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Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, Ti

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Bruce Dern, Michal Madsen, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Quentin Tarantino, Walton Goggins and Demian Bichir at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.

Bruce Dern, Michal Madsen, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Quentin Tarantino, Walton Goggins and Demian Bichir at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.


Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen

Holed Up With The Hateful Eight

by Jay S. Jacobs


It’s always a spectacular when a new Quentin Tarantino film rides into theaters. The writer and director has been well-known for his hyper-intelligent dialogue and rampant violence since the 1992 release of his debut film Reservoir Dogs. Since then, the former video store clerk and self-proclaimed film geek has put together an acclaimed and eclectic body of work which includes Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. As a screenwriter only, he also did True Romance, From Dusk Till Dawn and Natural Born Killers.


Hot on the heels of Django Unchained (well, three years later, but that is a normal turnaround time for a Tarantino film), the director has decided to do his second straight old-school western film. However, The Hateful Eight is very different in content and style than the colorful and flashily-violent Django. Instead, Hateful is almost like an old parlor mystery transferred to the rugged old west.


The great majority of the action takes place in a single saloon, where a bounty hunter (played by Kurt Russell) and his captured prey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter a group of strangers (including Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Samuel L. Jackson), all of whom have mysterious backgrounds and agendas. It leads to an intense standoff between characters, with bloody consequences.


Tarantino, who is a huge proponent of film over digital technology, also has decided to film The Hateful Eight in 70mm. This has lead to a limited release “road show,” an old-fashioned movie-going experience in which the film will play in classic old movie houses around the country (which are still equipped to show film), complete with an opening overture, additional scenes and an intermission.


A couple of weeks before The Hateful Eight starts its limited 70mm release in theaters (spreading wide a week later), the writer/director and most of the staff held a press conference to discuss the film at the legendary Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. As we sat in the crowded conference room, we weren’t surprised to find the avuncular filmmaker taking the lead, but everyone had interesting things to say about the movie and working with Tarantino.

Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Kurt Russell, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Madsen and Walton Goggins at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Jay S. Jacobs.

Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Kurt Russell, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Madsen and Walton Goggins at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Jay S. Jacobs.


Quentin Tarantino: Thanks for coming out everybody! That traffic was hell. Everyone’s been telling me about bricks raining down on New Yorkers over the last couple of days.


Bruce Dern: I quite like the rain actually, it never rains in California.


Tell us about the road show.


Quentin Tarantino: The road show opens on December 25th. It’ll go for two weeks. We’ll lose some of the screens after second week, but we’ll keep some of them. Be exclusive for one week starting December 25th and we open wide on the 31st, but we’ll keep the 70mm projection going on. The Weinsteins (ed. note: Harvey and Bob, the owners of the studio releasing the film) have just done an amazing thing. Just to put it in perspective, Warner Brothers threw their entire weight behind Christopher Nolan when he did Interstellar. Nevertheless they only played in about 11 venues in the course of his 70mm run. We are playing in 44 markets in 100 theaters with our road show.


Not only that, they literally are some of the biggest, nicest movie palaces still left. Like The Music Box in Chicago, The Hollywood Theater in Portland… I’m spacing right now… the Fox Theater in Detroit, the Cinerama Dome for two weeks in Los Angeles. It’s just really wonderful. All the places that have 70mm capabilities, we utilize them. Other places we just moved the screens in and created it.


I remember talking about it when we first had a discussion. It was like: Look, we should be like Neil Diamond coming into town. Or we should be like Book of Mormon. We go into big venues. Maybe they don’t even show movies anymore, but we’ll set up our big screen and we’ll set up our projectors and we’ll let it rip. It has been a Herculean effort and they pulled it off. We are screening in a hundred theaters between US and Canada, I’m very, very proud. The advanced tickets go on sale today.


There you go, you get your money’s worth. It is a hell of a night or afternoon at the movies. So talk to me a little about…


Quentin Tarantino: One thing I want to show actually before we move off of that. We’re trying to do this like the old-school road shows. When we think of movies like Lawrence of Arabia or Ryan’s Daughter, we’ve all probably seen the regular release version. The road shows had an overture. They had an intermission. They were a little longer. Ours is about seven minutes longer, just for the road show version. You also get – and we just got them hot off the presses today – this really cool program. (Holds up a program.) They all come with their own little pin up, ready for your locker, with the different Hateful Eight people on it. You get that. I even think we are giving out t-shirts that you get for your ticket, “I saw The Hateful Eight in 70mm.” It’s pretty cool. We’re hoping it’s going to be a really good party.

Quentin Tarantino at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.

Quentin Tarantino at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.


I’m curious in terms of content, going back to the beginning we’ve seen Western influences in your films. Clearly Django operated in that genre. This continues that among other genres kind of mixed in there, but it’s fair to say your sort of in a Western phase right now. Was this born out of your experience on Django? Did that experience form this one? Do you see them as linked?


Quentin Tarantino: Yeah, almost like these two characters, there is a chain that connects Django to this one. I guess I am in a bit of a Western period right now. Part of the idea was the fact that normally I’d been doing a movie in a genre that I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it. Like, say, shooting the big martial arts scenes in Kill Bill. You learn how to do it. I learn on the job. I figure it out. I’m proud of it, but then I don’t do another martial arts movie. Same thing with the car chase in Death Proof. In this one I learned how to do a western and I realized I wasn’t done with the genre. I wasn’t done with what I felt I had to say.


One of the things I had to say in this regards was a dealing with race in America, which actually a lot of westerns had avoided for such a long time. I think I had more to say. There was also something else about Django, too. You’re dealing with such a big subject, as far as slavery in America. As fun as Django was, it was this downer sword of Damocles hanging over the whole thing that you always had to deal with. You had to deal with it in a responsible way. There was actually an aspect of The Hateful Eight, even though I deal with similar issues, I could just let it rip. Just do my western without having this History with a capital H hanging over the whole piece.

Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.

Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.


For Kurt and Jennifer, your characters are linked, sometimes physically by chain, for extended periods of time. Can you talk about the pros and cons, the challenges of that kind of working relationship?


Kurt Russell: At first, when Jennifer and I started to rehearse, we didn’t really think there would be much of a problem with the chain. We didn’t think it would represent anything, either. Nothing could’ve turned out to be further from the truth. Everything that we did was formed by how that chain was dealt with. So we had to learn to get the Fred and Ginger that held them together. (ed. note: dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were famous for moving around each other rhythmically as one.)


So for me there was John Ruth and for Jennifer there was Domergue. Together we were going to be this team. If you’ve been chained together for like a week and a half, 24/7, you get to know a lot about that person. The Stockholm syndrome is going to set up pretty fast. And it did. The fact is that over a five month period of time, the Stockholm syndrome between Jennifer and I set up and it informed everything that we did.


I can’t recall a character quite like Daisy that I’ve seen in a film, at least not for some time. Is it all on the page or are the influences that Quentin mentioned or that you found helpful for your approach at this character?


Jennifer Jason Leigh: So much of it obviously is on the page, because you are dealing with such a great script and such a great character. With Daisy there is a lot that is mercurial and we had to find. We wanted to find it together. 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 mileage she can get from that. She thinks she’s a lot smarter than John Ruth… and actually she is. She feels like she’s playing him in a lot of the movie. What’s so great about doing a Tarantino movie, and what’s so great for all of us actors, is that we are always being surprised by everything. There’s a moment where it all shifts where John Ruth isn’t just a putz, a fool that she is just so much smarter than. He’s suddenly very smart and very dark when he goes and gathers all the guns from everyone. Then she has to re-judge him, just like everyone else in the movie.


Everyone in the movie is terrible and hateful. Everyone in the movie you also care for. They have their weaknesses, the good part of them in a certain way. I just remember the day we shot that scene, because Daisy’s having a blast. I mean, yeah, she’s going to the gallows, but she knows she’s not going to the gallows. She’s going to figure it out. But in that moment it’s not so clear anymore. That was so exciting as an actress, to not know that was coming. To read it on the page and yet when I felt it happen in the room, I swear my blood went cold. It was just a phenomenal experience.


Kurt Russell: I just want to say one other thing. We haven’t said this, but it was an unspoken thing. This will be the first time she’s heard me say this. Because of who John Ruth was, everything when that clapper goes bang and it’s action: That chain was mine. I own it. Because of that, I felt that as soon as “cut,” that chain was hers. We had to have a balance. I’ll tell you something, I really appreciated what she was going through. When you turned that chain over to the other person it wasn’t easy.


Jennifer Jason Leigh: I’m not as good a dance partner as you are. You’re a much better leader. I’m better at following.

Michael Madsen at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.

Michael Madsen at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.


Among the actors here, a lot of your characters are equal parts charming, ruthless and despicable. Do you all consider yourselves the hero in a weird way of this story?


Michael Madsen: I read a biography of James Cagney. 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 that they’re carrying around. If you play somebody who’s very evil, you should probably try to find something good in that person somewhere. There’s always a duality to what you do. The best thing about making a picture for Quentin is that he lets your character have [that] duality, if you’re capable of doing it. He’s the only person I know who can do that.


Michael and Tim, you both worked on Quentin’s first film Reservoir Dogs. For you Tim, I’m curious did this experience feel like apples and oranges or did it feel like pretty much what you remembered from that first experience?


Tim Roth: The man is the same. Yeah, I was around at the very beginning. Then I had this huge break from working with him. So I did get to see in a highly impactful way how his world has changed, how the set has changed. For example, there was always a policy about music playing between set ups. That serves the atmosphere that exists on this set. I had seen that. He’s accrued so much more knowledge of cinema, and how to tell his stories. So I saw a big difference. That was very exciting.


Quentin Tarantino: Yeah well, in particular in the case of Reservoir Dogs, along with the PA’s, I was 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.

Demian Bichir at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.

Demian Bichir at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Brad Balfour.


Demián, you have worked with some heavyweights. How is working with Quentin compared to any other filmmaker you’ve worked with?


Demián Bichir: The first thing you’re curious about is how everything’s going to work out. Not only because you have this huge director’s name in front of you, but with this amazing group of actors. I remember the first time we had this table reading. You always want to be able to one day say a Tarantino line in a film, right? So I was very, very happy and excited about it. Then to listen to every single line in the mouths and bodies of all these fantastic actors, that was beautiful.


I remember that first reading that we had at this hotel back in Los Angeles, going back home and telling my girl: Everyone is so damn fucking nice. Because a small fish can be lost in a big ocean unless they embrace you, unless they treat you well. The first thing that made me very happy when I actually met Quentin was to find a warm man. A very generous, loving man. The whole thing has been a confirmation of what I thought always, the biggest artists are nicest.


For you Mr. Dern, you’ve worked with [Alfred] Hitchcock, you’ve worked with [Elia] Kazan. You’ve worked with the finest filmmakers in the history of the media. What are the connections that you see between Mr. Tarantino and those?


Bruce Dern: I have been very lucky in my career. But this guy, he does a couple things the others I’ve worked with didn’t do. He has the greatest attention to detail I’ve ever seen. Burt Lancaster once told me it’s [Luchino] Visconti. [Tarantino will] take a seat by Visconti, trust me.


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. The material is so good, so original, so unique if you will, that the big part of it is that you’re so excited that he chose you and not Ned Beatty or Jimmy Caan. (Everyone laughs.) You’re excited to go to work everyday. I had that with Mr. Hitchcock for a few days. I felt it everyday with Quentin. You’re excited to go to work everyday, because he just might do something that’s never been done.

Walton Goggins at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Jay S. Jacobs.

Walton Goggins at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Jay S. Jacobs.


Walton, in Quentin Tarantino’s set, would you ever suggest an alternate line?


Walton Goggins: There’s no improv in this press conference. He wrote everything that I’m about to say. (Everybody laughs.) No, why? Why would you mess with perfection? We can say that, because it is. 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  add an “and,” or a “the,” or a comma. It really is perfect, the way that it comes out of his imagination.


There is a group calling for a boycott of this movie. They don’t want the members of the police unions across the country to see it. Do you think it’ll hurt your launch? Is there anything you can say to put their mind at rest?


Quentin Tarantino: Well, I’ve dealt with it in quite a few different venues. I don’t think I just need to keep reiterating that aspect of it. Look, I hope that 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 are going to necessarily follow suit. I have to say it’s kind of a drag, because the statements I’ve made I believe are very true. I intend to go maybe further with that as time goes on. Nevertheless, I think you can actually decry police brutality and still understand that there is good work that the police do. I think I’ve made that pretty clear.


I also do know that there’s a whole lot of police out there who are real big fans of my work. I just hope that they’re not going to take Patrick Lynch’s word for what I said. What I said is what I said. You can actually look it up and read it. I’ve actually clarified my comments since then. Not walking back at all, just a little bit more clarification. I still stand by what I say. I think there’s a lot of good cops out there and they should agree with what I said, if they’re coming from the right place. So I guess we’ll just see.


You said you were not done with westerns yet. Will your next film also be a western?


Quentin Tarantino: We’ll see. Actually, the third western could 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. There’s something about the piece that demands that I make it. There’s an Elmore Leonard book called Forty Lashes Less One. I actually think if you want to call yourself a western director today, you need to do at least three westerns. I mean back in the 50s it would be like 12, but in today’s it’s three. I mean if you really want to put your western’s on the shelf with people like Budd Boetticher, Anthony Mann and [Sam] Peckinpah and stuff.


I would really like to do Forty Lashes Less One as a mini series. Like hour episodes. I’d write it all and I’d direct it all, but maybe it’s four or five hours, something like that. If you’ve ever read the book, it would fit right along the lines of Hateful Eight and Django. It deals with race. It all takes place in Yuma Territorial Prison. It’s a really good book and I’ve always wanted to tell the story. So, we’ll see. I’m hoping I’ll do that eventually.


Even though it was for TV, would you shoot on film?


Quentin Tarantino: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’ll never shoot on digital.

Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Quentin Tarantino, Walton Goggins and Demian Bichir at the New York Press Conference for "The Hateful Eight." Photo copyright 2015 Jay S. Jacobs.

Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Quentin Tarantino, Walton Goggins and Demian Bichir at the New York Press Conference for “The Hateful Eight.” Photo copyright 2015 Jay S. Jacobs.


Tim, did you see any similarities between God of Hell and your character?


Tim Roth: I think just the duplicitous nature of the character. There’s a similarity of that. That’s interesting. I haven’t thought of that [film] in a while.


Where did you come up with the idea of doing a closed country house murder mystery as a western?


Quentin Tarantino: I just thought it would be a good idea for the story. I thought it would be very interesting. One, the story just kind of lent itself to it at a certain point. Also, frankly, it was just I like mysteries. They haven’t done mysteries in a long time and I think they’re just very entertaining. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, at least in the first draft of the script. As I was going, I just dealt with everything as it went. I’m writing the stagecoach part and that’s just that. Then we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery and there’s four people waiting. 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 characters in the stagecoach would be – and just have the 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. Like I said, I think that especially when you haven’t seen a mystery done at the movies in a long time it could be a really entertaining experience. I remember after I gave Sam Jackson the first draft of the script, I go to him and go: So what’s your favorite part of it? He goes, “Well, I like when I start figuring shit out and I turn into Hercule Negro.” (ed. note: That was a play on the name of Agatha Christie’s detective character Hercule Poirot.) That’s what we called that character through the whole shooting. (laughs)


Since this has been such a love fest, can you talk about how you developed the animus among you actors? What did you do to up the tension and anger and nastiness?


Quentin Tarantino: It’s just in part and parcel to the material. This was the case of Reservoir Dogs, too. There’s a similarity to this and Reservoir Dogs, to some degree. I don’t think I even understood the dramatic structure and one of the reasons why Reservoir Dogs worked so well when I wrote it and did it. After hearing people talk about it, I kind of figured it out. Since then I’ve worked on that same principle. Like, in particular, the basement scene of Inglourious Basterds. Now it’s something I do. I believe that suspense can be like a rubber band. You just keep stretching that rubber band. Using the basement scene as an example, that best scene could be a five minute scene, or a six minute scene or a seven mi