As Tarantino is the de-facto celebrity-director of our time, one of a very small number widely recognised by the general public, his pronouncements and actions usually gain a somewhat disproportionate traction amongst film commentators and in general media buzz. The latest teacup storm has precipitated from his early termination of The Hateful Eight, another Western and a film scheduled to follow on the heels of Django Unchained, though not, strictly speaking, an actual sequel to the Oscar winning “Blacksploitation” 2013 work.
As has been well publicised, the project was ended by Quentin due to the leaking of its script. Having distributed it in confidence to three actors – Michael Madsen, Tim Roth and Bruce Dern, all of whom the director has worked with before – he began receiving unsolicited bids from a number of agents seeking to gain roles for their clients – something he described as having “an ugly maliciousness” to it, and a betrayal which he has clearly taken very much to heart. It seems unlikely this is the utter end of the project, however, as Tarantino has not ruled out his righteous indignation abating so far as to allow him to revive the piece in its originally intended medium, or, at the moment more likely, merely publishing the script for public consumption. So The Hateful Eight may well instruct and entertain us all yet.
Of course with regards to the niceties involved, the filmmaker is clearly very much within his rights to do this. But while many will empathise with his anger at this trustful gesture being abused for mercenary purposes, it should also be emphasised that no mortal blow had been dealt the project by the unofficial proliferation of the script, and, indeed, this is far from an unusual development. Most, if not all, films that have gone on to do great things in the box-office have had their scripts pre-circulated much more globally than around the Hollywood agencies circuit, as is the case here. So Tarantino could easily have risen above the leak, with no real harm being done to the movie’s prospects. But, of course, this is a director who is in a position to pick and choose what he does and doesn’t make on his own terms, and can quite literally afford to rise above financial pressure.
His many, many fans need not be too disconsolate in their lamentations however. In his own words: “I’m done. I’ll move on to the next thing. I’ve got 10 more where that came from.” And perhaps the real food for thought in this spat is exactly whether this somewhat blithe statement, and Tarantino’s willingness to sacrifice his film to pique, says more about the disposable nature of his work, or the profound fertility of his genius. More grist to the Tarantino debate mill.
UPDATE: LEAKED SCRIPT BECOMES LEGAL BATTLE
Since this article was first published, and with something of a sense of inevitability, the story is now rolling into the courts. The final impetus was provided by this post in Defamer, where the media-gossip website, an offshoot of Gawker, provided links to anonymous uploads of the script.
On the one hand, once copies of the script had began to float the eddies and whirlpools of Hollywood offices it was a given that it was going to break the surface online and achieve mass availability in very short order – with or without a Defamer post. Yet, for one media company to profit in metaphoric broad daylight directly from the illegal infringement of another is surely grounds for justifiable complaint. The charge against Gawker, that of Contributary Copyright Infringement, is summarised here as being “conduct that encourages or assists infringement”: and, in my acutely unqualified and inconsequential opinion, that conduct would seem exemplified very aptly in this case.