Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s violent and visceral post-Civil War western, was originally intended to be the director’s follow up to 2011’s Django Unchained, but the project was ostensibly nixed after someone in Tarantino’s inner-circle of actors and producers leaked the script up and down the annals of Hollywood. The first draft of the script eventually ended up on Gawker for public consumption, which led to the filmmaker suing the outlet. Tarantino, just a few angry foot stomps away from having a genuine fit, declared that he would never produce a filmed version of the project and would perhaps instead release the script in the form of a book.
We thought this might be the end of The Hateful Eight saga, but in the ensuing months, it looks like cooler heads might have prevailed. On Saturday, Tarantino held a staged reading of the script, which he declared would be the only time this version of it would ever be performed. The reading included performances from some of Tarantino’s most notable actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, James Parks, Michael Madsen, and James Remar. The story follows a group of bounty hunters and rogues that take shelter in a haberdashery during a blizzard. Tensions rise and blood predictably spills once characters start getting picked off one by one.
The live read provided a great glimpse into Tarantino’s creative process, featuring the director lording over his actors and chiding them for taking even the smallest creative license with his script (“No co-writing”). Tarantino displayed a boundless and giddy enthusiasm for his latest work, enthusiasm that won’t likely be contained by a single script reading in a sweltering LA theater. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tarantino stated during the performance, “I am working right now on a second draft. This is the first draft.” This and several other statements made by the director over the course of the night are leading many to believe that he still has plans to eventually create a film based on some form of the The Hateful Eight script.
A number of journalists were in attendance for the reading, and the consensus is that while The Hateful Eight is a bit rough around the edges, it has the potential to be a great film. It’s rough, edgy, sinful, and whip smart, just like Tarantino’s finest. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
“The Hateful Eight explores only two locations, denies a single protagonist in favor of eight unlikeable brutes, and winds a profane, bloody, and darkly humorous plot to an anticlimactic and upsetting finish.” Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist
“The Hateful Eight is raw, ragged, raucous, riveting.” – Betsy Sharkey, The LA Times
“What we see tonight is more reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs than of Tarantino’s more sprawling recent work: two locations, both claustrophobic and teeming with mutual suspicion and recrimination, with much occurring off-screen or in flashback.” – John Patterson, The Guardian
“The script, with its slangy, smart-ass dialogue, surprising associations, extended digressions and tangy flavor, is recognizably Tarantino all the way.” – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
“…the total lack of air conditioning and the preposterously close rows combined to make the running time of over three-and-a-half hours almost impossible to bear. It is a testament, then, to the compelling nature of Tarantino’s script and to the great cast he put together that no one seemed willing to leave before the end, no matter how hard it was to stay seated.” – Drew McWeeny, Hitfix
“As you’d expect from Tarantino, the script is violent, bloody, laced with profanity and even vomit.” – Janine Lew, Variety
“It’s Tarantino meets Agatha Christie. It played like a very good, but still a little rough, first draft. The introduction is incredibly tight and sound. The dialogue crackles, but while it’s a hardass hoot, the payoff is still missing.” Brian Formo, Crave Online