EXCLUSIVE: Learning today that his script The Hateful Eight leaked after he gave it to a small circle of actors, Quentin Tarantino tells me that he’s so upset that he has decided that he will not direct that film next. So basically that means the conversation that will be circulating around town following this story with Tarantino goes from an ensemble Western to a whodunit. As in, which actor or their reps leaked the script that, as a result, is going on the shelf — literally a bookstore shelf, because Tarantino tells me he will publish it first and maybe revisit the prospect of a movie in the next five years.
“I’m very, very depressed,” Tarantino said. “I finished a script, a first draft, and I didn’t mean to shoot it until next winter, a year from now. I gave it to six people, and apparently it’s gotten out today.” He learned that when his longtime agent Mike Simpson began getting phone calls from agents looking to pitch their clients for roles in the ensemble Western.
So who could have done this? “I gave it to one of the producers on Django Unchained, Reggie Hudlin, and he let an agent come to his house and read it,” Tarantino said. “That’s a betrayal, but not crippling because the agent didn’t end up with the script. There is an ugly maliciousness to the rest of it. I gave it to three actors: Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth. The one I know didn’t do this is Tim Roth. One of the others let their agent read it, and that agent has now passed it on to everyone in Hollywood. I don’t know how these fucking agents work, but I’m not making this next. I’m going to publish it, and that’s it for now. I give it out to six people, and if I can’t trust them to that degree, then I have no desire to make it. I’ll publish it. I’m done. I’ll move on to the next thing. I’ve got 10 more where that came from.”
Tarantino told me he suspects the dispersal came from CAA, which reps Dern. I spoke to someone inside CAA I trust, and they vehemently denied they could have been the source. They noted that a problem is that Tarantino possibly dispersed the script himself, without a watermark that usually prevents someone from secretly dispersing the screenplay. Because of that, this is an unsolvable breach. It would be difficult to prove anyway, because if an agent asked an assistant to copy a script, and that assistant shared it with peers at other agencies, and it suddenly found its way to a blogger, the agent would not even know they’d unwittingly put the screenplay into circulation.
This is an odd story. Usually when a guy like me gets the call from a major director like Tarantino and walks away with a seismic story like this, it’s a good day. I must admit, I spent most of the phone call trying to talk Tarantino out of dumping the project. I want to see the movie, and I truly want to see the 77-year-old Dern get another chance to shine in a killer lead role after his brilliant turn in Nebraska. Tarantino said that he loves Dern, and likely will write him a big role in the film he’ll do instead. He would not divulge any details, even the genre of this other project. Given what happened here, who can blame Tarantino?
The filmmaker acknowledges that this is mostly about feeling betrayed, because he does not have an aversion to the inevitable blogger evaluation of his screenplays. He just cannot believe it’s going to happen this early in the process, when he has just begun talking to Harvey Weinstein about how they’re going to make it.
“I am not talking out of both sides of my mouth, because I do like the fact that everyone eventually posts it, gets it and reviews it on the net,” Tarantino said. “Frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like the fact that people like my shit, and that they go out of their way to find it and read it. But I gave it to six motherfucking people! Starting this week, I’ll be setting meetings with publishers.”
After more of my attempt to persuade him to let things die down — he made a mission movie in Inglourious Basterds and a Western-style film in Django Unchained, so who wouldn’t want to see him tackle a true ensemble Western? — Tarantino allowed that: “I could totally change my mind; I own the fucking thing. But I can tell you, it’s not going to be the next thing I do. It’s my baby, and if the muse calls me later to do it, we’ll do it. I was thinking about the idea of maybe publishing it before I made it, but now that deal happens for sure, and I’m not doing it next.”
The other script was one he had on his mind lately, so it might not take that long. “The idea was, I was going to write two scripts,” he said. “I wasn’t going to shoot the Western until next winter, and I have been full of piss and vinegar about the other one. So now I’ll do that one.”
He hopes that this might cause reps and actors to be more discreet. When I broke news of the script’s title, I said I’d heard that the actors it went to included Dern, and Christoph Waltz. I was wrong about the latter. Instead it was Madsen, star of Reservoir Dogs and the Kill Bill films, and Pulp Fiction star Roth.
“I hadn’t given it to Christoph, I haven’t given it to Sam Jackson,” he said. “I gave it to three motherfucking actors. We met in a place, and I put it in their hands. Reggie Hudlin’s agent never had a copy. It’s got to be either the agents of Dern or Madsen. Please name names.”