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Quentin Tarantino on How the ‘Threat of Violence’ Makes ‘The Hateful Eight’ So Suspenseful

Quentin Tarantino on How the 'Threat of Violence' Makes 'The Hateful Eight' So Suspenseful


READ MORE: You Can Purchase Tickets for Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ on 70mm Film Right Now

Quentin Tarantino is just over a week away from unleashing “The Hateful Eight” in select 70mm theaters, and there’s certainly no one more excited about it than him. Joining the press and six of his principal cast members during a New York City press conference at the Waldorf Astoria, Tarantino was most enthusiastic while touting the movie’s 70mm roadshow release. Referencing yesterday’s big announcement from The Weinstein Company, the director confirmed the film will play in 100 theaters in 44 markets across the U.S. and Canada. Citing the release as a “herculean” effort, Tarantino assured that the roadshow presentation, which includes an overture, intermission, seven minutes of additional footage and a limited edition program, is the only way to go. 

A far cry from the exploitative thrills of “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight” is a chamber piece Western infused with a great deal of internal mystery. Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh are front and center as a bounty hunter and his battered prisoner, respectively, who pick up two suspicious strangers on the way to Wyoming where the prisoner is to be hanged. With a blizzard hot on their trails, the four lodge up at a local haberdashery, where four more strangers await. Locked inside with nowhere to go, Tarantino tightens the screws on his eight peculiar characters as their true motives become steadily more clear. Slowly but surely, it becomes obvious not everyone will make it out alive. 

In between listening to a great deal of praise from his cast (everyone agreed it had always been their dream to say a Tarantino monologue), Tarantino went into a lot detail about what he wanted to achieve with his second attempt at the Western. From the film’s roots in the horror genre to the way it plays upon the viewer’s expectation for violence, here are the five big takeaways from Tarantino’s New York City press conference.  

Tarantino had more to explore in the Western genre after “Django Unchained.”

The director has been quite vocal lately about how the roots of “The Hateful Eight” started as a novelized sequel to “Django Unchained.” Titled “Django in White Hell,” the sequel found Jamie Foxx’s freed slave serving the story in the role that would eventually be re-conceptualized as Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Warren. But even before this potential continuation of the story, Tarantino knew whatever he did next would be a return to the Western, for he wasn’t finished exploring the genre after “Django.”

“Part of the idea is that normally I do a movie in genre where 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.’ But then you learn how to do it, same thing with the car chase in ‘Death Proof.’ With [‘Django’], I learned how to do a Western but I realized I wasn’t done with the genre, I wasn’t done with what I had to say.”

“One of the things I had to say in this regards was dealing with race in America, which actually a lot of Westerns had avoided for such a long time, and I think I had more to say. There was also something else about ‘Django,’ too — you were dealing with such a big subject as far as slavery in America that as fun as ‘Django’ was, it was this downer, sort of Damocles hanging over the thing that you always had to deal with in a responsible way. There was actually an aspect with ‘The Hateful Eight,’ even though I’m dealing with similar issues, where I could let it rip and now just do my Western without having this history with a capital ‘H’ hanging over the piece.”

Tarantino is bummed about the police boycott, but he won’t back down.

Perhaps the biggest press the film has gotten thus far has been surrounding the police boycott that erupted after Tarantino gave a speech against police brutality in late October. Briefly addressing the matter when asked how he felt about it, Tarantino said, “Just because some union mouthpieces are calling for a boycott doesn’t mean all the different offices on the street are necessarily going to follow suit. Honestly, it’s kind of a drag. The statements I made I believe are very true, and maybe I intend to go 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, and I think I’ve made that pretty clear…what I said is what I said, and you can look it up and read it and I’ve actually clarified my comments since then, not walking back but a little clarification, and I still stand by what I said, and I actually think there are a lot of good cops out there who do, and who should, agree with what I said if they’re coming from the right place.”

If “suspense is like a rubber band,” then Tarantino stretches it longer than ever in “The Hateful Eight.”

“I believe that suspense, it can be like a rubber band,” he said. “Using the basement scene [in “Inglourious Basterds”] as an example, that scene can be a five-minute scene, or a 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, it doesn’t snap, then it should be better. I’m taking that idea to its Nth conclusion by making a movie this long. I think part of what’s going on is that part of that rubber band 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 when it’s going to come but you know it’s going to be horrible whenever it does, but exactly when, and how and who you’re not exactly sure. Frankly, if I don’t pull that off, and these guys don’t pull that off, then the movie is not that good. I’m begging we’re pulling that off.”

Tarantino tried something new by writing three different drafts of the script.

“One of the things about the movie is that I actually wanted to do three different drafts of the film,” he said. “Normally I write these big, long, unwieldy novels. 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’d kill Bill [laughs]. But how, why, how you feel about it, that was open to question. But that’s one of the reasons why I like genres, because I can explore different things but I have a road that I’m traveling along. This one I wanted to do differently. I wanted to spend time with the material for more time than I usually do with the beginning, middle and end, even go through the process of telling the story three different times.”

“To give you an example, in the first draft, the Lincoln letter, which is a motif that plays out through the film, that was only dealt with once and that was in the stagecoach. Now, I knew I wanted to do more with it, but I wasn’t ready. In the second draft, it appeared at the dinner table scene, in the third draft it appeared later in the scene. To give you another example, Daisy’s end in the third draft, which 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 like I didn’t have the right to do that do her yet because I didn’t know her well enough, not just by that first draft. So I wrote the entire second draft from Daisy’s perspective, not in a tricky prose way but just in an emotional way 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 know her, and then after I felt like I knew her, I could do what I needed to.”

“The Hateful Eight” might be Tarantino’s first horror movie.

Tarantino mentioned that while touring the movie around Europe, the French press became especially preoccupied with the film’s roots in the horror genre. “They really kept hitting on this horror film aspect, that actually does, to some degree or another, play into it,” he said. “I don’t think this movie is 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 had a score by Ennio Morricone. But that actually makes sense because this movie is influenced by ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ which was influenced by ‘The Thing.'”

“The influence, there’s obviously trappings of it in the characters trapped in one room, there’s a lot of paranoia going on and 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 at a movie theater on opening night…The paranoia was so strong between those characters, and it was trapped in such an enclosed space, 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. That was the effect I was going for with ‘The Hateful Eight.'”

“The Hateful Eight” 70mm roadshow opens on Christmas Day, followed by a nationwide digital release on December 31.

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