This film has similarities to Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992). In the latter, a group of men believe that there is a rat in the group. However in this film, there's more than one person scheming.
The guitar that Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) played while singing "Jim Jones at Botany Bay" was a priceless antique from the 1870s, on loan from the Martin Guitar Museum and worth some $40,000. At the end of the song, the script called for John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell) to grab the guitar and smash it to pieces. Six replicas were built for the shoot, and were supposed to be substituted for the real instrument for the smashing shot, but due to a miscommunication, Kurt Russell was not informed, and destroyed the original guitar before anyone could stop him. Jennifer Jason Leigh's shocked reaction to this is genuine, and can be seen in the released film. The Martin Guitar Museum subsequently announced they would never loan guitars to film shoots again.
After the script leaked online, Writer and Director Quentin Tarantino did not want to make this movie. However, after they did a brief reading of the script in Los Angeles, the cast was stunned and got excited for the film, and with Samuel L. Jackson persuading him to do this movie, Tarantino accepted.
The song sung by Daisy was performed by Jennifer Jason Leigh live on-set. The soundtrack for the film features the song, along with the sounds of the wood being hammered into the door, and dialogue by Kurt Russell.
Writer and Director Quentin Tarantino announced at Comic-Con in 2015 that Ennio Morricone would compose the score for the film. Tarantino remarked that it would be the first western scored by Morricone in forty years. He had previously used Morricone's music in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), Death Proof (2007), Inglourious Basterds (2009), and Django Unchained (2012). Morricone also wrote a brand-new song, "Ancora Qui", for the latter. Despite stories of tensions between the two, Tarantino decided to have Morricone on-board to compose original music for the movie, making it the first film by Tarantino to use mainly an original musical score. Most of his previous films have used mainly source music, with only a few cues of original score.
According to Writer and Director Quentin Tarantino, his two primary cinematic influences on the film were The Thing (1982) and Reservoir Dogs (1992). Even though Tarantino wrote and directed the latter film, it regardlessly remained an influence on his later work.
As of 2015, most theaters worldwide had their film projectors replaced with digital projectors, as traditional film stock was no longer in favor. As a fan and supporter of celluloid, Writer and Director Quentin Tarantino aggressively fought with distributors for the film to be shown in its original Ultra Panavision 70 presentation. As a result, fifty theaters internationally were retrofitted with anamorphic-lensed 70mm analogue film projectors to display the film as he intended it to be seen. It was released on December 25, 2015, as a roadshow presentation, in 70mm analogue film format theaters exclusively, before being released in digital theaters on December 30, 2015.
There are three subtle references to Django Unchained (2012) in the film. First, when Major Warren is introduced, he is sitting on top of three corpses and a saddle that was previously owned by Django. The second is Django's green corduroy jacket, which is sitting on the floor of the Minnie's Haberdashery. Both of these references have been confirmed by Samuel L. Jackson. Third, Walton Goggins' character is called a "hillbilly" in both films. In fact, this film was going to feature Django, but Quentin Tarantino scrapped the idea.
Only the eleventh film to be shot in the Ultra Panavision 70mm process (65mm film with 1.25x squeeze anamorphic lenses, for an aspect ratio of 2.76:1). A film has not used this extremely rare process since Khartoum (1966), nearly fifty years before. This also makes it Quentin Tarantino's second film, after Jackie Brown (1997), to not be filmed in the 2.39:1 format.
Unfortunately for the production, during the scheduled shooting dates on-location in Telluride, Colorado, there was a long streak of nice weather. Large fans and starch, and large overhead sunblocks, were used in many of the outdoors blizzard shots to try to re-create a blizzard. A large amount of the much-needed snow melted away, and production was placed on hiatus. As a fun attempt to try to get more snow, many of the cast and crew members, including Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kurt Russell, participated in a local "ski burn", making an offering to the "snow gods" to try to get it to snow. Coincidentally, or, maybe not so coincidentally, a couple of days later, a big storm came in, and dumped enough snow to enable filming to continue.
The Weinstein Company spent eight to ten million dollars to find, procure, rebuild, and install 70mm analogue film projectors, and to train the two hundred projectionists needed to operate them in the ninety-six U.S. theaters (eighty thousand dollars plus, per location) that showed the roadshow version of this film.
Pre-production was halted in early 2014 after the script was leaked on-line. Quentin Tarantino stated he would no longer shoot it as a movie, but would re-write it and release it as a novel instead. However, production was resumed in early 2015.
This film's 70mm roadshow version is a "heavyweight" in more ways than one. The analogue film is spooled on twenty reels, with a combined running time of three hours and seven minutes, and weighs in at over two hundred fifty pounds.
Ennio Morricone said in an interview that he accepted Quentin Tarantino's request to score the film, because he liked the script, and because Tarantino gave him full freedom in the composition. Morricone said he considers the film an adventure movie, rather than a Western, and as a result, he tried to make the music sound completely different from his famous Western scores. He based the music on the feelings that the script evoked in him, rather than composing music for specific scenes. Because Morricone had only about a month to produce his score, he added several pieces of music that he had originally written for The Thing (1982), some of which had never been used. Morricone finally gave Tarantino five pieces of music, which he could use in the movie as he pleased.
According to the written script, the characters of Minnie and Sweet Dave became acquainted with one another as slave and owner, before the Civil War. Sweet Dave once had Minnie as a slave, but they somehow stayed together after the abolition of slavery, for unknown reasons. It could be speculated that Sweet Dave was secretly in love with Minnie, or that he helped her purchase land to start her own business, as a way of paying her reparations for keeping her enslaved in the past. It is believed that Quentin Tarantino has left the audience to make up their own theories about the connection between Minnie and Sweet Dave.
Quentin Tarantino explained in interviews, only after the film was released, that the very earliest concept of what became this story, was a sequel to Django Unchained (2012), he began as a novel called "Django in White Hell". However, he did not get far with the novel, before he realized that it didn't work to have a character whose morals were known to the audience beforehand, nor a character you felt was fairly sure to survive. Tarantino withheld this trivia from interviews, until after the film's release, because he was already contesting false reports that the movie would be a sequel to "Django Unchained", and didn't want to further muddle early public expectations. This is also why, in the wake of the script's leaking on-line, he was considering taking the story back to novel form, when he considered cancelling production.
For the most part, the roles of Major Warren, John Ruth, Oswaldo, and Joe Gage were written with Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen in mind. The role of Daisy Domergue was less specific, and many actresses were considered before Jennifer Jason Leigh was cast. Quentin Tarantino said, "Daisy became one of the most interesting characters, because she's on the page, but she's not on the page; an actress literally needs to invest in playing that character from beginning to end. They have to get you to that last chapter. It had to be an actress I could trust, and also a performer you enjoy watching her character work. When Jennifer came in, she was very impressive in the reading, but what really got me, was I'd just started watching a bunch of her movies. I had a whole Jennifer Jason Leigh film festival. I watched one, and I couldn't wait to put the next one in, she was such an entertaining actress, especially about that time in the 90s, like eXistenZ (1999), Georgia (1995), and especially Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994). Those movies were built around her. Her performance was the center of the movie, and everything was built around that, and that's what was needed for Daisy."
The name of Major Marquis Warren is a tribute to Writer and Director Charles Marquis Warren, who specialized in westerns (for example, Little Big Horn (1951) and Arrowhead (1953)) and also contributed in excess of two hundred fifty articles of pulp fiction to various magazines.
Kurt Russell's John Wayne impersonation was quite deliberate; at one point, his character utters the line, "That'll be the day!", which was the famous catchphrase of Wayne's character in The Searchers (1956).
Misty Upham originally had a part in Django Unchained (2012) as a character named "Minny" who owned the bar in which Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx drink in the film. The role was deleted, and eventually the character showed up in this film, also owning a type of public house. After Upham's death, the role was kept in the film, as an homage to her, but was re-cast.
According to an October 12, 2015 Variety Magazine interview with Quentin Tarantino, the 70mm roadshow cut of the movie is three hours and seven minutes long, making it his longest individual film (although the two parts of "Kill Bill" are four hours and eight minutes combined). The version released in other formats, meanwhile, removed the twelve-minute overture and intermission, and six minutes designed for the spectacle of 70mm projection, reducing the length to a minute under Django Unchained (2012).
Despite the reddish canyons of Wyoming being referred to as "the Red Rocks", there is no real town called "Red Rock" in the entire state. It is an entirely fictional town made up by Quentin Tarantino. However, there is a "Red Rocks" in Colorado, where the film was shot.
In the script's first draft, which was leaked, the Abraham Lincoln letter is only brought up once in the stagecoach, and is never mentioned again. In interviews, Quentin Tarantino explains that he always intended to make more of it than that, but wasn't ready yet. He wanted to spend more time with the material, and let the story slowly evolve in the two subsequent drafts that would follow.
On September 26, 2014, the state of Colorado signed an agreement to fund the film's production with five million dollars. The film was to be shot entirely in southwest Colorado. A nine hundred-acre, high-mesa ranch had been loaned to the production for the filming. There was a meeting on October 16th, in which the county's planning commission issued a permit for the construction of a temporary set. Principal photography began on December 8, 2014, in Colorado on the Schmid Ranch near Telluride.
On December 19, 2015, a week before its limited release, this film, along with fellow Oscar-contenders Brooklyn (2015), Carol (2015), Creed (2015), The Revenant (2015), Room (2015), and Straight Outta Compton (2015), had a screener copy leaked on-line. Within the first twenty-four hours of the leak, the film had attracted 569,153 unique IP addresses.
Panavision's Dan Sasaki collaborated with Schneider Optics, to design and produce one hundred Ultra Panavision projection lenses, that would ultimately be needed for the retrofitted roadshow theaters across the U.S. and Canada.
It may be interesting to note that Quentin Tarantino had expressed a strong disliking of Natural Born Killers (1994), which he originally wrote, and according to a book written by Jane Hamsher about that film, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi turned down a role in it. It was to play Wayne Gale, and they turned it down as Tarantino said he would never cast them again if they took it. Buscemi has not been cast again as of 2018, even though he didn't take the role in Natural Born Killers (1994).
The film had its world premiere at a private screening in São Paulo, Brazil on November 23, 2015, with only select journalists in attendance. Quentin Tarantino and Tim Roth were in the country promoting the movie.
According to details written in the script, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John "Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell) were in their late fifties or early sixties. Additionally, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is around thirty-five to forty, and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) was written to be in his early thirties.
Not only did Ennio Morricone do the soundtrack for Italian Westerns that Quentin Tarantino was inspired by for this Western, but he scored The Thing (1982), which also starred Kurt Russell, was about a small group of people in a location with extremely cold weather, and was a major inspiration for this film.
The Pipe smoked by Kurt Russell is an Italian Pipe, a unique piece made by hand in Pesaro by the 'Mastro de Paja' company. The actor bought it in a Tobacco Shop in Santa Monica, so it is his personal smoking pipe. After the pipe appeared in this movie, Mastro de Paja renamed this model 'Il Boia' (the hangman, in Italian language).
Warren's story about having sexually assaulted Smithers' son is similar to Dennis Hopper's monologue to Christopher Walken in True Romance (also written by Tarantino) about how Sicilians are the descendants of black Africans who bred with their female ancestors. Both speeches play on the racism of the listener in order to provoke a violent reaction from them.
Quentin Tarantino: [Red Apple Cigarettes] Characters smoke the Red Apple brand of tobacco, also called Manzana Roja. Red Apple cigarettes appear in multiple Tarantino films, as a way to avoid endorsing real products, and perhaps to indicate that the films take place in the same universe.
Quentin Tarantino: [racial slur] In the roadshow version, the "n" word was used sixty-five times, which is a little over half the use in Tarantino's previous film Django Unchained (2012), which is said to hold the record for the movie with the most uses of the "n" word. In the general release, one scene between Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern) was removed that used the word seven times, reducing the count to fifty-eight. Of the main characters, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) is the only person not to say it.
Quentin Tarantino: [trunk shot] While riding in the stagecoach on the way to Minnie's Haberdashery, John Ruth elbows Daisy in the nose. The camera then switches to the classic "trunk shot" view, in which characters are observed, as if the camera was placed in a trunk looking upwards at the characters, as they look down.
Quentin Tarantino: [long take] The opening credit sequence, which begins with a close-up of a crucifix and ends after the producer's credit, is one unbroken shot lasting around three minutes and forty seconds.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Oswaldo Mobray's (Tim Roth's) real name is revealed to be English Pete Hicox, making him an ancestor to Inglourious Basterds (2009) character Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender). In a December 15, 2015, interview with the Huffington Post, without naming characters so as not to reveal being one of the villains, Roth confirmed Oswaldo Mobray to be Archie Hicox's great-great grandfather.
Quentin Tarantino cites the The Thing (1982) as the primary cinematic influence for this film. That movie also starred Kurt Russell, who is in this film, and was scored by Ennio Morricone, who is also the composer for this film. Furthermore, The Thing (1982) was also about a group of men who can no longer trust one another, while being trapped inside a building during fierce snowstorms. Both films also contain scenes of Kurt Russell disarming the other men out of distrust and paranoia.
In earlier drafts of the script, the death of General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern) was more graphic and brutal than what was actually shown. Not only did Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) shoot the General, but the force of the bullet entering, sends the old man into the fireplace, where he burns to death. The only reason Warren lets the others pull his body out of the fire, is to keep the whole haberdashery from catching fire.
In the revised script, Jody's (Channing Tatum's) demise was less violent, and more sadistic than what happens in the film. In the script, he's shot once in the arm by Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) during the gun battle, and once in the back by Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), after coming out of the basement to see Daisy. He then falls back into the basement and is left by Warren and Mannix to be eaten to death by rats taking shelter from the blizzard.
It is never actually proven, at any point during this film, to support Chris Mannix's claim that he was truly the "new Sheriff of Red Rock". While most fans agree that he was telling the truth, some speculate that he could have very well been lying. Quentin Tarantino has stated in an interview that he's allowed the audience to make up their own personal opinions about Mannix's authenticity.
In an interview with fellow filmmaker Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino revealed that to come to the eventual neck-in-a-noose ending we see in the film, he wrote himself a private draft of the screenplay from Daisy's point of view, so as to acquaint himself enough with the character, thus justifying her dangling demise.
Somewhat atypical of a Quentin Tarantino film, there isn't any on-screen killing until one hour and thirty-five minutes into the movie. In the roadshow (70mm) screenings of the movie, the intermission took place immediately after this moment.
According to Quentin Tarantino, this film was inspired by the Western television shows Bonanza (1959), The Virginian (1962), and The High Chaparral (1967): "Twice per season, those shows would have an episode where a bunch of outlaws would take the lead characters hostage. I love it in a Western, where you would pass halfway through the show to find out if they were good or bad guys, and they all had a past that was revealed. Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens!"
In the original script, the fate of Major Marquis Warren was written almost entirely different. Jody, hiding underneath the floorboards, was supposed to keep shooting the Major over and over again, until he falls to the floor immobilized. Then a freed Daisy was to finish him off, by crawling across the floor, grabbing a nearby gun, and finally shooting him three times between the eyes.
Despite the film's title and marketing, there are actually nine characters that share the cabin during the blizzard. Absent from the list of eight characters in the film's marketing is O.B., the wagon driver. There are ten, if you count Channing Tatum's character Jody, who is hiding under the floorboards. Tatum's character wasn't in any of the marketing trailers, because Tarantino, Tatum, and the whole cast wanted to keep it a secret.
At one point in the film, Tim Roth's character is shot in the stomach and bleeding out in a confined space with people around him questioning his loyalty, very similar to his character's arc from Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Body Count: Sixteen. However, it is brought to an even twenty, if Chester Charles Smithers, and the three bodies that Major Marquis Warren have with him, when hitching a ride with John "The Hangman" Ruth's stagecoach, are included.
In one of the earlier drafts of the script, the character of Oswaldo Mobray, was written to appear entirely innocent until towards the climax. During the first major shoot-out between Jody and Mannix, an unarmed Oswaldo is shot in the chest by a panicking, trigger-happy Mannix, thus making the audience first speculate that he was merely an innocent bystander, with no connections to Daisy.
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Quentin Tarantino): (long monologue before a sudden violent eruption): Major Marquis Warren's extensive account of him killing Chester Charles Smithers before he kills Smithers' father.
When Jody fires his gun up at Warren, he shouts, "Say adiós to your huevos!" which is Spanish for "Say goodbye to your eggs!" literally, or in slang, "Say goodbye to your balls!" This is also a reference to the scene in Inglourious Basterds (2009), where Sergeant Stiglitz says, "Say auf Wiedersehen to your Nazi balls", before shooting a Nazi officer in the groin.
In the earlier drafts of the script, the character of "Charly" was written to be a young orphan boy, whose parents were supposedly slaves, and were possibly murdered, thus making his demise at the hands of the ruthless Domergue gang much more depressing and tragic. His death scene was also originally supposed to be more brutal and violent. Quentin Tarantino allegedly scrapped the idea, and made Charly an adult character instead.
Channing Tatum's casting as Jody Domergue, could be viewed as an homage by Quentin Tarantino to Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), where Leone cast Henry Fonda as the primary antagonist. At that time, Fonda had been known for playing heroic characters, and he accepted the role after Leone described Fonda's character gunning down a child, and how the audience would be shocked by the scene. This film marks the second time Tatum, known for playing romantic or heroic roles, played a cold-blooded killer, after Public Enemies (2009).
There are many theories regarding the authenticity of Major Marquis Warren's claims to General Sandy Smithers about the torture, assault, and death of his son. Many fans do agree that it is true that Warren did, in fact, kill his son, but actually did so in self-defense (since, after all, he had a bounty on his head from the entire South) and didn't torture him in the way he said he did. Warren may have very well embellished the story to anger Smithers enough, so he would try to pick up the gun and shoot him. Some fans speculate that Warren may have never even been responsible for the death of Smither's son at all, but simply made the entire story up to anger and enrage the General. Quentin Tarantino has obviously left viewers to make their own interpretations.
According to the earliest draft of the script, the scene where Major Warren interrogates Bob, Oswaldo, and Joe Gage about working with Daisy, and poisoning the coffee, was originally supposed to be more brutal and disturbing than what was shown on film. Instead of simply threatening to pour the rest of the poisoned coffee down Daisy's throat, Warren was written to violently beat her, hold her at gunpoint, and then prepares to shoot her in the head, until Joe Gage finally intervenes. This scene also had more dialogue.
When Daisy and John "The Hangman" Ruth enter Minnie's Habadashery for the first time, while they're nailing the door shut in the background, General Smithers looks directly at the camera several times. A subtle wink to repeat viewers that things are not what they seem inside Minnie's.
Tim Roth's character Pete Hicox a.k.a. Oswaldo Mobray, dies with a bullet in the stomach, bleeding out, lying on the floor. At the beginning of Reservoir Dogs (1992), Roth's character is wounded in the same way, and spends several scenes bleeding similarly. He also provides significant plot reveals in both films once he's convinced himself that he will die. In Reservoir Dogs (1992), he is a good guy pretending to be bad, but here he is a bad guy pretending to be good.
In the final scene, Warren and Daisy believe everyone to be dead. It's revealed that Chris is still alive, when he says, "I ain't dead yet, you black bastard." This is most definitely an homage to, and modified version of, the famous line "I ain't dead yet, you bushwhacker" uttered by Le Boeuf in True Grit (1969). Both lines reveal a character to be alive, who was previously thought dead, who "saves the day".
At the end of the movie, when Major Marquis Warren is tying off the noose to the bedpost, he ties what is known as a "clove hitch". This is a perfect application of this knot. It is often used to tie off tent stakes, or a boat to a pier.
According to the first draft of the script, the character of Jody Domergue was originally written to be an older man with a huskier build, dark hair, and gritty features; a major contrast from the more slender-framed, youthful-looking, blue-eyed, and light-haired Channing Tatum.
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Quentin Tarantino): [characters with a high off-screen body count]: General Sandy Smithers and John Ruth are notorious for having executed and killed many people, but neither of the two kills anyone on-screen.
When Daisy and John Ruth first enter the haberdashery, Oswaldo looks over to Joe Gage multiple times before following Ruth around. Oswaldo directs Ruth to the coffee beans and, while his back is turned, Oswaldo is prepared to shoot him. Daisy notices and steps between the two to stop Oswaldo from shooting. She then covertly mentions that there are more people outside. All of this is done to await a better time for the gang to kill Ruth and the bystanders.
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Quentin Tarantino): [shot from the trunk]: When Joe Gage tracks down the wounded Charly to a small shed, Charly's point of view from inside the shed is seen as soon as Gage opens the door.