“We’ve been rehearsing this for the last three days and we’re not bad,” Quentin Tarantino told a packed crowd tonight at the live staged reading of his The Hateful Eight script. With alumni from his past pics such as Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, James Parks, Amber Tamblyn Michael Madsen, Denis Menochet, James Remar and Walton Goggins plus Bruce Dern by his side onstage at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown LA, the director’s 3.5-hour performance of the five-chapter Western set in post-Civil War Wyoming revealed that Tarantino has a career in theater if he ever decided to chuck the whole moviemaking thing.
Despite the controversy and legal action surrounding the leaked script, which Gawker put online in January, tonight’s Film Independent Presents the World Premiere of a Staged Reading by Quentin Tarantino: The Hateful Eight, as it was formally titled, also revealed that the big-screen version might not be as shelved as the director first told my colleague Mike Fleming Jr. on January 21. “I’m working on a second draft and I will do a third draft, but we’re reading from the first draft,” Tarantino, wearing a black Stetson and red ribbed cowboy shirt, said to the 1,200 patrons in the almost SRO theater before the performance started. (The well-heeled crowd included longtime Tarantino producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein.) “The Chapter 5 here will not be the Chapter 5 later, so this will be the only time it is seen ever.”
Regardless of how Hateful Eight lives on, the crowd loved the show they saw tonight — especially the hands-on onstage narration and direction from Tarantino. “Guys, you are starting to drift away from the dialogue on the page,” the Oscar winner told the actors at one point around halfway through. “No more co-writing,” he added to a big laugh from the audience. “He’s directing,” said Jackson at another part when Tarantino ran across the stage to whisper something into his ear. That also got a big roar from the crowd. A couple of other times, the director asked the actors to start a particular scene over again. Near the end of the performance, Tarantino playfully told Goggins to just read the script and not worry about the imaginary guns in his hands. Also during the later part of the show, both Goggins and Madsen broke from the script and joked with Tarantino about a narration line where Madsen’s character was described as looking like “he’s cumming in his pants.” Madsen told the director that “it’s never happened before.” Tarantino shot back that he’d show him one day what it was like.
Besides several standing ovations, only a 20-minute intermission broke up the show. Tickets for tonight’s event went for $150-$200 a pop, with all proceeds going to Film Independent’s programming efforts at LACMA. Security was a top concern, with the crowd having to give up their cell phones and other electronics before entering the downtown theater.