Kurt Russell plays bounty hunter John Ruth, a hard-as-nails sonavubitch who wields a gun nearly as big as his mustache. All the better to protect his quarry from strangers like Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren.
Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh irritate the eardrums of General Smithers (Bruce Dern), an aging ex-Confederate, in front of the roaring hearth at Minnie’s. There’s not much quiet or politesse when it comes to these characters. “My guy is just so bombastic and so big,” says Russell. “He’s like a bull and the whole movie is the china shop.”
Don’t let appearances fool you, Daisy Domergue is just about as dainty as a cornered rattlesnake. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the outlaw, seen here sporting a black-and-blue monocle courtesy of bounty hunter John Ruth, who has handcuffed himself to her until he can deliver her to the hangman. “Kurt and I are essentially the most dysfunctional couple since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” says Leigh.
It’s been 21 years since Samuel L. Jackson discussed foot massages and Royales with Cheese, but he’s still got the greatest knack for delivering Tarantino’s dialogue. Jackson’s character couldn’t be further from the quisling Stephen in Django Unchained; Maj. Warren is a resolute, quick-on-the-draw former Union officer who, of course, has a knack for the oratorical. “There really is nothing like getting to speak Quentin’s words,” Jackson says. “I’m always loving it.”
The Hateful Eight and Reservoir Dogs share some superficial (and not-so-superficial) similarities: Both are about a group of untrustworthy individuals with guns trapped together in one location, and both star Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. “You have to ask Quentin, but I do think it’s a bit of an intentional homage to Reservoir Dogs,” says Madsen (pictured), who plays smirking cowpoke Joe Gage. Like everyone else in the film, Gage harbors a secret. “It’s one of those pictures where nobody really knows who anyone really is,” says Madsen. “It’s kind of a masquerade party.”
Tarantino’s sets tend to be loose, lively environments, with music perpetually playing and a round of shots every 100 rolls of film, and much of that is because everybody knows each other. “A whole lot of these people have been working with me a lot,” says Tarantino. “So they know how my movies work, and they know the vibe and everything.”
The production shot on a ranch outside of Telluride, Colo., trying to get as many snowy exteriors as possible for the blizzard-set western. The cold is omnipresent in the film, with the actors (like Samuel L. Jackson and Demian Bichir, pictured) breathing clouds of steam. Tarantino even screened Kurt Russell’s The Thing for his cast so they could get a good sense of what makes a good below-zero movie, even if the conditions weren’t as bracing on his set. “The Thing was colder, quite a bit,” says Russell. “This was cold but it wasn’t uncomfortable for me. Plus, I had the big fur coat on.”
The stable at Minnie’s is one of the few other interiors in the film’s story, which is much more contained than the director’s other recent films. But they shot with Ultra Panavision 70 cameras that haven’t been used since epics like Ben-Hur and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World so that the movie still feels big. “It’s a modest project done unmodestly,” says Tarantino.
The ranch in Colorado where they shot the film was a place used by Tarantino’s friend and True Romance collaborator, the late Tony Scott. “This ranch was beautiful with the mountains and everything and it had never been utilized for a film before, but Tony had shot a few Marlboro commercials up there over the course of the years,” says Tarantino. “In a weird way it was like Tony beyond the grave kind of pointed us to this location because he had treated the owners so well and they liked them so much that they were predisposed to allowing a film crew to come in there.”
Tim Roth plays Oswaldo Mobray, the man who claims to be the new local hangman, while Walton Goggins plays Chris Mannix, the man who claims to be the sheriff. “The film really is presented as a play,” says Goggins. “It’s filmed mainly in one room and it’s as if every time he says, ‘Action,’ the curtain goes up.”