For a film that at one point looked like it may never happen, Quentin Tarantino’s next shot of Western action, The Hateful Eight, now appears to be on a smooth and extremely quick road to the big screen. Here is the story of the film's ups-and-downs on its journey so far...
THE EARLY RUMOURS
Quentin Tarantino is a man who likes to leapfrog between genres. So although it briefly seemed like he might follow Inglourious Basterds with a new alternate take on wartime history, he switched gears instead for Django Unchained, which shared Basterds’ bloody, pulpy feel, but was a Western, or, given its setting, a Southern. After that? He floated the idea of another war film called Killer Crow, which would loosely tie the three titles into a trilogy.
“I don't know exactly when I'm going to do it, but there's something about this that would suggest a trilogy,” he’s said. “My original idea for Inglourious Basterds way back when was that this would be a huge story that included the smaller story that you saw in the film, but also followed a bunch of black troops, and they had been fucked over by the American military and kind of go apeshit. The black troops go on an Apache warpath and kill a bunch of white soldiers and white officers on a military base and are just making a warpath to Switzerland.”
Soon, however, that was shelved for something closer in tone - or at least era - to Django.
A RETURN TO THE WESTERN
In November of last year, QT finally revealed what he’d been working on. As it turns out, he was firmly back among six-shooters and steeds, albeit for what will become a very different movie.
"I haven't told anyone this publicly, but I will say the genre: it's a Western," Tarantino said on Jay Leno’s show, following that up by clarifying that it wouldn’t be a direct sequel to Django. "I had so much fun doing Django, and I love Westerns so much that after I taught myself how to make one, it's like 'OK! Let me make another one now that I know what I'm doing.'”
THE SCRIPT LEAK SCANDAL
The new film hit a major roadblock in January when Tarantino revealed that someone had leaked a copy of what was now called The Hateful Eight, after the writer/director allowed a select few people to read an early draft.
“I gave it to one of the producers on Django Unchained, Reggie Hudlin, and he let an agent come to his house and read it,” he said at the time. “That’s a betrayal, but not crippling because the agent didn’t end up with the script. There is an ugly maliciousness to the rest of it. I gave it to three actors: Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Tim Roth. The one I know didn’t do this is Tim Roth. One of the others let their agent read it and that agent has now passed it on to everyone in Hollywood.”
Clearly seething about the apparent betrayal, Tarantino then said he was abandoning the film. “I’m not making this next. I’m going to publish it, and that’s it for now. I give it out to six people and if I can’t trust them to that degree, then I have no desire to make it. I’ll publish it. I’m done. I’ll move on to the next thing. I’ve got ten more where that came from.”
He launched a lawsuit against the Gawker site claiming it fabricated a story to justify leaking the script online. The suit was denied, but Tarantino is trying again.
LIVE FROM LOS ANGELES
In the months that followed the leak, QT appeared to calm down over the whole incident and quietly began laying plans to approach the story in another way. In April, the news broke that he would be hosting a live reading of the then-current draft of the script. After turning down a gig directing one of Film Independent’s Live Reads of classic scripts at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (a job usually held by Jason Reitman), he approached Film Independent boss Elvis Mitchell about the live read idea for Eight.
"I recovered consciousness and brushed myself off, and I said, 'Yes, I think I can fit that in,'" Mitchell told the LA Times. The reading went ahead later that month with Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Amber Tamblyn, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Denis Ménochet, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell Judy and James Remar performing the roles.
THE PLOT SO FAR
One result of the live reading was that some character and story details for the film emerged to tantalise a waiting world. Naturally, we must offer the caveat that some of the information may well have changed by the time the story reaches the screen – QT said he was still working on the script – but this appears to be a rough idea of its story.
The tale as told in the live read finds a diverse group of characters thrown together when a stagecoach is diverted from its route by a blizzard. Among those affected by the storm are a couple of bounty hunters, a renegade confederate soldier and a female prisoner. In the read, Samuel L. Jackson played Major Marquis Warren, Kurt Russell was bounty hunter John Ruth, Tim Roth was English fop Oswaldo Mobray, Amber Tamblyn played Daisy Domergue, Walton Goggins read Chris Mannix, Michael Madsen played John Gage, Bruce Dern took on Confederate General Smithers, James Parks was stagecoach driver O.B., Denis Ménochet assayed Bob, Dana Gourrier was Minnie, Zoe Bell played Six Horse Judy and James Remar took on a character named Jody.
CONFIRMATION AND COLOUR
Tarantino appeared at Comic-Con this year, ostensibly to talk up the Django graphic novel and the Zorro crossover, but of course someone took the opportunity to ask him about the status of The Hateful Eight. QT was quick to confirm that it was indeed back on, amidst reports that he was still tweaking elements of the draft heard at the live read.
To press home the film’s status, the pages of Empire itself were drafted in to debut an impressive teaser poster, boasting of “the 8th film from Quentin Tarantino”, the fact that it’ll be released in 70mm Super CinemaScope sometime in 2015. The stark art on that white background tends to confirm that the plot still involves a snowed-in stagecoach, with a blood trail just so we can be sure it's a Tarantino film. No mention was made of the cast, but with deals still to be done and announcements to be made, that’s not too surprising given that it’s only supposed to hint at the film.
THE NEXT BIG TEASE
Following the poster was the teaser trailer, which debuted in front of Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (though all involved might wish The Weinstein Company had picked another release, given how poorly the new Robert Rodriguez / Frank Miller film has fared at the box office). Since nothing has been shot of the film as yet, there was of course no footage to reveal. And again, no mention is made of the cast.
Instead, it’s a series of title cards, kicking off against images of a blizzard, detailing how the characters come to be thrown together. The characters are then listed as follows: Major Marquis Warren "The Bounty Hunter", John Ruth "The Hangman", Daisy Domergue "The Prisoner", Chris Mannix "The Sheriff", Bob "The Mexican", Oswaldo Mobray "The Little Man", Joe Gage "The Cow Puncher" and General Sandy Smithers "The Confederate".
For our money, seeing someone called "The Cow Puncher" will be worth the price of admission alone. The teaser has yet to appear officially online, but naturally it can be found on YouTube so we have embedded that unofficial version above.
COLORADO, HERE THEY COME!
It’s finally all systems go for the film, with Colorado offering a healthy $5 million tax incentive package to lure the director and his team. Shooting is due to kick off in January and the director repeated his promise that this will enjoy the widest 70mm release for more than 20 years.
“We are incredibly excited to begin production on The Hateful Eight, as we know this picture will be as innovative, brash and of course fun as all Quentin projects prior,” said backers Harvey and Bob Weinstein in a statement. "There is, quite simply, no other filmmaker like him, and we are as proud as ever to continue this partnership that started over 20 years ago."
Assuming he still intends to hit that 2015 release plan, QT’s going to be working quickly in the coming months. Expect casting announcements soon enough…