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Walton Goggins on Quentin Tarantino and 'The Hateful Eight'

Walton Goggins on Quentin Tarantino and 'The Hateful Eight'

We sat down with The Hateful Eight's Walton Goggins who plays Chis "The Sheriff" Mannix. The Django Unchained and Justified actor discusses with us the joys of working with Quentin Tarantio and how hopefuly The Hateful Eight will be a resurgence for 70mm film.

 

Shakefire (SF): Did you have any idea what you were getting into when you did the live reading in front of an audience? At the time that was supposed to be it. Then all of a sudden you’re doing this entire roadshow film in 70mm.
Walton Goggins (WG): Yeah, we didn’t really know. We knew that this was a one time deal; that this may be the only time people hear these words. I don’t think any of us fully understood that it was going to be in a room at a theater, at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. You think a theater, okay well there will be 200 people there or so. And there were 1,600 people there! It wasn’t until we were introduced and we walked out onto that stage that the magnitude of this experience really set in.

 

At the end of it, we were all so jazzed, man. We were all so excited with queues around the block. It was so euphoric, I supposed, that we thought, “Wow, that’s it. Unbelieveable, but at least we had this experience.” We had no idea that Quentin was, based on that experience, was ready to make this movie. Then we got the call and now here we are a year and a half later. It was in April of last year when we did that reading. We have all gone through this together. We are all very, very close and sitting on the other side of this grand life experience going, “What the fuck happened! Where are we!?” We’re really having a good time and are proud of it and proud of Quentin and what he’s doing. He’s an artist in full and is just in such command of his talent right now. It’s just exciting being a part of it.

 

SF: And this is your second time with Quentin, too. What it’s like to be a part of his “inner circle” of actors now and reuniting with him?
WG: At least for me, there’s such a fear and anxiety of the great unknown when it comes to a personality and talent like Quentin Tarantino. At least before I met him and before I was able to work with him the first time. I had all of this self-doubt and self-loathing and insecurities. It’s like, “Oh my god, don’t fuck this up, man.” Then you meet him and work with him, and he just opens the door for you and allows you into the environment that he creates. What was so gratifying for me in this second go around was to not have that angst with the man but to really fully enjoy every single day and to be present every single day.

 

Quentin creates this analog experience that allows for a person to be present. It’s not lost on you. You don’t look up on the other side of it and go, “Aww man I wish I would have had a conversation with that person” or “I wish this would have impacted me more.” We’re all in it. We’re all experiencing it and feeling it. I think every actor who has worked with Quentin would say that.

 

SF: You mention how you all became so close. The film is really a true ensemble picture. There are not many scenes where all eight of you aren’t together. It must have been a pretty exhausting shoot because every scene has everyone in it.
WG: Every scene we were there together. You know that when you show up for work on for Quentin Tarantino something magical is going to happen that day. If you don’t work the next day, you can bet something magical is going to happen, even in your absence. What we got the opportunity to do on this movie was to all be there every single day. There were scenes where we were all talking, and then there were scenes where the rest of us would just recede into the background and somebody would take center stage and the spotlight would be on them. It was such a privilege to get to watch this troupe of actors move through this Tarantino experience. It’s very special to be given access to that experience but also to be really in the movie where the actors get to have that in a daily basis.

 

SF: I’ve seen the film twice now and what’s going on in the background is oftentimes just as interesting as what’s in front of the camera.
WG: Well it’s a performance within a performance within a performance. The story is really being told out of focus. Everything that is happening out of focus, once you understand what the story is, informs exactly where the story is going. Yeah, it is a movie within a movie within a movie.

 

It’s amazing how he used that camera. How he was able to in a room full of people, put eight people in a frame as often as he did and then move away to just putting on person in a frame and you forget that the other eight people are there. Or two people in a conversation over in the corner and you feel like they are alone in Minnie's Haberdashery. It was so surprising to me, watching it the first time, how he was able to make that.

SF: Does that put extra pressure on you because of how much detail is captured by shooting in 70mm? The background scenes becomes just as important as the foreground so you have to always be at the top of your game.

WG: Absolutely, but I think any of these actors if you’re filming something traditionally and you’re off camera for your other actor, to me that’s just a real for me off camera sitting over there and having three cameras in front of me and I’m looking at the other guy; that’s just as real for me as if I’m in front of it. I don’t think we all fully realized how deep the story was being told and everything that was happening in a frame, even when we were in it and out of focus. That’s just how these actors roll. That’s what you do. Once the man says action, we’re playing pretend.

 

SF: One scene that stood out to me was when Chris and O.B. were making that pathway to the outhouse. How cold was it on set, because it looks absolutely freezing?
WG: It was miserable. It was so cold. We were in it together; James Parks is such a big part of this movie. O.B. is the great innocent. That’s the reason why it’s called The Hateful Eight and not The Hateful Nine because there’s nothing hateful about O.B.

 

That day in particular, it was hard. It was hard to walk back and forth. And you’re at 10,000ft and they got a bottle of oxygen for ya and carrying all that stuff. What was so rewarding is that Quentin not only photographed it but gave it the amount of time he gives it in the movie in order for the audience to feel how arduous this is. It wasn’t easy just staking out a rope to the outhouse. It’s a big deal, and it took a lot of effort. And he just stays with it and the score that accompanies that scene really captures how difficult that is and how fucking cold it was.

 

SF: The film is all about lies and how everyone is hiding something, yet it doesn’t appear that Chris Mannix is lying about being the sheriff. There are plenty of statements that are revealed to be lies, but Mannix is steadfast to the end about being the sheriff. So, is Mannix really the sheriff of Red Rock?
WG: You know, after I read it the first time Quentin came outside and he said, “What do you think?” I said, “I have one question for you. Am I or am I not the sheriff of Red Rock?” He said, “I need for you to answer that question, and I don’t want to know your answer to that question.” So he gave me the power to make that decision, and no one will ever know that answer. It’s like what’s in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. That’s for me.

 

SF: This is the first 70mm film released in decades. Do you expect to see a resurgence of 70mm in the coming years?
WG: God I hope so. If we lose film I think we lose a small piece of all of us. The power of the moving picture is so important. Quentin and a few others that are in a position of power have been such big advocates for that. As he has said on the road, 70mm may be the way to save film. And the response to the movie has been very good. People have really come to see it. Given the opportunity to turn their cell phones off for three hours and to just turn themselves over to a story is actually a little vacation from your life in a way.

 

So I do. I think hopefully this will be another piece of the puzzle in saving film and reminding people of the power of cinema. It’s an event. You can watch it on your cell phone, yeah. But why? Why miss out on the experience. That’s really what the cinema has always been about and the impact of stories and the storytellers. So yeah, I sure do hope so.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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