With his eighth film, the gonzo wintry western "The Hateful Eight," the director makes what might be the most quintessentially Tarantino film yet, full of fast-paced dialogue and gallons of blood. And its frontier, a post-Civil War setting was paramount. "I like masking whatever I want to say in the guise of genre," Tarantino says. "I think there's no other genre that deals with America better in a subtextual way than a western being made in the different decades."
A major factor in bringing this story to life was the use of large-format 70mm film — generally used for sweeping panoramas. But Tarantino was more interested in its applications for interiors — especially Minnie's Haberdashery, the claustrophobic cabin where his titular eight scoffalaws take refuge during a blizzard. "If the film isn't suspenseful — i.e., the pressure-cooker situation of what's going on in the movie, the threat of violence — if the temperature isn't put up a notch every scene or so, then the movie's going to be boring. It's not going to work," Tarantino says. "And I actually felt like the big format would put you in Minnie's Haberdashery. You are amongst those characters."
Samuel L. Jackson (Maj. Marquis Warren):
"Quentin and I have conversations about what I say, and I don't just willy-nilly change things," Jackson, who has appeared in almost all of Tarantino's films, says of working with the filmmaker's signature dialogue. "If I want to say something else I'll go to him and we'll talk about it, and he'll say, 'OK' or he'll say, 'No, leave it the way I wrote it.' The rest of these motherf—ers have to say exactly what he wrote.'"
Kurt Russell (John Ruth):
Russell first joined the project when it was a simple staged script reading for charity in L.A., but he was hooked early. “And then I found out we were going to be doing this at a theater with 1,600 seats for charity. I thought, ‘OK, this is good,’” Russell says. “It was kind of special. There was a lot of energy in the theater. People were excited.”
Jennifer Jason Leigh (Daisy Domergue):
Tarantino knows that some people have a problem with how Leigh's ruthless criminal character is treated, but he's not listening. "I'm sure some people might be uncomfortable about the violence that is handed out to Jennifer's character," Tarantino says. "The way this story works is I have trapped these characters and anything can happen to them. What? I'm going to make it that for seven of these characters anything can happen to them, but when it comes to this eighth character, I have to protect her because she's a woman? No, I'm not going to think like that."
Walton Goggins (Chris Mannix):
From an actor's perspective, this is like panning for gold in the Gold Rush days in California, the "Justified" star says of getting to say Tarantino's dialogue. "I read this stuff 300 times to make sure I had it known, and there was one day where Quentin gave me a monologue, a whole page of Quentin Tarantino dialogue to do later that day. It just freaked me out and brought me down. I was like, 'F—, I don't f—ing have this.' And that night it was the last thing that we shot, and even then I'm just freaking out, and Quentin looks at me and goes, 'You got this.'"
Demián Bichir (Bob):
I just had the best seat in the house from Day One," Bichir says of teaming up with the director. "You need a crazy director, a free director, a director who's not afraid of taking risks to help get you where you want to go."
Tim Roth (Oswaldo Mobray):
"It was kind of a weird sensation to be one of the old boys coming in. And I've had a long break, as I haven't been back since 'Pulp Fiction' or 'Four Rooms,'" Roth says. "So I didn't know the new version of how he filmed, and the kind of atmosphere on set that he encouraged. It was all brand-new for me, so it was almost in a sense like coming to Quentin fresh again."
Michael Madsen (Joe Gage):
"At least Tim Roth and I didn't get stuck together this time," Madsen says of re-teaming with his old co-star. "Tim and I embraced each other on the set of 'Reservoir Dogs' and we both had so much fake blood on our bodies that we were stuck together. We were stuck together like more than we wanted to be. It was like the hug that lasted a little too long, and they actually had to use a garden hose to separate us."
Bruce Dern (Gen. Sandy Smithers):
"I don't think I've ever said this before, but this is the first movie I've ever done where I felt privileged to lend a hand, because that's what you do for him," Dern says of working with Tarantino for the first time. "He expects the people that he brings to do what he hired them to do and not act and be somebody else. When you go to work for him, everybody on the set knows you have a chance to go to the playoffs. But what you don't know is that what you're going to end up with in this one is an opera, because the guy made an opera. And just to be a part of that? I mean, I couldn't sit through a f—ing opera, but …"
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick