“The Hateful Eight”
December 11, 2015
When you are designing your first movie for director Quentin Tarantino, and it’s to be a three-hour Western shot in Ultra Panavision 70, and, oh, the director attends every fitting, your costumes have to be up to the task. For “The Hateful Eight,” Costume Designer Courtney Hoffman not only had to consider that the 70 mm film would capture every detail of virtually every character at every moment, but that she also had to build authentic clothes that could withstand a blizzard–and a long shoot.
Set in Wyoming six, eight or maybe 10 years after the Civil War, Tarantino’s epic covers one day inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stop that’s a combination restaurant, bar and drug store–and the refuge where eight travelers are thrown together by a blizzard and evil intentions.
Though the film has only 16 characters and one set, Hoffman had to make more than 140 coats. Each coat is memorable in different ways, but one stands out: The buffalo-hide overcoat worn by Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter character, John Ruth.
“We call it the Big Boy. It had to have been between eight and 14 pounds,” said Hoffman. “Luckily, I had a wonderful costumer who had to carry it around a lot more than I did, up and down the mountain. It was so heavy that it hurt Kurt’s back at times. He’s as manly as they get, so if it hurt him, you can imagine.”
A bloody and violent film, “H8FUL,” as it’s known, required up to 12 multiples of some coats. “I had been a costumer on ‘Django Unchained.’ I knew what to expect on the set. I knew how blood hungry he gets,” she said of the director.
Hoffman secured materials from Merlin’s Hide Out, a Wyoming hide and clothing dealer, where a modern-day buffalo coat sells for nearly $3,000. Hoffman also connected with the Autry Museum of the American West, where she studied archived items, including an 1870 buffalo hide coat.
The antique overcoat was approved by the U.S. military for soldiers in extreme conditions, according to Carolyn Brucken, Ph.D., curator of Western women’s history. Though uncommon, the bulky coats are sometimes seen in photographs of African-American Buffalo Soldiers who were posted in the West. The Autry’s coat was worn by a cowboy who worked in severe outdoor weather.
When Hoffman interviewed with Tarantino for the design job, she included an image of the coat. “Then I later found out that coat was in the archives at the Autry,” she said.
Now the museum is paying homage to the movie and Hoffman’s work. On Dec. 22, ahead of the film’s release on Christmas Day, the Autry Museum will display in its Imagination Gallery costumes, props, weapons and accessories worn by Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue and Russell as John Ruth.
“The Autry said it was an important Western for them,” said Hoffman, who was approached even before she had built any of the costumes. “They said, ‘We consider this to be Quentin Tarantino’s Western. Evidently, ‘Django’ is a Southern.”
Hoffman is, of course, thrilled with the results of her months of work and the movie, but the museum exhibit is an unusual honor for the Los Angeles native.
“I went to the Autry Museum as a kid, for every field trip. The idea of having my costumes in the Autry, is incredible,” said Hoffman. “It’s an overwhelming emotional moment.”
“The Hateful Eight” opens in limited release on Dec. 25, and in wide release on Jan. 1.