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A Date with “THE HATEFUL EIGHT”, Part One

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Moviegoers can’t expect a better gift this Holiday season than a ticket to THE HATEFUL EIGHT, the eighth film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino. The “Western mystery” opens in a special “Roadshow” engagement on December 25th in glorious 70mm film in 100 theaters across North America (see details here) before expanding everywhere on January 1st.

Set shortly after the end of the Civil War, THE HATEFUL EIGHT centers on a group of disparate (and desperate) bad-asses (a bounty hunter and his chained prisoner, a new sheriff, a Confederate general, a cowboy in black, etc.) who get snowed in by a blizzard at a remote Wyoming trading post. No one trusts anyone, and as the tension and paranoia builds, so does the threat of a climactic Tarantino-style bloodbath. FANGORIA attended a rollicking press conference with Tarantino and most of his terrific cast.

FANGORIA: Was THE HATEFUL EIGHT born out of your experience on DJANGO UNCHAINED? Do you see them as linked?

QUENTIN TARANTINO: Well, yeah, there’s a chain that connects DJANGO to this one. And yes, I guess I am in a bit of a Western period right now. Part of the idea is the fact that normally I’d been doing a movie in a genre that I don’t know how to do it, like shooting the big martial arts scenes in KILL BILL. Then you learn how to do it, learn on the job, figure it out and go home, proud of it. But then I don’t do another martial arts movie. Same thing with the car chase in DEATH PROOF. But in this one I had [already] learned how to do a Western, and I realized I wasn’t done with the genre and what I had to say.

One of the things I had to say was dealing with race in America, which actually a lot of Westerns had avoided for such a long time. With DJANGO, you’re dealing with such a big subject as far as slavery in America that, as fun as DJANGO was, it was this downer ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over the whole thing you always had to deal with in a responsible way. So with THE HATEFUL EIGHT, even though I deal with similar issues, I can kinda just let ’er rip and now just do my Western without having this history with a capital H hanging over the whole piece.

FANGORIA: For Kurt and Jennifer, your characters are linked physically [by a chain] for extended periods of time. Can you talk about the challenges of that kind of working relationship?

KURT RUSSELL: Well, when Jennifer and I started to rehearse, we didn’t really think there’d be much of a problem with the chain, we didn’t think it would represent anything much either. And nothing could have turned out to be further from the truth. Everything we did was informed by how that chain was dealt with, and so we had to learn to sort of get the Fred and Ginger of it all together and that formed their relationship. So for me, there was John Ruth and for Jennifer, it was Domergue, but together we were gonna do this team. If you’ve been chained together for a week 24/7, you’re gonna know a lot about that person, and the Stockholm Syndrome is going to set up pretty fast, and it did.

FANGORIA: I can’t recall a character quite like Daisy Domergue. Was she all on the page?

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: 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 so much of Daisy is informed by John Ruth because she is always reacting with him because of what he’s done, the chain, the hits, what mind she can get from that. She thinks she’s a lot smarter than John Ruth and, actually, she is. There’s a moment where it all shifts, and John Ruth isn’t just a putz. He’s suddenly very smart and very dark when he goes and gatherers all the guns from everyone, and then she has to re-judge him, just like everyone else in the movie. Everyone in the movie is terrible and hateful… but you also care for them and they have their weaknesses, which is maybe the good part of them.

RUSSELL: It was an unspoken thing, but when that clapper goes bang, it’s action, that chain’s mine, I own it. Because of that, I felt as soon as, cut, that chain was hers. And boy, I really appreciated what she was going through, when you turn that chain over to the other person. It wasn’t easy.

FANGORIA: Most of the characters are equal parts charming, ruthless and despicable. Did any of you consider yourselves the hero in a weird way?

MICHAEL MADSEN: I read a biography of James Cagney, and he said that if you play somebody who’s very noble, you should probably try to find a mean streak in that person or something dark. If you play somebody who’s very evil, you should probably try to find something good in that person, somewhere. So there’s always a duality of what you do, and the best thing about making a picture for Quentin is that he lets your character have a duality if you’re capable of doing it.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cooper.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cooper

FANGORIA: For Tim, how did it feel working with Tarantino after your RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION experiences?

TIM ROTH: Well, the man is the same. I was around at the very beginning, and then I had this huge break from him. I did get to see, in an impactful way, how his world has changed, how the set has changed. For example, the “no phones” policy or having music playing between set-ups and the kind of circus atmosphere that exists on his set. He’d accrued so much more knowledge of cinema and how to tell his stories, so I saw that big, big leap, and it was very exciting.

TARANTINO: In the case of RESERVOIR DOGS, I was probably, along with the PAs, the least experienced person on the set. Tim and Michael had both made a lot of movies by that time. I was just getting through the process.

FANGORIA: For the Tarantino newcomers, Bruce Dern and Demian Bichir, was anything analogous in working with Quentin to any other filmmaker you’ve worked with?

DEMIAN BICHIR: At first you’re curious about how everything is going to work, not only because you have this huge director’s name in front of you, but with this amazing cast of actors. The first time we had this table reading, I was already very excited to be able to say a Tarantino line. But then to listen to every single line in the mouths and the bodies of all these fantastic actors… A small fish can be lost in a big ocean unless they embrace you, unless they treat you well, and the first thing that made me very happy when I actually met Quentin was to find a warm and very generous loving man. The whole thing has been a confirmation of that. The biggest artists are the nicest.

FANGORIA: Bruce, you’ve worked with Hitchcock, Kazan… some of the finest filmmakers in the history of the medium. What are the connections that you see between Tarantino and those people?

BRUCE DERN: I have been very lucky in my career, but this guy, he does a couple things the other people I’ve worked with didn’t do. He has the greatest attention to detail I’ve ever seen. And 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, the big part of it is that 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, and like with Mr. Hitchcock, it’s because you just might do something that’s never been done.

FANGORIA: Walton, is there any improv on a Tarantino set? Would you ever suggest an alternate line?

WALTON GOGGINS: No, why would you mess with perfection? It’s every actor’s dream to get an opportunity to say a Quentin Tarantino monologue or a line of dialogue. There is no need to change, even to add a “the” or “and” or a comment, it really is perfect the way that it comes out of his imagination.

FANGORIA: You said you are not done with Westerns yet. Will film number nine be a Western?

TARANTINO: Well, we’ll see. The third Western could actually be a TV thing. I’ve owned the rights for something that really demands that I make it. It’s an Elmore Leonard book called 40 LASHES LESS ONE, and I actually think if you want to call yourself a Western director today, you need to do at least three Westerns. If you’re back in the ’50s, it would be like 12 if you really want to put your Westerns on the shelf with people like Budd Boetticher and Anthony Mann. I would really like to do 40 LASHES LESS ONE as a miniseries. I’d write it all and direct it all… maybe it’s four or five hours. And it would fit right along the lines of HATEFUL EIGHT and DJANGO and deals with race. I’ve always wanted to tell the story. I’ll do it eventually.

FANGORIA: Where did you come up with the idea of doing the “closed country house murder mystery” as a Western?

TARANTINO: I just thought it would be a good idea for the story. One, the story just kind of lends itself to it at a certain point. But also, frankly, they haven’t done mysteries in a long time, and I just think they’re very entertaining. I didn’t really know what was going to happen, at least in the first draft of the script. So I’m writing the stagecoach part and that’s just that. And then we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery and there’s four people waiting, and I didn’t even know who those four people were; I wanted to be as in the dark about them as the audience would be and as the stagecoach characters would be, and just have them reveal themselves to me little by little by little.

Then by introducing that mystery aspect, I just thought that would be a lot of fun, especially when you haven’t seen a mystery done at the movies in a long time. After I gave Sam Jackson the first draft of the script, I asked him, “What’s your favorite part?” And he goes, “I like when I start figuring it out and I turn into Hercule Negro.” And that’s what we called the character the whole shoot [laughs].

Check back tomorrow for part two of FANGORIA’s HATEFUL EIGHT coverage…

About the author
Tony Timpone
FANGORIA Editor Emeritus Tony Timpone helps manage the company’s VOD, DVD and digital divisions. For nearly 10 years he served as a Vice President of Acquisitions for FANGORIA’s three separate home video labels, and co-created FANGORIA’S BLOOD DRIVE short film DVD collection, hosted by Rob Zombie. For TV, Timpone was a Co-Producer of cable’s FUSE/FANGORIA CHAINSAW AWARDS and a Consulting Producer to the HORROR HALL OF FAME special. Since 1998, Montreal’s Fantasia film festival has engaged Tony as Co-Director of International Programming.
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