There’s a scene in Quentin Tarantino’s new movie The Hateful Eight where bounty hunter John Ruth, played by Kurt Russell, grabs a guitar from his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and smashes it against a beam in one the film’s many, many outbursts of sudden violence. (It is a Tarantino movie.)
Well, it turns out that that poor innocent instrument was an actual 19th century antique, not a prop, and the expression of horror on Jennifer Jason Leigh’s face is all too real. “The guitar was a loaner from the Martin Guitar Museum and there were six doubles made,” Hateful Eight sound mixer Mark Ulano told SSN Insider. “The guitar was from the 1870s and was priceless. What was supposed to happen was we were supposed to go up to that point, cut, and trade guitars and smash the double. Well, somehow that didn’t get communicated to Kurt, so when you see that happen on the frame, Jennifer’s reaction is genuine…Kurt shattered the antique guitar and everyone was pretty freaked out. Tarantino was in a corner of the room with a funny curl on his lips, because he got something out of it with the performance.”
Tarantino may have gotten something out of it, but the museum people are understandably pretty pissed now that this story has come to light. “We were informed that it was an accident on set,” Dick Boak, director of the Martin Guitar Museum, told Reverb today. “We assumed that a scaffolding or something fell on it. We understand that things happen, but at the same time we can’t take this lightly. All this about the guitar being smashed being written into the script and that somebody just didn’t tell the actor, this is all new information to us. We didn’t know anything about the script or Kurt Russell not being told that it was a priceless, irreplaceable artifact from the Martin Museum.”
The guitar is apparently destroyed beyond repair, and thanks to this little incident, Boak says that Martin “will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances,” which, yeah, fair. “We want to make sure that people know that the incident was very distressing to us,” Boak continues. “We can’t believe that it happened. I don’t think anything can really remedy this. We’ve been remunerated for the insurance value, but it’s not about the money. It’s about the preservation of American musical history and heritage.”
Oops! But hey, at least Jennifer Jason Leigh got to play some nice music on it before its untimely demise. Listen to her rendition of the traditional Australian folk ballad “Jim Jones At Botany Bay” from the film below.