Harvey Weinstein, who’s positioned The Hateful Eight for Oscars and Golden Globes gold, has rightly called the movie Quentin Tarantino’s most political to date.
The film, about an octet of travelers—bounty hunters, ex-soldiers, and prospective lawmen—holed up at a traveler’s stop, Minnie’s Haberdashery, in the post-Civil War Midwest, consists of a racially-charged milieu of violence and distrust that is not so far removed from today’s America, argued Tarantino at a press conference on Saturday.
“[We made this movie] during that last year and a half where many of the themes that we were dealing with, we were watching on television when we got home. We’d come to set and talk about them,” said the filmmaker, who first performed the script last year as a live read after an early draft was leaked. “But the one good thing about the script getting out there is I’m on record for having written it before all the shit started popping off.”
Of course, commenting on just how badly shit in America has been popping off landed Tarantino in the middle of a firestorm this fall, leading police unions across the country to declare him auteur non grata.
“I’m a human being with a conscience,” Tarantino declared at an Oct. 24 Rise Up October rally in New York City held to call attention to the deaths of victims like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and Tamir Rice at the hands of police officers. “And when I see murder I cannot stand by. And I have to call the murdered the murdered and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”
The impassioned speech landed Tarantino in the sights of the Fraternal Order of Police, whose executive director Jim Pasco issued a shockingly bold threat directed at the filmmaker. “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element,” Pasco told The Hollywood Reporter. “Something could happen anytime between now and [the premiere]. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable.”
Addressing the intimidation tactic on Saturday, Tarantino shamed Pasco and admitted that while he had no clue what the country’s largest police union had in store for him, he wasn’t too spooked.
“People ask me, ‘Are you worried?’ And the answer’s no, I’m not worried, because I do not feel like the police force is this sinister black hand organization that goes out and fucks up individual citizens in a conspiracy sort of way,” he said. “Having said that, a civil servant shouldn’t be issuing threats, even rhetorically, to private citizens. The only thing I can imagine is that they might be planning to picket us, picket one of the screenings or maybe picket the premiere, or one of the 70mm screenings.”
“Or buy up all the tickets to make sure the theater’s empty,” Jackson offered, prompting snickers from the room.
“Well, that don’t really hurt me!” laughed Tarantino. “I don’t have any inkling and I haven’t heard anything about it, other than Patrick Lynch is keeping the fire on simmer,” he added, referring to the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association who in October slammed Tarantino as a “cop-hater” and “purveyor of degeneracy” and called for a boycott of his films.
The subject lit a fire under Tarantino. His voice lowered, and he got serious. “It’s unfortunate because I do respect the good work that the police do,” he said. “I live in the Hollywood Hills and when I see a cop driving around there I actually assume he has my best interest at heart and he has the interest of my property at heart. I think if you go to Pasadena they’d say the same thing, and I think if you’d knock on doors in Glendale, they’d say the same thing.”
“[But] go down to Century Boulevard and start knocking on apartment doors in Inglewood, and they’re not going to say the same thing,” he continued. “I think all that was put into place 30 years ago when we declared a War on Drugs and started militarizing the police force. You’re not going to have the police force representing the black and brown community if they’ve spent the last 30 years busting every son and daughter and father and mother for every piddling drug offense that they’ve ever done, thus creating mistrust in the community.”
“At the same time, you should be able to talk about abuses of power. You should be able to talk about police brutality and what, in some cases as far as I’m concerned, is outright murder and outright loss of justice, without the police organization targeting you in the way that they have done me.”