In anticipation of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, released on 14th August, we're revisiting all of his previous films.
Join us as we reach the end of our massive Tarantino retrospective with claustrophobic and blood-soaked thriller, The Hateful Eight.
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENT CONTENT
What’s the story of The Hateful Eight?
In the aftermath of the American Civil War, a group of disparate individuals congregate at the remote Minnie’s Haberdashery in a raging blizzard.
Among their number: war veteran Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who claims to have in his possession a letter from Abraham Lincoln. There’s also hangman John Ruth (Kurt Russell) who is escorting notorious criminal Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the gallows.
Upon meeting the other assorted individuals at Minnie’s, it doesn’t take long for the new arrivals to become suspicious. Is somebody plotting to help set Domergue free? Who can be trusted? And who has the itchiest trigger finger amid this rogue’s gallery of miscreants, criminals and oddballs?
How did The Hateful Eight get made?
Released in 2012, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained criss-crossed the slave movie with the conventions of the Spaghetti Western and the Blaxploitation genre to successful effect.
The movie grossed more than $400 million worldwide to become Tarantino’s most successful to date, and it also won Oscars for actor Christoph Waltz and Best Original Screenplay. Tarantino’s typically confrontational blend of real history and pulp B-movie pastiche (an approach he had first deployed in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds) appeared to be a winning formula.
His next film, The Hateful Eight, was something of a companion piece to Django – whereas that movie took place pre-Civil War, this film explores the conflict’s race-riven and gory aftermath.
Typically, however, this is not a sober and restrained exercise – rather, it’s a tense story of confinement and claustrophobia as paranoia runs high among several dangerous individuals.
For that reason, it carries nostalgic overtones of Tarantino’s first film Reservoir Dogs, in which a group of criminals, confined to a warehouse, must discover if they have a rat in their midst.
The inception of The Hateful Eight was somewhat disastrous: Tarantino’s original script was leaked online after he shared it with a handful of his most trusted collaborators. The flames were fanned when website Gawker distributed it further. At one point proposing a lawsuit, Tarantino eventually dropped such action and initially proposed cancelling the project altogether.
He eventually decided to go ahead with the production but not before undertaking a live stage-reading of his retooled narrative. Occurring in April 2014 in front of 160 people, it took place at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, although given this was a first draft, many changes subsequently ensued between this point and the start of production. (Tarantino confirmed during the evening that "the entire fifth chapter will be changed.")
Eventual cast members including the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell and Michael Madsen conveyed the salty, bantering dialogue for which Tarantino had become known. (Later cast changes included Denis Menochet, replaced by Demian Bichir in the movie, and the swapping of Amber Tamblyn for Jennifer Jason Leigh.)
Throughout, Tarantino fed live directions to the cast and amusingly advised them not to go off-script. ("He’s directing," Jackson joked when the film-maker walked across to whisper instructions in his ear.) Stage props including guns, coffee mugs and seats were utilised to further help immerse the actors and the audience in the make-believe world of the script.
Tarantino says he drew inspiration from the confined environments of classic TV Westerns such as The Virginian. However, he also had a desire to upend the conventions of such shows, revealing to Deadline: "I love it in a Western, where you would pass halfway through the show to find out if they were good or bad guys, and they all had a past that was revealed.
"I thought, 'What if I did a movie starring nothing but those characters? No heroes, no Michael Landons. Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens."
With the cast secured over the course of summer and autumn 2014 (Viggo Mortensen was among those being eyed for a role, although he wasn’t cast), production began in Colorado in December of that year. Tarantino favourites cast in the movie included Pulp Fiction’s Tim Roth (as English representative Oswaldo Mowbay), Reservoir Dogs’ Michael Madsen (cow-poke Joe Gage) and the Django Unchained twosome of Bruce Dern (General Sanford ‘Sandy’ Smithers) and Walton Goggins (incoming Sheriff Chris Mannix).
Tarantino’s regular cinematographer Robert Richardson worked with the director to shoot on super-widescreen 65MM film stock, which has the effect of transforming the movie’s interiors into their own kind of vast landscape. As the camera prowls back and forth between the confines of Minnie’s Haberdashery, each character appears to be confined to their own physical and emotional space, reflecting the complexities of post-Civil War America.
The underlying racial tensions reach their apex during a shocking and grandiose speech delivered by Jackson’s character Marquis Warren. Intended to needle racist old Civil War veteran Sandy Smithers, this could be seen as an extension of the race revenge fantasy put forth in Django Unchained, although for many it was derivative of the earlier movie without adding anything interesting.
Jackson told Buzzfeed: "It was always that moment of, Hmm. OK. This is a great speech. Let me see if I can do this. It was all about getting it there, putting it in the right context, seeing it, getting it out there, understanding who I was doing it to. And Bruce is just such a great character to have and to say something like that to."
Shot on a 900 acre ranch near Telluride (home of the famous film festival), the production hit a snag when actor Kurt Russell accidentally destroyed a priceless guitar, which was meant to be swapped out for a prop. (Jennifer Jason Leigh’s on-camera reaction is genuine.) As a result of the accident, loaner the Martin Guitar Museum no longer collaborates with movie productions.
As the film approached its release in December 2015, Tarantino planned two edits, one for general release (167 minutes) and the other a special roadshow presentation (187 minutes). For the latter the director toured the 70MM print of the movie across America, broadcasting it in selected theatres with six minutes of additional footage and an intermission.
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What music is on the The Hateful Eight soundtrack?
The Hateful Eight is significant for being the first Tarantino film to showcase an original score. Usually the director mixes and matches selections of classic pop and soul music with orchestral score pieces, but this time he turned to the legendary Ennio Morricone, whose work Tarantino had liberally scattered throughout his previous films.
Interestingly, Morricone was said to have expressed mixed responses to Tarantino’s use of his work. Nevertheless, he agreed to score it (without seeing the movie, reported Variety) in June 2015, eventually composing a dark, edgy and angular score that reflects the broiling tension and seething violence inherent in the screenplay. It’s in stark contrast to many of Morricone’s most revered works, which surge and sweep in their elegiac beauty, and is perfectly matched to Tarantino’s dark vision (“a sign of artistic brotherhood,” Morricone would later say).
Typically, however, Tarantino scattered pre-existing staples throughout the movie, including ‘Regan’s Theme’ from Morricone’s very own score for Exorcist II: The Heretic. Tarantino also used unused sections from Morricone’s score for The Thing, including the juddering strings (‘Bestiality’) for the grisly poisoned coffee scene where characters begin to vomit blood. Roy Orbison and a track from notorious 1972 exploitation movie The Last House on the Left were also tracked in.
Morricone’s original score was recorded in Prague by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. "Can I repeat for Tarantino what I've done for Sergio Leone?" Morricone asked in an interview. "It's not possible, right? It would be absurd. It would make Tarantino's movie look hideous, because that music is old, you see. I had to write it in another way. But I have written very important music for him.
"I don't know if he directly realized that, or if the others did. They didn't expect that music, that's why they didn't understand it. But he told me, after he had listened to it twice: it's OK, I like it. But at first it had been a shock. He had expected something completely different. But I didn't give that to him, because I didn't want to give him something he knew already."
What are some memorable quotes from The Hateful Eight?
Daisy: "When you get to hell, John, tell 'em Daisy sent you."
Major Marquis Warren: "How’d you like that? You bushwackin’ castrator!"
John Ruth: "Keepin' you at a disadvantage, is an advantage I intend to keep."
Oswaldo Mowbray: "The man who pulls the lever that breaks your neck, will be a dispassionate man. And that dispassion, is the very essence of justice. For justice delivered without dispassion, is always in danger, of not being justice."
Major Marquis Warren: "Y'all keep your mouth shut and do what I tell ya'. Anybody opens their mouth, gonna get a bullet. Anybody moves a little weird... little sudden – gonna get a bullet. Not a warning. Not a question; a bullet. Let me hear you say, 'I got it'."
How was The Hateful Eight received?
In contrast to Django Unchained, which by and large received glowing plaudits, the response to The Hateful Eight was somewhat muted. Reviewers praised Robert Richardson’s typically handsome cinematography and selected performances from the cast, but were unsure if Tarantino had run out of things to say as a film-maker.
The movie currently stands at a somewhat lukewarm 74% on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, reflecting the divisive critical response. The New York Post’s Lou Lumenick disparaged the movie: "All this hype, and for what? Three hours or so, set mostly in a single room where the unsavory guests and staff trade juvenile and racist insults, periodically murdering each other. I was hoping they'd get it over with already well before the intermission."
By contrast, The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin was enthusiastic: "The Hateful Eight is a parlour-room epic, an entire nation in a single room, a film steeped in its own filminess but at the same time vital, riveting and real. Only Tarantino can do this, and he's done it again."
Self-indulgent or not, the movie turned out to be another awards-courting Tarantino offering. The film made history by winning the legendary Ennio Morricone his first Oscar (he had received an honourary Academy Award in 2007).
Jennifer Jason Leigh was Oscar-nominated for her commendably vicious portrayal of Daisy Domergue and Robert Richardson also received a nomination for his cinematography. All three individuals were additionally nominated at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, although only Morricone translated his nominations into wins on both counts.
Tarantino: purveyor of finely-honed pastiches of B-movie trash, or artistic genius? The typically polarised response to The Hateful Eight proved one thing absolute: nobody was able to provoke and confront critics and audiences quite like him.
When is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood released in the UK?
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