pressure cooker situation isn’t always getting upped a notch every scene or so, it’s going to get boring. I thought the big format would put you in Minnie’s, you in that place and you’re amongst those characters. I thought it’d make it more intimate when you got in close with them. Once you’re in Minnie’s there’s two plays going on. The characters that are in the foreground of any given scene and then the characters in the background. You always have to be keeping track of where everyone is, they’re characters on a chess board. That becomes important unless I want to cut them out and not show them. I think that helped ration out the tension.” We have to agree! It’s kind of funny trying to keep track of who did what and who could be guilty.
-Channing Tatum, whose role has been kept underwraps, is one of the new kids to a Tarantino film. He shared that he was both excited and nervous to be in the film and it was cool how full circle his career had come. His first movie ever was with Samuel L Jackson, Coach Carter, and now he was working with him again. Of his first day on set, Channing shared, “It is an actual alumni to be in a Quentin film and you feel that. It’s a unique experience to be in a Quentin film I can promise you and you’re intimidated…My first day, I must have looked so geeked out because the first shot was this crazy 360 shot and looked wide eyed trying to figure out how not to screw up and Tim goes, yup you’re about to be in a Quentin Tarantino film and I was like get it together Chan. Don’t look so scared. It was amazing and every single person here is someone I admire and it was a learning experience.”
After Channing shared his story, Tarantino chimed in saying he pulled Channing aside and said, “You do realize you get to shoot Coach Carter right?” and Channing said, “I hadn’t thought about that! Holy s*** I get to shoot Coach Carter.”
-The two actors that really spend a lot of time together on screen are Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh, seeing as how their characters are handcuffed to each other for pretty much the whole first half. Near the end of the first act, John Ruth (Russell) meets his fate but seeing as how they’re snowed in, his body stays on the floor. Russell opted to play that body as well instead of going with the dummy they had made for him.
“I spent four and a half months chained to Jennifer,” Russell shared. “It felt very strange, the concept of people starting to drop like flies and the actors who have been there for us were not going to be there for them. Also, I had a great front row seat to watch these guys and not have to worry about lines. But I wanted to be there for [Jennifer] to help her do whatever she needed to do. For her, if she felt like she needed to paw John Ruth, that it’d be different if there was a dummy there.”
Jennifer added, “They had a dummy for him. It was 30 degrees for him [and he had to be on the floor]. They had a full dummy with a full face cast. I couldn’t have done that scene without him there. It was 3 weeks of 16 hour days lying on a cold floor but I needed him and he was there for me. It really touched me.”
The Hateful Eight is definitely a must see this holiday season and features one of the best ensembles this year. Be sure to check it out when it hits theaters in December and January.