How Quentin Tarantino Paid Homage to Hollywood Westerns with his Hateful Eight Costumes
The Hateful Eight costume designer Courtney Hoffman takes us behind-the-sartorial-scenes of Tarantino's latest film.
It seems fitting that Quentin Tarantino, a renowned film buff who rose from video-rental-store ranks, paid careful homage to specific westerns while making his own, The Hateful Eight. Explains the movie’s costume designer, former indie wardrobe queen Courtney Hoffman, “What was really unique about The Hateful Eight was that each of the characters comes from a different western almost. We referenced everything from spaghetti westerns to American westerns—Sam Jackson’s costume feels like a spaghetti western, for example. Then you get to the end of the movie, where everything is gritty and real, with the aging and blood and gore and darkness and sweat, you feel like you are in a Sam Peckinpah film like The Wild Bunch.”
Exacting in each element of his films, Tarantino made wardrobe notes in his script that, while mostly helpful, sometimes made realizing that early description difficult. “It took us a long time to find Major Warren, Sam Jackson’s character,” Hoffman explains, as way of example. “In the script, it’s referenced that he has facial hair and a hat like [late western actor] Lee Van Cleef and wears a navy cavalry coat from the Union army.”
While other filmmakers might yield creative direction to department heads, Tarantino pushes his precision through all phases of production. “With Quentin, it’s so imperative that you not only know the script well, you have it memorized,” Hoffman says. “He really treats the script like a bible. He’ll say, ‘This is my bible and you better know your verses.’”
Hoffman created Jackson’s navy cavalry coat, referencing designs from the Civil War, with her own slight palette flourish: a brilliant marigold lining. “Historically, some of the coats did have that that yellow lining. And if you think back to Quentin’s other films—like Uma Thurman’s character in Kill Bill—he is known for his yellow. So it’s kind of that Tarantino yellow.” One of the movie’s standout visuals arrives when Jackson’s character lifts his arms, revealing the pristine lining in his coat—a flash of color that Tarantino had visualized in the script, and had to explain to Hoffman.
“One of the things that was interesting about that coat was that I thought that it should be aged,” Hoffman tells us. “[Sam’s character] had fought in the Civil War, he had tracked a bunch of bounties throughout the snow. It would have made sense for him to have that history on his clothes. But Quentin said, ‘Don’t age my lining. I want it to be pristine.’ And one of the cool things about spaghetti westerns is that their costumes look like they were just bought at the store. It was fun to mix around those pieces with, say, Sam’s aged gloves, which tell the story of where he’s been. That was a really cool Quentin Tarantino-ism that we brought to the aesthetic.”