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Production Designer Yohei Taneda Reteams With Tarantino On “The Hateful Eight”

By: Marjorie Galas

Yohei Taneda was thrilled to be reunited with director Quentin Tarantino.  Based in his homeland of Japan, the production designer had last worked with Tarantino on his 2003 feature “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” and felt he understood the directors tastes and visual directions.  Noting “The Hateful Eight” was a western was icing on the cake – Taneda is a big fan of the genre and was confident he could meet the demands.

The main focus for Taneda in this film was the creation of Minnie’s Haberdashery – a spot for everything with the exception of the true purpose of a haberdashery –selling men’s clothes.   Roughly half the film’s action takes place within the four walls of this stagecoach stop nestled in a mountain pass in post-Civil War Wyoming.  The structure becomes the refuge of nine travelers forced to hunker down due to a massive blizzard: John Ruth (Kurt Russell), Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Major Marquies Warren (Samuel Jackson), Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), Bob (Damian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern) and stagecoach rider OB (James Parks).  During his research period, Taneda looked at images and renderings of general and drug stores from the 1800s as well as reviewed westerns, including “Shane” to get a reference point for the multi-purpose environment.

“It was a general store, a restaurant, a bar, but it doesn’t sell men’s clothing,” said Taneda.  “Quentin was very specific about that in the script.”

A fan of old Japanese movies, Tarantino wanted the interior design to reflect more of an Asian design aesthetic – where a sense of flow and balance separate rooms instead of walls.  Building in this style, pillars and beams served divide the haberdashery’s distinct “rooms.”  Taneda’s design concept of the haberdashery’s interior represented eight distinct areas constructed with their own unique personality, such as the warm, welcoming ambiance of the fireplace, the unity of the table, and the slightly feminine virtue of the sleeping quarters.  The eight areas helped present a sense of adventure as the evening unfolds and the mystery develops.

“The haberdashery protects them from the storm it, at the same time, wraps around them – enveloping them,” said Taneda.  “It was important to make the design feel like an adventure is happening.

To obtain building material, Taneda inquired as to what was available in the Colorado location.  He then sourced the local lumber and aged it appropriately. Working within the general western color palette of cooler earth tones with a heavy emphasis on browns and wood grains, Taneda carefully emphasized reds and yellows – finding a balance between the bold colors and the brash characters.

There were two versions of the haberdashery built: one on location complete with an outhouse and stable to accommodate all exterior snow shots and any other scene where the elements play a part. The soundstage was an exact duplicate that served the more technical action and needs of cinematographer Robert Richardson.   Both sets needed a set decorator who could pull out Minnie’s personality in the rugged western environment.  Taneda felt Rosemary Brandenburg was the perfect choice: she was not only sensitive and detail-oriented, but was able to tap into who Minnie was as a person.  The two worked together to finesse all aspects of the set down to the smallest details.

Just as Minnie’s Haberdashery was treated as a character in the movie, so too were the stage coaches: one driven by O.B., that Tarantino referred to as the “red stage coach” and the “black stage coach” that appears in the second half of the movie.  Taneda sourced actual stage coaches used for exterior shots, then built duplicates with interiors that were fully fabricated.  Half sections of the build were put on a truck bed for the two shot scenes that dominated the early part of the film.

Tanada also was on set early before the snow fell to consult on all locations being chosen for the production.  Being a non-English speaker, his interpreter, Junko Goda, was present from the early meetings until production wrapped, clearly communicating all requests and demands made to and coming from Taneda.

To learn more about “The Hateful Eight” please visit:  http://thehatefuleight.com/