Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is a Western version of And Then There Were None with period detail that pops, thanks to the large-format, widescreen splendor of Ultra Panavision 70. As a result, it should garner several craft Oscar nominations next week.
For production designer Yohei Taneda (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Ghost In the Shell 2), the primary design reference for Millie’s Haberdashery was the general store in Shane. Visually, though, he thought of Vermeer for his sense of mystery and spatial divide. As Taneda crucially pointed out, Minnie’s Haberdashery is many things, except a haberdashery, which is key to understanding Tarantino’s peekaboo narrative.
“Each character has his own section, so I designed eight separate zones,” he explained. “For example, the bar and the kitchen space, and the dining space and the bedroom space. Our set is small but wide [to accommodate the Ultra Panavision 70 camera].
Costume designer Courtney Hoffman (promoted after serving as personal costumer to Christoph Waltz on Django Unchained) immersed herself more deeply in Western lore, and found a trail of breadcrumbs to follow in Tarantino’s script. “It’s such a great vessel in whatever given time period it’s made,” she said. It was about functionality, comfort and style. And all of the wardrobe was hand-made.
“And then on top of that, it’s a complicated layer of who are they pretending to be versus who are they? And how does that influence the way the costumes fit and the way that they wear them? It’s a little bit of excavating what’s in Quentin’s mind that he doesn’t have the language to use.”
Mark Ulano, Tarantino’s long-time sound mixer, faced another set of environmental challenges that were intrinsic to the story: “That is why we’re at 10,000 feet at 20 below every morning in Telluride,” he said. But the situation here was rigorous as well as dangerous. “If you’re not acclimated for both altitude and cold, you’re gonna get injured. And you’re not alone—everyone’s in that same situation. And you don’t just drive up to the set and you’re there. Some of that was true at Millie’s but all of the external stagecoach work was in places that people just don’t go to.
“You’re either hiking in and hauling your gear or snowmobiling to a drop-off point. Then there’s the impact that it has on your tools—I use electronic devices and you’re at the extremity of their intended environment. So you have to think in those terms so they don’t fail at the worst possible moment (with both a cold and warm set of gear).
Editorially, meanwhile, the impact of the claustrophobic setting and the use of Ultra Panavision 70 meant that the acting ensemble had to always be at the top of its game as well as off book because the frame was so wide and there was nowhere to hide.
“So we would do weekly screenings in 70mm and getting to see it play out was thrilling,” recalled editor Fred Raskin. “Frequently, we were not cutting as often because you could see the actors’ eyes and the depth in their performance with such clarity and the framing was so beautiful. “
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