It's no secret that Quentin Tarantino has a fetish for westerns, yet studios weren't exactly throwing money at this genre that was in need of a good whip crack. Who better than genre-bending Tarantino to saddle up and brush the dust off this fading film era?
2012's Django Unchained helped Tarantino scratch his itch for a modern western and, by pressing his bloody fingerprint to the works, gave the genre new life rather than simply swiping the concept from a former classic. The success of Django proved there was enough thirst to reinvent the once-loved cinema favourite.
Tarantino told Jay Leno in November 2013: “I had so much fun doing Django, and I love westerns so much that after I taught myself how to make one, it's like 'OK! Let me make another one now that I know what I'm doing".
Days of future cast
At the beginning of the year, all we knew of The Hateful Eight cast was that a role was apparently written for Christoph Waltz. Tarantino reached out to trusted casting director Victoria Thomas who worked on Django Unchained (as well as Blood Diamond and Edward Scissorhands ), to draw up the leads for his next cinematic stab.
If Thomas' casting wand was still working its magic, we'd be forgiven for expecting a sturdy cast of Hollywood juggernauts...
Hold your horses
Rumours were rife that The Hateful Eight script was doing the rounds on the Hollwood grapevine, but it was Gawker's Defamer blog that finally got their mitts on it in January.
When Gawker published an online post called "Here Is The Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script", Tarantino went apopletic, and repercussions, in the shape of a $1 million lawsuit, were filed on January 27th.
Gawker were unfazed. They claimed the charge was shallow and that the script was freely available online stating: "Merely accessing the script by clicking on the link is legally insufficient".
Tarantino said he was “very, very depressed” about the leak and launched a furious game of whodunnit. “I gave it to three actors: Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Tim Roth. The one I know didn’t do this is Tim Roth. One of the others let their agent read it and that agent has now passed it on to everyone in Hollywood”.
Tarantino said he would publish the script as a book and “move on to the next thing. I’ve got ten more where they came from.”
Ever the tease, he went on: “I could totally change my mind; I own the fucking thing. But I can tell you, it’s not going to be the next thing I do. It’s my baby”.
U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter tossed out Tarantino's suit on April 22 but stated he could refile the case by May 1.
Courting the issue
Calling back in the lawyers come May, he issued a lawsuit which read: “Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people's rights to make a buck. This time they went too far...Gawker Media crossed the journalistic line by promoting itself to the public as the first source to read the entire Screenplay illegally".
The reading between the lines
After leak-gate, and after the belief that this project was no more, Tarantino cooled down and we were thrown a bone in the shape of a live read of the script in April. With no confirmed cast announcements before the reading at the Theatre At Ace Hotel, the giddy audience were in for a game of guess who.
As Samuel L. Jackson, John Ruth, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Oswaldo Mobray, Amber Tamblyn, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Denis Menochet, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell and James Remar stepped up, 146-page script in hand, clues to who was going to grace this project began to solidify.
Clad in cowboy clobber Tarantino announced to the crowd: "This is a first draft, and there will be a second, and a third. Chapter five will be totally rewritten, so this will be the only time it's ever performed."
The big story
What we know about The Hateful Eight storyline is this: It’s set in 19th-century Wyoming where a blizzard offsets a stagecoach from its intended destination. Its passengers, including a warring pair of bounty hunters, a Confederate soldier and a female prisoner, are flung together in a cage of rising tension.
We’re also aware that the script is set in two settings; The first being the ill-fated stage coach, the other a haberdashery. The story is then divided into five chapters: Last Stage to Red Rock, Son of A Gun, Minnie's, The Four Passengers and Black Night, and finally White Hell.
With echoes of the 1960s flick The Magnificent Seven , and suggestions that the concept lends from Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction , it looks set to embrace his knack of clubbing together the best in western genre convention along with his eccentric, bloodied, flair.
Back in the saddle?
A lot of dust has settled since Gawker-gate. Tarantino retracted the lawsuit earlier this month after a judge threw out the case for contributory infringement - which could see Tarantino as partly to blame for the leak.
Speaking to journos in Cannes he confessed "The knife-in-the-back wound has started to scab". However, he remains illusive about the project: "I’m still in the process of writing it, finishing the second draft, and then I intend to do a third draft. Maybe I’ll shoot it, maybe I’ll publish it, maybe I’ll do it on the stage, because I realized it could work really well onstage. Maybe I’ll do all three".
Despite his teasing statement, word is out that shooting will begin in November in Wyoming - the same location as Django Unchained.
It's also under good authority that the cast will include all the actors who took part in the live read in April. This means we can expect Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, James Remar, Amber Tamblyn, Walt Goggins and Zoe Bell.
Alas, still no Christoph Waltz... yet.