In case you didn’t know, Quentin Tarantino is a movie lover and talker. While holding court in a swanky Beverly Hills, California, hotel, the 52-year-old filmmaker speaks at a quick-fire clip about his latest, The Hateful Eight, a Western set in post–Civil War Wyoming where a snowstorm traps a random group of people (played by the likes of Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth) under one roof. Politics are challenged. Racial prejudices flare. And there will be—this being a Tarantino movie—blood. When a draft script leaked early in 2014, a furious Tarantino threatened to pull the plug on the project—only to host a staged reading of the screenplay in Los Angeles months later. Now his layered take on race in America is hitting the big screen, and the subject is more timely than ever. The Hateful Eight is subtle (by Tarantino standards, although a guy’s head gets blown off in close-up), brooding and mature. An epic of sorts weighing in at three-plus hours—with an actual intermission and shot on 70-millimeter film—it is old-school filmmaking of the highest order. The video-store-clerk-made-good has been bringing us the best movies for more than 20 years. He always vowed he’d call it a day at 10 films. The Hateful Eight is, coincidentally, number eight. The big question is, when a man loves cinema this much, how can he stop? He has a lot to say about that.
The Hateful Eight takes place just after the Civil War, but it explores a very topical theme: racial division in America. Are you surprised by just how relevant it is?
If you talk to someone in a black neighborhood in America, they’ll tell you that this conversation has been relevant for the last 20 years. But as far as the purchase it’s had in the mainstream press as something that “must be dealt with,” that really has happened since we’ve been making the movie. One good thing about the first draft of The Hateful Eight leaking on the Internet a while back, as distressed as I was, is that I am on record as having written this script long before the recent events in the news.
Is this your most political film?
Yes, but when I first started writing it, I didn’t know that. Even when I finished the script, I didn’t know, until society started kind of catching up with it. I’ve dealt with race, in terms of black and white, in a lot of my movies—in all my movies, to some degree or other. But I do think that dealing with black and white in America is something I have to contribute to the Western genre. That hasn’t been done by anyone else, at least not in a meaningful way.
Why did you do another Western after Django Unchained?
I taught myself how to do a car chase [movie], and I never did one again. In the case of Django Unchained, I taught myself how to do a Western and deal with the horses and the wranglers, and then I realized, much to my surprise, I wasn’t done.
So what brought you back?
The Western genre has always been pretty precise when it comes to dealing with the decades in which the films were made. Vietnam or Watergate hung over all the Westerns that came out during the late 1960s and the 1970s. They were cynical to their core. When you’re making a Western, you can’t help dealing with the American zeitgeist. Ten or 20 years from now, hopefully you’ll be able to look at The Hateful Eight and get a good picture of the concerns of America at this time.