Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight is set within the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, but the racially charged dialogue – particularly in heated scenes between Samuel Jackson’s Union Major and Walter Goggins’ mouthy Confederate – could well be lifted from opposing sides of the U.S. political chasm. One of the latter’s choicest lines – “When n*ggers are scared, that’s when white folks are safe” – is exactly the kind of rhetoric that stares down the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
How do you approach writing a confrontation like that, in a way that is relevant but isn’t overtly making a ‘statement’?
Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. Frankly I think it was subliminal. There was an aspect of just kind of being true to my material and almost unconsciously tapping into a zeitgeist that’s going on right now. I was trying to deal with the whole Civil War aspect.
(More detail on this point is included in the video interview, below)
Also, this is something the westerns have always offered. Westerns sometimes can reflect the decades in which they’re made, even more than the modern story is done in those particular decades.
I didn’t set out to do this, but I think I did stumble across this idea of the Blue State / Red State western. And then a lot of the events in the news happened - we were surprised at how relevant so many events seemed to be to our story.
This is your third period film in a row. Have you found that setting the films in the past gives you an extra level of detachment, to raise issues in your stories?
It has ended up being my third one …. [Laughs] I’ve got to tell you, it would be nice to do a movie where somebody can just turn on the radio and I can have a cool song play, and not have to bend over backwards in order to have it happen! I am looking forward to actually being able to shoot a movie that has a restaurant scene or they go to a nightclub, or something like that! That would be really cool. Those are always some of my better scenes, in the first half of my career…
But look, at the same time, when I finished Django, I realised I wasn’t done with the western. I think it is a good fit, both for my scenarios, and the violence I enjoy in my stories, and the characters themselves. I think there’s a nice fit there. I wasn’t done with it. I think I still had more to say. One of the things I think I have to offer to the western genre, is this dialogue about race, in America, especially i.e. black folks and white folks and I think that is something I have to offer to the genre because it think that aspect has been avoided in most of the westerns, especially most of the westerns by the great western directors, and it is something that I am interested in. I'd like to do at least one more western before it’s all said and done. I think you need to do three.
You don’t have a 'Brad Pitt' or a 'Leonardo Di Caprio' in this one, it’s a real ensemble piece. Was that a conscious choice?
Oh, sure. This is about the ensemble, and that was one of the reasons I didn’t go that route. I didn’t want a situation where any actor had to have more consideration than any other. Working completely as a cast, a unit and move in unison in that. There was a lot of wanting to use my actors that I’ve used before, because the material is so dense and it is so dialogue heavy that I wanted actors that are good with my dialogue, that can turn it into music-slash-poetry-slash-stand-up comedy that it’s supposed to be.
And of course we have to single out Jennifer Jason Leigh. It’s great just watching her dirty smirks
Ha [Australian accent] “Derty smerks”. I like that, yeah.
It’s one thing to write a character for actors you know you’re writing them for, you write for their strengths and you obviously don’t write to their weaknesses. But there’s also something to be said for writing characters that you have no idea of who’s going to play them, and you are not even thinking about that – the character is the character and wherever they go is wherever they go. Then it's your herculean task to find somebody who can shoulder that. (Watch the video for more about how Quentin Tarantino found his Daisy Domergue in Jennifer Jason Leigh)
This one is very clearly branded as your “8th” movie. Are you really going to stop at 10?
That’s the idea. That is the idea. Look, it could be 11 or something, but it’s not going to be 13 or 14. That’s still a ways down the line, though. But let me be honest with you, so much has changed to me since 2007 that I really don’t even know what the world will look like seven years down the line by the time I get to those last two, or what the media landscape will be like, or what they’ll be making movies on!
Watch the full interview with Tarantino below: