Hateful Eight star Kurt Russell and I were having a nice enough interview earlier today, talking not just about Quentin Tarantino‘s soon-to-open film and Russell’s flinty, craggy-voiced performance as a tough-talking bounty hunter named John Ruth, but also, briefly, about a possible film version of Chapman and MacLain Way‘s The Battered Bastards of Baseball. Released in 2014, Battered Bastards was and is a wonderful doc about a scrappy-ass, mid ’70s minor-league Portland baseball team (called the Mavericks) that was owned and managed by Kurt’s dad, character actor Bing Russell. Russell said that Todd Field might direct with Russell possibly playing his dad…or not. Too early to say but here’s hoping.
Kurt Russell as snarly-mouthed John Ruth in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.
Then I segued into a riff about how movies tend to reflect the times and the culture they come from. I was thinking that the Quentin Tarantino brand, which has always included a swaggering, half-smirking, bordering-on-flippant use of violence at times, might not fit or reflect the post-Paris, post-San Bernardino culture now as well as it did the all-is-well Clinton ’90s.
I was thinking in particular of a 12.3 N.Y. Times survey piece I read this morning. Written by N.R. Kleinfeld and called “Fear in the Air, Americans Look Over Their Shoulders,” it basically observed that “a creeping fear of being caught in a mass rampage has unmistakably settled itself firmly in the American consciousness.” And I was wondering how that wink-wink grindhouse blood and brutality that colors the second half (and more precisely the final third) of Tarantino’s film is going to synch with that…or not.
Here’s a reasonably close transcript of our gun-and-culture discussion. I guess it wasn’t so much a discussion as a kind of argument, except it was more about Russell arguing with me than vice versa. I played it cool and made my points in a mild-mannered way. Listen and judge for yourself:
Wells: The Quentin cult, if you will, is, like, 23 years old, starting with Reservoir Dogs…right? Violence as attitude, violence as style, violence as fashion…not dealt with in an earnest, realistic way. The swagger thing.
Wells: And I was looking in the N.Y. Times this morning and this guy interviewed several people in the country in the Midwest and West. And with almost everybody out there, he reported, there’s a feeling of anxiety in the culture…when’s the next one?
Russell: So how do you connect the dots?