Oscar-Nominated Demian Bichir on Collaborating With Quentin Tarantino on 'The Hateful Eight' [Exclusive]
The character of Bob in Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" started off as a Frenchman. But thanks to Tarantino's longtime friend Robert Rodriguez, he wound up being a Mexican played by Oscar-nominated actor Demian Bichir.
The story goes, according to Bichir during an exclusive interview with Latin Post, that the actor and Rodriguez were working together on "Machete Kills" and the helmer told Bichir that he was a "Tarantino actor."
"I told him, 'Well then tell [Tarantino] about me,'" laughed Bichir. "And fortunately he did tell him and here I am thanks to Robert Rodriguez."
Tarantino then rewrote the character as a Mexican, still called Bob, and offered the role to Bichir at the midpoint of 2014. The actor was taken aback by the script and immediately took on the project.
"Quentin's scripts are symphonies," he enthused. "When you look at a piece of music, every note has a purpose and reason for existing. The same applies to Quentin's scripts."
So after accepting the job to be one of the performers of the "symphony" known as "The Hateful Eight," Bichir had about six months to prepare for the role before filming started in 2015.
The Mexican actor, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the 2011 film "A Better Life," noted that his preparation process is "very personal and solitary" and involves tremendous amounts of research and analysis on a number of levels.
"I look at the different skills I have to learn and then work out where this person is psychologically, emotionally, politically, economically, socially and a longer list of other factors," he noted. "It's a job I do locked up in my office."
More important for Bichir is that everything be as authentic as possible.
In one sequence, the character of Bob sits down at a piano in Minnie's Haberdashery to play "Silent Night."
Bichir is a passionate lover of music, though he was quick to admit that he is "terrible at the guitar and even worse at the piano." Yet his performance in the film is not that of an amateur, but a man who took on the task very seriously.
"Actors are obsessive with the work we do," he said, explaining that he wants to be an expert in every character's skills. "If I am asked to say a sentence in French, then I have to become an expert in the language. If I am asked to play 'Silent Night' with one finger, then I do the impossible. Sure, I learn the entire piece with both hands. It is about being as authentic as possible."
He worked so hard on learning the piano that he became hooked and is currently learning a few sonatas by Chopin, Beethoven and Debussy.
The best part of it all? "My name is next to Ennio Morricone's on the music credits," he laughed.
Physically Bichir also opted for doing something he rarely does: he let his beard grow out.
"I decided not to shave, see how long my beard grew and then discuss with Quentin whether it would work for the film or not," he added. "I had never grown my beard that long and it worked well for the role."
In the weeks leading up to the shoot, Bichir got together with the auteur and the remaining cast members of the film. He noted that while Tarantino knew exactly what he wanted in every instant, he was the premier collaborator who expected everyone to bring their own ideas to mold the film into place.
"He doesn't think that he's always right and in that respect he is extremely generous and intelligent. He knows that others are virtuosos in their respective crafts and he is like the great conductor that brings them all together to create beautiful music," added Bichir.
Bichir likened the rehearsal process to working on a play for the theater. Every piece was investigated in depth and every aspect of the production was talked through with not only the actors, but all of the heads of production.
"Quentin understands that he is captain of a ship and that every other crew member has different tasks and he is very open with letting the heads of each department with choosing the best way to make things happen in the best way possible," noted the thespian.
Once the shoot came about it was mostly smooth-sailing, but there were some obstacles to overcome. Bichir said that filming in the altitude of mountainous Colorado was daunting, especially because he was not used to such cold weather.
"It was something I had to get used to, but I think that [cinematographer] Bob Richardson and Quentin were the ones more concerned with the cold weather," he added.
Since the film was shot on 70mm film with old lenses that had not been used since the 1957 production of "Ben-Hur," there were concerns that the equipment would stop working as a result of the extremely adverse weather conditions.
Fortunately it never happened, and the film came together in one piece. More importantly, Bichir was able to verify something important about working with one of the best directors in the world.
"Quentin is where he is because he is generous, kind and dedicated to not only his film, but the people working on it," he said. "He makes us feel like a family."
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