by Ross A. Lincoln
It isn’t remotely shocking, but the single best Hall H panel of Comic-Con 2015 was The Hateful Eight panel which just ended minutes ago. Moderated by Chris Hardwick and attended by director Quentin Tarantino and the cast of the film, the dense, energetic and frequently hilarious discussion was packed. Unlike the usual presentation of practiced statements and generally-applicable niceties, the panel discussion was genuinely informative, and contained actual surprises that made the wait to get into the hall more than worth it.
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First up, a trailer introducing the Hall H audience to the 70mm format and technology behind it. It was a fun, instructional look into Tarantino’s aesthetic preferences, and it’s exciting to know Hateful Eight was filmed using the same lenses that shot Ben-Hur. But the audience’s collective mind was actually blown several minutes later, by seven minutes of footage of the film.
Specifically cut for Comic-Con, it was an abbreviated look at the how the film’s titular characters meet one another. We started with Kurt Russel’s John Ruth, “The Hangman,” transporting Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy, aka “The Prisoner,” to her execution in the stagecoach already featured in some marketing. Over the course of the footage, we were gradually introduced to the other six characters, their backstories, and distinctive personalities.
I’ll avoid spoilers, because everything in the footage really should be experienced rather than read about. But I’ll confirm that it’s gorgeous footage, stunning despite the fact the projection in Hall H is far inferior to the 70mm format planned for the film’s December 25 roadshow release. Sweeping Western landscapes and the claustrophobic haberdashery in which the characters are marooned during a blizzard were equally rich, textured, and larger than life.
Also larger than life were the characters themselves. Played with hammy perfection, the cast quite often seems less creating characters and more establishing, or reviving, archetypes. Again, I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but it was hilarious, menacing, campy, violent and tense in equal measure. It’s no exaggeration that the seven minutes shown to us this afternoon constitued the best film I’ve yet seen in 2015.
Following the footage, Tarantino and the cast bantered, emoted and talked with surprising frankness about the film, about working together, and the technology and craft of making films. Some highlights:
— Asked about the very public drama following the leak of Hateful Eight‘s first draft, Tarantino was candid and convincing. “The reason that [leak] bothered me so much is that this is one I wanted to go through three drafts; there’s certain plot threads and I knew I had another couple of drafts to go,” he said. “Having said that, my process is my process so even though I yelled and screamed I did what I do…it just got more publicity than I wanted to get.”
— Asked by one adorable girl cosplaying as Beatrix Kiddo about the possibility of a third Kill Bill installment, Tarantino drew loud cheers when he confirmed it’s something he’s at least still thinking about. “We’ll see,” he told a thrilled crowd. “Uma would really like to do it, we talk about it every once in a while.”
— To the last one, the actors were full of praise for Tarantino as a director. Michael Madsen, in particular, remarked on the years that have passed since he first worked with Tarantino. “We’re smarter,” he said, “a little bit older, but still under the control of the best director on the planet.”
Bruce Dern later offered similarly effusive praise. “The excitement for all of us was just to be asked by this man to be in this movie…. he has the greatest attention to detail as any director who has ever lived. He creates an atmosphere for all of us not to do our greatest work necessarily, but to get better. I was excited to come to work every day with this man because I thought we just might have a chance to do something that’s never been done.”
Tarantino was of course asked about his recent comments suggesting he’d retire after 10 films. “We’ll see what ends up happening. That wasn’t so much a mission statement as it was me trying to have a serious discussion of an artist’s vitality in a world where everything’s broken down into small paragraphs.”
Aside from the footage of Hateful Eight, the thing which drew greatest response from the crowd was Tarantino’s hints that he might one day move to television. The discussion spent a lot of time talking about the technology of film, and unsurprisingly Tarantino’s famous hatred of digital projection came up. Continuing to talk about his possible retirement, he said “part of the thing I don’t like about digital projection, it’s like HBO in public. If that’s what movies become, I [might] just move to television and cut out the middle man.”
Before we get our hopes up, Tarantino didn’t actually say he’s moving to TV. But, it’s clearly something he’s thought about a lot. He mentioned how long his scripts tend to be, and openly admitted he’d like the chance to work in a format that allowed his stories to be “as long as they need to be.”
While it wasn’t exactly saving the best for last, the panel did end with a wonderful announcement worth repeating. Ennio Morricone will be providing the original score for The Hateful Eight, marking the first time in 40 years that the legendary composer will score a Western.