Robert Richardson on the Ultra Panavision Experience of ‘The Hateful Eight’

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Hateful Eight’ Premiere: Bob Weinstein Elaborates on 70mm Film Shoot.

The first trailer for The Hateful Eight, the latest from genre director Quentin Tarantino, touted that the audiences could see the feature in “glorious 70mm.” The world premiere of the film took place on Monday night at the ArcLight Hollywood Cinerama Dome, which is one of the Los Angeles locations that will be able to screen the movie in the format.

It’s been a minute since filmmaker Quentin Tarantino came to New York to participate in Rise Up October’s anti-police brutality protests, during which, you might remember, Tarantino told families of police brutality victims, “I’m on the side of the murdered.” And since the ensuing backlash from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—whereby cops threatened to boycott Tarantino’s forthcoming “Hateful Eight”—fizzled out of the news cycle in early November, Tarantino’s kept a pretty low profile, as far as headlines are concerned. “Right now, [promoting the “Hateful Eight”] is my job,” Tarantino told The Guardian. “But when this is over, I want to go further with [anti-police brutality activism].” “I actually felt kind of vindicated,” Tarantino said. “By them making such a big deal about it, the subject ended up being in the press and on television – and people had to start making their own minds up about it in a way that wasn’t happening before.” Even by his outsized standards, Quentin Tarantino is going very big with the opening of “The Hateful Eight.” And the opening night crowd at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinerama Dome reveled Monday night in the sheer scope of the director’s eighth film – shot in rare 70 mm Super Cinemascope, running more than three hours and featuring an overture and intermission.In an interview with GQ magazine, Tarantino explained how his films reflect current racial politics. “[T]alking about America’s culpability in their past is what Django’s about,” Tarantino told GQ. “The white supremacy that has existed since and that is rearing its ugly head again, to such a degree that it’s being dealt with by the Black Lives Matter movement and all that stuff, is where we are now.” “The thing that was really wild is, I wasn’t trying to bend over backwards in any way, shape, or form to make it socially relevant.

Robert Richardson has been Quentin Tarantino’s DP of choice since 2003’s “Kill Bill: Vol. 1.” The relationship has distinguished Tarantino’s visual language considerably from that of films like “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown,” which established his voice in the 1990s. Jackson was not about to let the filmmaker ditch the project. “I called him and said, ‘Dude, how are you not going to make this movie?’” Jackson recalls.

Before the screening began, Bob Weinstein stood in front of the giant Cinerama Dome screen and told the story of when Tarantino first pitched the project to him during a visit to the director’s house. Tarantino appeared giddy from the start of the premiere, when he introduced each of his players like a hyper-caffeinated, monster-truck-rally commentator. Weinstein recalled: “He explained that he wanted to shoot in 70mm and he wanted to distribute the film as a roadshow experience much like they did in the 1950s and ’60s.

His energy remained high through the night and into the after-party, where he celebrated seeing “Hateful” for the first time on the dome’s giant screen. “Tonight was like seeing it for the first time for me,” the director rhapsodized. Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein sees it. “I think it’s his most political movie, and at the same time, his funniest movie,” Weinstein says. “So it’s a dichotomy. It makes sense that Tarantino would cultivate such a relationship, as some of his favorite directors pulled from stock companies of actors. “That always seemed like the way to go,” Tarantino says. “With me, though, there’s a bit more of a practicality to it: Not every actor can do my dialogue. But it was very difficult to get my head wrapped around, “Wait a minute, we should be [digitally color] graded.” It used to be you would do [color timing] in a lab. Richard Gladstein, a producer on the film, said the unusual release “is not a gimmick” but a special presentation for viewers who like seeing films as an event. “Quentin is creating a piece of art,” added James Parks, who plays stage coach driver O.B. “There is a lot of craft involved, using the 70 mm and creating an atmosphere, an environment for people to take their time ….

In October, Tarantino participated in a rally in New York City where hundreds of people gathered to protest police violence against black men and women. Harvey Weinstein, who has backed all of the features Tarantino has directed over the past 23 years, adds: “Sam is the world champion pianist who interprets and plays Quentin’s music like nobody else. Tarantino said he is hopeful that his films will have a lasting impact on the black community for generations to come. “I liked the idea of creating a new pop-culture, folkloric-hero character that I created with Django, that I think’s gonna last for a long time,” he said. “[M]y hope is it can be a rite of passage for black fathers and their sons.” It’s a language unto itself.” “There are some people who, when they call you, you don’t care what they’re doing — you just drop your s— and do it,” Jackson says. “There’s no better place in the world to be than on a Quentin Tarantino set.

The film, releasing Christmas Day, arrives at a flashpoint for race relations, particularly on the heels of statements Tarantino made at an anti-police-brutality rally in October, where he equated police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others with murder. “When I see murders, I do not stand by,” Tarantino said to protesters at the New York event. “I have to call a murder a murder and I have to call the murderers the murderers.” The comments drew the ire of police unions, particularly the Fraternal Order of Police, whose executive director Jim Pasco issued a vague threat beyond mere calls to boycott the film. “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element,” he said last month. The film is a John Ford-esque Western set in post-Civil War Wyoming during a blizzard that traps a ragtag group of strangers with violent proclivities inside a haberdashery.

The latest Tarantino film is believed to be the first production since 1966’s Khartoum to use Ultra Panavision 70 anamorphic lenses during production. “Panavision had to retrofit the lenses for us and to get the technology working.” The lenses are expected to next be used for the stand-alone Star Wars film Rogue One. No protesters greeted Tarantino, who has absorbed heavy criticism from police organizations since late October, after he spoke out about “murderers” in law enforcement. I’m just proud of the fact that he trusts me with his stuff.” Indeed, Jackson is the only actor Tarantino has ever granted rewrite privileges, the director says. I think they really think I’m just an out-of-touch, rich celebrity.” Given that Pasco said his organization will try to “hurt [Tarantino] in the only way that seems to matter to him … economically,” the director assumes it’s a threat to keep police from serving as technical advisors on his films or assisting in his productions and events. “Now, let’s put that in perspective,” Tarantino says. “In 1973, Sidney Lumet did the movie ‘Serpico.’ Both the Peter Maas book and that movie were very critical and accusatory of corruption inside the NYPD. Often it’s a creative lightning bolt that adds a new dynamic to a scene, such as in “Django Unchained,” when Jackson’s character Stephen begins parroting everything plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) says.

Although Tarantino did not address the controversy, producer Gladstein defended the helmer’s comments. “Quentin spoke from his heart about how he felt about certain injustices,” Gladstein said. “The only logical response to that is applause.” It would be lovely if we could achieve more of this, more 70mm shooting, if people could afford it and if the cameras would be more available and not just for visual effects shooting but for entire pictures. Solving the crime brings themes of deception and betrayal among a whodunit ensemble that includes Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir and James Parks. The camaraderie between Jackson and Tarantino is on full display during their cover shoot and joint interview at a dark, lodge-like drinking post in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley that could almost be the setting of Tarantino’s tense upcoming Western. The pair, similarly edgy, fearless artists who effortlessly tap into their dark sides, share an easy rapport, conversing and laughing at each other’s tales as they pose for the cameras.

Because you have to make the print and the print comes from the negative, and it has to be cut. [So you have to consider] the time it takes to cut a negative, how many negative cutters there are that do 70mm, changes that erupt when Quentin watches a screening. [If he] changes a reel, you go back to the negative to recut and nobody can progress forward until you’ve got a locked reel. They got off to a sour start when they met; Jackson bombed an audition for “Reservoir Dogs,” due largely to being far more prepared to engage with the material than with his reading partners (who happened to be producer Lawrence Bender and Tarantino himself).

He can be ornery, but it helps bring out (the best in) you.” Roth echoes the sentiment: “When two people connect in that way — both of them having the ability to deliver at 100% — it’s pretty wonderful for the rest of us. You pick up more contrast, and the colors maybe get muted a tiny bit [when you strike theatrical prints from the directors], but they’re still quite rich. He compares one of his scripts to a Russian matryoshka doll, bearing new depth with every turn of the page. “I read so much shit between books, comic books, scripts, and I’m usually 20 pages ahead of most writers because I know where they’re going,” Jackson says. “But I’m never that way when I’m reading his stuff.

I think that complication is something that we all have taken on with deep respect, and also with the knowledge that we are extraordinarily fortunate to have been given the opportunity by Quentin. When Jackson got wind of the dust-up, he couldn’t help but see an unfortunate undercurrent in the official reaction. “If you’re a good cop, he wasn’t talking to you, and you don’t need to be offended,” he says. “If you police your ranks, then we don’t need to be out here in the streets doing what we’re doing.” Tarantino, meanwhile, stands by his remarks, and further tells Variety: “I don’t think of the police as a sinister organization that targets private citizens. It’s a wonderful cocktail of these pros that haven’t done it in years and are absolutely enthralled with the possibility of doing it again, and then younger projectionists, guys that didn’t have the experience but are being trained. When cameras began to roll last December, the events in Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, were still echoing through the zeitgeist.

One line in the movie — “Ask people in South Carolina if they feel safe.” — even had to be dropped after a gunman killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last June. And if they are going platter that would have made it an easier choice because initially it was considered we would need two projectors in every room. But in the framework of that, it’s like, ‘Show me what you want to do.’ It’s freeing.” Tarantino’s screenwriting process had long been one of cranking out drafts internally without ever showing anyone the progression. By the time his inner circle would get a look, “last draft” would be scrawled across the script, indicating the set-in-stone finality of his words. But there’s a love of that in Quentin that’s built from years of seeing films, that he doesn’t mind if it falls off to the sides and it’s out of focus or a little darker.

Let that third act be something that’s genuinely informed from doing a couple of different drafts.’” The story’s finale had not been fully formed, and plot threads were willfully left dangling when he circulated the script for thoughts and feedback. While testing lenses at Panavision in Woodland Hills, however, cinematographer Richardson stumbled onto something that took things to the next level. “It was like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” he says. “We opened up a curtain to go back, and behind there were these lenses that had been sitting on shelves for years.

When Neil Young goes into the room and records with Jack White and they just turn the turntable and they record straight into it and it’s all laid down on a master, it’s akin to that. Notes producer Richard Gladstein, “We rented an old Mason hall in Telluride, and put in a projection booth.” And once a week, Tarantino flew back to Los Angeles to screen edited footage in 70mm at the DGA Theater.

While only sixteen 70mm prints for “The Master” were struck for distribution, and 12 for “Interstellar,” the plan for the “Hateful Eight” roadshow is to play in 100 theaters when it opens Dec. 25. He is also a magician and he took over for someone that was a mentor and extraordinarily good. (Sasaki: “It would probably have to be Robert Gottschalk and the gang. I asked Quentin this and I was just kind of holding his feet to the fire because the enthusiasm is wonderful and there’s plenty of us that would love to see film maintain a foothold, but do you really think you can stem that tide too much with the industry being such an unwavering ocean liner? You may not see that it’s low budget but whenever it sits around the $50-something[-million]-to-60-something zone — he did 100 days of shooting or 90 days of shooting or whatever it is — why can’t others do it?

But most of our shooting initially started on the 1,000, and some of our more difficult, say, remote camera shots that we had to do for the horses, they’re on 500-foot mags. Let me ask the layman question, which is, using a format like this, but everything being interior for the most part, did it feel like a missed opportunity to not shoot a big landscape movie? You make a good point, too, about the amount of people you can put into a frame, because that inherently affects the drama that you experience and how the actors are interacting. And then as he watched it over and over he realized what a brilliant jumble of composition was achieved because they fit all those characters into one shot so often.

The medium shot is primarily where he sits and then he utilizes the extreme closeups with the Sergio Leones for very specific reasons. “Wild Bunch.” I have always loved that movie because of it’s time frame and the characters. But you alter those words – that’s not to take place.” But with Sam, as you noted, there is sometimes a softness in terms of if Sam slides out a little bit to hand something in, Quentin will listen.

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