Mostly set in one room, director Quentin Tarantino gives his audience a visual feast in only the way he can. The Hateful Eight is not your typical Western. The genre is put into a blender, along with the mystery genre, and spun into a stylistic vision with loquacious dialogue and witty humor that cuts throughout the blood and gore. While Tarantino’s style is certainly unique and signature, it’s also growing in its own art form, and seems to be building to a grand opus.
As it is, Tarantino recently admitted that he might only just make ten movies in his career, but that said, The Hateful Eight once again proves that he’s going to make each movie count for something worthwhile.
For The Hateful Eight, the famed director uses Wyoming as a backdrop, as its harsh winter, a blizzard specifically, traps eight strangers, but these strangers aren’t ordinary people. Each carries dark secrets within them, including bounty hunters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell). We learn that Ruth is not alone as he’s chained to Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), set to be hanged for a murderous crime in the town of Red Rock. The real star of the film is Justified’s Walton Goggins, who plays Chris Mannix, who is said to be the new sheriff of Red Rock.
These characters are joined by cowboy Joe Cage (Michael Madsen), Senor Bob (Demian Bichir) Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern).
A few of “the hateful eight” showed up at AOL for a chat to speak about creating one of the most experimental moments in Tarantino’s body of work.
This is a massive role in a Quentin Tarantino movie, that seems like it was written just for you.
Walton Goggins: I’ve been around for a long time, just like everybody up here on this stage, but for me my career path started in earnest in television with The Shield. You hope if you hang around long enough and do work that you’re worthy of getting the attention of someone like Quentin. And you get to work with a cast like this.
He creates this place where magic can happen, and to be invited back, and be around people you consider icons from a distance — it’s an extraordinary opportunity. I’m grateful to Quentin for it.
Kurt, this is your second time out doing a Quentin Tarantino film. How did Quentin approach you for this role?
Kurt Russell: I got a phone call from Quentin, and he said, “I’m doing a reading for this thing I wrote. Would you do it? And I said, ‘Yeah that would be fun.’ He wanted to rehearse it, and I thought, “Well, that’s strange, usually you don’t do that.” And then, we rehearsed it on a Thursday, I got to meet all the guys the next day, and then he wanted to rehearse it again, and I thought, “Wow, he’s really getting this in shape for somebody.”
Then I found out that day that we were going to do it in front of 1,600 people in a theater for a charity event, and I thought, “Oh, this is that script that was leaked that he got angry about, and he wants to hear it once before he puts it to sleep. Okay, that’s cool.” Then a couple of weeks later I heard he was going to make the movie, and I said to my agent, “Did he say anything about me doing it?” And my agent said, “Oh no he wants you to do it.” So I said, “oh, great!”
How did Quentin write for you, Walton?
Goggins: I don’t know how he specifically wrote for me. He would be best to answer that question, but his writing is so poetic. I’ve heard Tim [Roth] say this and I’ve heard Michael [Madsen] say this — he is able to cast people or look deep into a crowd of people, and he’s able to pick one person that can say his dialogue in the way that he hears it in his imagination. He didn’t get it right one time, he’s gotten it right over the course of his career with every single person that he’s put in his movies.
I don’t want to know how he did it, I’m just grateful that he did it.
Kurt you’re Jennifer Jason Leigh’s captor. How was that experience?
Russell: It was very important for me to earn Jennifer’s trust as an actor she was working with. That chain was a real thing, and at first I went, “Okay, they’re chained together. They’re chained up.” And then after a couple of rehearsals we looked at each other and said, “Okay, we have to figure this chain thing out, because I can’t do anything.” So that chain became very important for the two of us to deal with.
The character I’m playing is a bounty hunter and he’s bringing in a feral cat. Her character wants to claw my eyes out and kill me. They’re like an abusive couple, but even with an abusive couple there’s moments of tenderness. Let me just say, all the boys are very proud of our girl. She’s starting to rack up awards and she’s deserving of everything that she gets.
Does it feel like Quentin is keeping you on your toes as a performer?
Russell: No, it’s the same as any other movie in that regards. If we’re working and all of us are in the shot, then we’re in the shot, and that’s whether it’s on a little television set, or if it’s on your watch or on 70mm. You can read some of the old time stuff where when they do close ups they’ll “bring it down” and I came from that world, but I didn’t come from that acting world, so for me you just get in there and [you say,] “What’s it feeling like? Are you watching Walton wax poetic and you’re getting tired of it? Are you loving it? What’s going on?” And I don’t know how to bring it down, until a director says, “Bring it way down, Kurt” or bring it up. For me a lot of the times Quentin would say “Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead.”
Michael Madsen: I do the same thing I always do. I know it’s supposed to be on 70mm film, but for me I was supposed to be writing my life story, so at least I had something to do there while I was sitting at the table. I also felt like it was great because I get to see what everybody else was doing, and normally you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t be in that frame and you’d miss a lot of what the other actors were doing. It’s odd that he would choose 70mm in a confined space. I’m for film and I’m sad that it’s creeping away, and I think that was one of the reasons he did it. He did it to remind everybody of the experience of watching a big movie, shot with big machines.
Goggins: Just because you’re off camera doesn’t mean you stop playing pretend. That’s what you do for your fellow actors. I think the thing that was surprising was how intentional, and how specific, how deep the story goes in every single frame. Its not just the person in focus where the story is happening, it’s the person out of focus, and it’s the person behind the person out of focus. When you watch the movie a second time you’re watching a completely different experience. You can bet when you’re on set that day that something magical is going to happen. We all got to see the work and witness Quentin’s characters.
Russell: You didn’t want to miss anything. You might think you get jaded over the years, but when you have a crew like this, I said, “I want to watch these guys. I want to watch all of what Mike [Madsen] has to do.” It’s great.
The Hateful Eight hits theaters on 70mm on December 25.
[Photo by The Weinstein Company]