There is a scene in The Hateful Eight in which Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) picks up a guitar and strums a soulful ballad. At the end of the song, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) grabs the guitar and smashes it violently.
Quentin Tarantino’s production acquired an authentic Martin guitar built in the 1870’s, on loan from the Martin Guitar Museum, to use in the film. Of course, for the actual smashing part a replica was supposed to take the abuse instead of the priceless antique.
Oscar-winning sound mixer Mark Ulano explained what happened in an interview with SSInsider.com:
What was supposed to happen was we were supposed to go up to that point, cut, and trade guitars and smash the double. Well, somehow that didn’t get communicated to Kurt, so when you see that happen on the frame, Jennifer’s reaction is genuine.
Ulano later continues:
Kurt shattered the antique guitar and everyone was pretty freaked out. Tarantino was in a corner of the room with a funny curl on his lips, because he got something out of it with the performance.
Tarantino’s reaction sounds a bit self-serving, if unsurprising, though we don’t have his take on the incident.
Apparently Dick Boak, director of the museum, archives and special projects for C.F. Martin & Co., was previously unaware of some of the details of the incident, as revealed in an article on Reverb.com. Boak discussed his reactions with that publication:
We assumed that a scaffolding or something fell on it. We understand that things happen, but at the same time we can’t take this lightly. All this about the guitar being smashed being written into the script and that somebody just didn’t tell the actor, this is all new information to us. We didn’t know anything about the script or Kurt Russell not being told that it was a priceless, irreplaceable artifact from the Martin Museum.
As a result of the incident, the company will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances.
To make matters worse, the guitar was apparently only insured for the purchase price, which was surely far below its actual value as “a priceless, irreplaceable artifact.”
We want to make sure that people know that the incident was very distressing to us. We can’t believe that it happened. I don’t think anything can really remedy this. We’ve been remunerated for the insurance value, but it’s not about the money. It’s about the preservation of American musical history and heritage.
Take a look at the scene and guitar in question here. The reaction definitely seems authentic…
[Sorry for the pirate quality. This video will probably be taken down sooner or later. In the event that happens you can still listen to the audio here…]