Two westerns in one year, both starring Kurt Russell?! So glad we live in such a golden age.
Earlier in the fall, Russell cowboy’d his way into the grizzly horror-western “Bone Tomahawk.” Now, he’s reuniting with his “Death Proof” director Quentin Tarantino for the hotly-anticipated “The Hateful Eight.” In what plays out like a John Ford western by way of “Ten Little Indians,” Russell stars as John “The Hangman” Ruth, an ill-tempered bounty hunter who, along with his bounty, finds himself in close quarters with some truly violent and untrusting folk.
Despite the film’s excessive violence and gunplay, the former child star compared the shooting experience to, um, well, we’ll let him explain:
“It’s a bit like doing a Disney movie,” Russell said. “[Doing] a Disney movie in the 60s — It was a slightly different zeitgeist then. You’re creating the bubble. The bubble can be this big or this small. You’re creating it. Whether or not you’re going to like it, it’s the one you’re creating. And with Quentin, you know — you’re in his bubble. You’re in his world, doing what he needs to tell the story. He literally says ‘That’s what we’re doing. He shows you the shot and says: ‘That’s what we’re doing here.'”
Russell and the rest of the ensemble, which includes Samuel L. Jackson and scene-stealer Walton Goggins, would gather for coffee a half-hour everyday before shooting to discuss just how they were going to give their director what he needed to tell the story.
Their discussions were not just about choices made on the day, but also how those choices will affect multiple viewings down the line — as Tarantino fans watch his films like they are the Zapruder film.
“I knew, I gotta get this tone right because it’s too low, it’s not fun enough. If it’s too high, then it’s not important enough. If it’s [something else], it’s not what Quentin is trying to get. So in rehearsing, I was trying to find that. And that took some doing.”
Through that process, Russell zeroed-in on his character’s unique John Wayne way of speaking — which wasn’t the first time the actor did the voice for Tarantino. He rocked a Wayne drawl in a key scene from “Death Proof,” which lead to its resurrection here.
“When I did the reading, I did a full-on thing with it, right? Which came from something I’d done in 2007 on ‘Death Proof.’ So, that’s the kind of thing with Quentin. He knew what I was doing. He remembered what I did then and then he kind of incorporated that into this character.”
Stuntman Mike’s John Wayne impression wasn’t the only character from Russell’s past that surfaced when trying to find Ruth’s voice.
“Jack Burton from ‘Big Trouble in Little China‘ started to come in,” Russell revealed, noting that that’s what happens in the early days of finding a character. Eventually, Russell said, “you throw it all away. That was the fun of trying to create a character that I would like to make memorable for the movie.”
Judging by early reviews, Russell has made quite the impression.
“Hateful Eight” hits theaters in limited release (in 70mm) on Christmas Day. It opens wide Dec. 31.