A Date with “THE HATEFUL EIGHT”, Part TwoMovies/TV,News Tony Timpone
In the continuation of our lengthy time spent with Quentin Tarantino and the cast of THE HATEFUL EIGHT (see part one here), the Oscar-winning writer/director and FANGORIA reader comments on his eighth movie’s horror references and collaborating with legendary composer Ennio Morricone. Meanwhile, his eclectic cast chimes in on the overall HATEFUL experience. The “Western mystery” opens in a special “Roadshow” engagement on December 25 in glorious 70mm film in 100 theaters across North America (see details here).
FANGORIA: Since this has been such a love fest, how did you develop the animus around your actors?
QUENTIN TARANTINO: I believe that suspense could be like a rubber band, and you just keep stretching that rubber band, like the basement scene in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. It could be a five minute scene or six minute scene or a seven minute scene and that would be good. But if I can stretch that rubber band to 25 minutes and it still holds and doesn’t snap, well then it should be better. I’m taking that very idea to its epic conclusion by making a movie this long. If that rubber band doesn’t stretch, maybe it’s a boring movie.
Part of that rubber band [in HATEFUL EIGHT] is the threat of violence that is just hanging over the movie and hanging over the characters. Violence doesn’t even need to happen, but you’re prepared for it to happen and you don’t know where it’s going to come and you know it’s going to be horrible whenever it does. But exactly when and how and who you’re not so sure. Frankly, if I don’t pull that off and if these guys don’t pull that off, then maybe the movie’s not so good and maybe it’s gonna be dull. So I’m betting that we’re pulling that off.
KURT RUSSELL: John Ruth carries that ball because he’s the only one that carries that ball. The rest of them are pretending what they’re pretending to be, whoever that is. The most extreme example of that, actor to actor, is when I am going to walk over to talk to Michael Madsen and he’s Mr. Blonde and I’m Snake Plissken. There’s going to be some f***ing problems.
Michael has a fantastic energy; he’s a force as a human being. I’m more of just an actor; I’m not Snake Plissken. I didn’t want to let Mike down, and I certainly didn’t want to let Quentin down, but that was challenging for me. That wasn’t easy with my personality to go over and just be so bombastic and seriously confident. It was my first experience in a long, long time to relish working with actors that all I had to do was talk to them and listen.
MICHAEL MADSEN: [To Russell] Listen Snake, you’re not so bad yourself.
TARANTINO: Before we did the script reading, we did a three day rehearsal. I wrote John Ruth for Kurt and Joe Gage for Mike, but the first time they got to that scene and we read that scene, there was like, “Snake Plissken is challenging Mr. Blonde. Holy shit!”
BRUCE DERN: The man obviously has a magnet and what the magnet does to actors is you’re so drawn to [Quentin] because of his reverence for what went before. And if you dare question him, he will put you in your place and tell you facts about stuff that you never even knew were made. That was a delight for me, and you don’t get that very often.
WALTON GOGGINS: Quentin also visually takes you through an experience as an actor and the sequence of shots that comes out of his imagination allows for this strange kind of adjustment. It’s like improvisation, physically, with the written word that you just don’t anticipate. You don’t want to have the right answers so it can go anywhere.
FANGORIA: How important was it for you to get Ennio Morricone to score the film?
TARANTINO: It was a dream. We made overtures with working with each other over the last couple movies, particularly INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and DJANGO, and they never quite worked out. The timing, the schedules, plus I’ve always had trepidation to do it that way. With this movie I had a little voice in my ear that said this movie deserves a film score. I take nothing away from the other movies that I’ve done using other scores; it was right for them. For this material, it deserves its own theme, its own piece of music that has its own personality. Ennio was very interested, so I just translated the script into Italian and sent it to him. He read it and really liked it.
I went down to meet him in Rome, and we’re there talking about it and I ask, “So what is it that you kind of see or hear.” And he goes, “Well, I have this idea for a theme and it’s driving forward and the stagecoach is moving through the snow, moving forward, but it’s also ominous sounding and suggests the violence that will come.” At first, because he didn’t think he had time, he was only going to write the theme. I ended up seeing him the very next day at the Donatella Awards, and he goes, “I’m going to write you more.” So, literally, seven minutes of music became 12 minutes of music became 22 minutes of music became 32 minutes of music.
He didn’t score to scenes, he just scored to the script. He wrote a couple of pieces of music that he thought could be really good for the material itself but not scene specific, about three suites like that and then some other music that he thought I could use for emotion, and he let me take and put it in the movie the way I’ve always done it before. So it ended up being a very lovely encounter and relationship I will cherish.
FANGORIA: Did the screenplay change after the live read?
TARANTINO: Well we altered a lot because it was only the first draft, and one of the things about the movie is I wanted to do three different drafts. And so this live reading was just from the first draft, which is different than the way I normally do it. Normally I write these big, long, unwieldy novels. And there’s the beginning and the middle, and the middle’s always great because now I’m committed to writing so much, and now you know more about the characters before you could start writing, and then there’s the end. By that point the characters always dictate the ending to me.
I mean, I’m doing genre movies so I have an idea of where I’m going at the end. At the end of KILL BILL, I thought it was very possible she would kill Bill, but how, why, exactly how you feel about that was a very open question. That’s one of the reasons why I like genres because I can explore a lot of different things but I still kinda have a road that I’m traveling to some degree or another. This one I wanted to do differently. I wanted to spend more time with the material than I normally spend, even through the process of telling the story three different times.
Just to give you an example: In the first draft, the Lincoln letter was only dealt with once and it was in the stagecoach. Now, I knew I wanted to do more with it, but I wasn’t ready and I didn’t have any obligations to have to deal with it in the first draft. I could kinda find it on my own. In the second draft, it appeared at the dinner table scene, and the third draft it appears later the way you see it in the movie.
Just to give you another example, Daisy’s finale in the third draft, which is what is in the movie, was where I thought I wanted to go in the first draft, but something stopped me from going there with her in that first draft. I almost felt I didn’t have the right to do that to her yet because I didn’t know her well enough, not by just the first draft. So I wrote the whole second draft from Daisy’s perspective, just emotionally, so I could really get to know her. I wanted to be on Daisy’s side for an entire draft of the story so I could really feel like I knew her and then after I feel like I knew her, I could do what I need to do to her.
FANGORIA: You said the French are calling THE HATEFUL EIGHT a horror film. Could you elaborate?
TARANTINO: Well, we just got back from the premieres in London and France, and MAD MOVIES, which is sort of the French FANGORIA, said, “Hey, is this your first horror film?” There are definitely horrible moments in it, to be sure, but it’s surprising how it is a theme in France. Every interviewer came in, “It’s a Western, but horrifique,” and they really kept hitting on this horror film aspect. That actually does play into it. This movie was not influenced by that many other Westerns, but one movie it’s definitely influenced by is John Carpenter’s version of THE THING, which also had Kurt Russell and also has a score by Ennio Morricone. That actually makes sense because this movie is very influenced by RESERVOIR DOGS, and that was influenced by THE THING. There’s obviously trappings of it; the characters are trapped in one room and a lot of paranoia going around and nobody can trust anybody and there’s a horrible blizzard going on outside.
But the biggest influence when it came to that was the effect that THE THING had on me the very first time I saw it in a movie theater on opening night. It was the first time I was actually able to break down in a more critical way the effect of a film, i.e. the paranoia was so strong between those characters that the paranoia just started bouncing off the walls until it had nowhere else to go but through the fourth wall and into the audience. So that was the effect and feeling I was going for with THE HATEFUL EIGHT.
FANGORIA: The music suggests an Italian horror film.
TARANTINO: Oh, absolutely, that’s for damn sure. I didn’t expect Ennio to give me a Western score. He didn’t want to do them anymore. So even though this was a Western, I wasn’t expecting a score similar to TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA or anything like that. I figured it was going to be dark, and that’s the way he described it. Ennio gave me a horror film score and sometimes even a giallo score, and there are elements of a giallo in this; giallos are usually mysteries. There’s even a black-gloved killer in my movie. When you see a killer with a black glove, it’s like, “OK, I can’t wait for them to show more of the characters so I can see who has a black glove.” And then, “Oh, shit, everybody’s wearing a black glove.”
FANGORIA: How is it working with former FANGORIA intern Fred Raskin as your editor?
TARANTINO: Oh, Fred is great, he’s my new man. It was one of the tragedies of my life to lose [previous editor] Sally Menke the way I did. Fred was an assistant on KILL BILL, and I knew I didn’t want to start working with somebody I didn’t know before. And we’ve worked on DJANGO, and we got together great and then worked with him on this, and it was just a joy and a dream.
One of the things about Fred that I just love is he gets my material, i.e. he laughs and smiles at the same lines again and again and again no matter how many times we hear it, and I’m always smiling. So you could work for four months with the guy and he laughs at the same jokes every single time it plays and smiles at the same jokes every time he plays it. You can’t ask for anything more than that in an editor.
FANGORIA: Jennifer, where did you find your sympathy with Daisy, this rotten character?
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: Daisy has very strong loyalties and a really great heart, as crazy and wicked and evil as she is.
TARANTINO: But in that same vein, there are these killers in the movie who do some horrible murders and at the same time, they are the only people who do anything for anybody else in the whole movie. They do it for her. As far as they’re concerned, if they have to kill every son of a bitch in Wyoming, that’s what Wyoming gets for trying to hang her. And so there is that dichotomy in every character, in every situation that happens.