Quentin Tarantino likes to work with the same select group of actors over and over again. He calls them his Tarantino Superstars, and The Hateful Eight, which opens in theaters on Dec. 25, is chock full of them, from Kurt Russell and Tim Roth to Michael Madsen and Walton Goggins. “They can handle my dialogue; it sounds good coming out of their mouths,” says the filmmaker. “They understand the rhythms, but also — and this is probably the most important part — they get the jokes. They know when, even when it’s not officially a joke, they know there is a laugh there. But that’s not for everybody. Not every actor is born from that kind of theatricality that actually is required in my pieces.”
There is no bigger Tarantino Superstar than Samuel L. Jackson, who’s starred in six Tarantino films, most famously Pulp Fiction, in which he played the righteous hitman, Jules Winnfield. In The Hateful Eight, Jackson plays Major Marquis Warren, a Civil War vet turned bounty hunter who finds himself surrounded by suspicious white men with guns and then has to play detective when people start dying all around him. In this exclusive featurette (above), Jackson’s collaborators marvel at his power and his connection to Tarantino’s writing. “Sometimes he can get Quentin to take a little step out of the words on the page,” says Hateful Eight‘s cinematographer Bob Richardson. “So that level of respect I have only seen with Sam. It’s a remarkable relationship.”
Tarantino wrote the role of Warren specifically for Jackson, and there’s a speech that he delivers, right at the end of the film’s first half, that rivals anything Tarantino’s ever written, including the famous “path of the righteous man” speech that Jackson gave in Pulp Fiction. “‘This is my Iceman Cometh and that’s my Hickey monologue,'” Tarantino says Jackson told him after he first read the screenplay.
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Jackson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Pulp Fiction, though one could argue his role in that is more essential and more a lead-role than Vincent Vega, the character that earned John Travolta a Best Actor nomination. No such issue this time around. Though the film is an ensemble, Jackson’s Maj. Warren is the first among equals. “Samuel L. Jackson is this guy who fills up a room,” says Goggins in the clip. “I give him the ball and he’s going to dunk it every time. He’s this commanding presence.”
The Best Actor race is crowded this year, but wouldn’t you like to hear Jackson give an acceptance speech?