The Hateful Eight: Damien Bichir Talks Working With Tarantino & More

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The Hateful Eight is the eighth film by Quentin Tarantino and surrounds eight characters of questionable moral nature stuck together in Minnie?s Haberdashery overnight in order to weather a winter storm. It is Tarantino?s play on The Magnificent Seven.

Damien Bichir (Che, The Bridge), plays Bob one of the titular Hateful Eight who has the biggest coat and most secretive personalities of the bunch.

Bichir sat down with us to talk about Bob, the experience of shooting The Hateful Eight and being the tropical fish in a winter climate.

The Hateful Eight hits theaters on January 8th, 2016.

** note: there will be spoilers for The Hateful Eight in this interview.

For The Hateful Eight did you open your eyes at all? Bob has a mean squint throughout the entire movie.

Damien Bichir: (laughs) Well, there?s one eye that is not working properly. One is always, you know, [half open] and my eyes are very small anyway and, then this one was even smaller. You know, when you are building a character you do that along with your director and you come up with many different ideas and, then you see if they work or not. Fortunately, Quentin [Tarantino] is that type of director who loves to work little bit little - have this work on the table first and read, understand psychologically who we are and where we?re goin and all that - so, we had time to create that and it worked. It was a very interesting side of the character that he liked.

Did you take any inspiration from any classic Westerns or any actors or was it all in the room?

Bichir: Well, you know, I had never been a big Western fan before this, but then, we actors, that?s pretty much what we do. They pay us to know more about life and I had The Hateful Eight pending and I needed to one day take a look at the genre and it was a perfect moment to do that and, then I became a fan.

I couldn?t stop watching the classics and, then jewels that are hidden here and there and I don?t think I got a specific inspiration [from] any specific character or film. We wanted to create our own world. It?s difficult to do that because everything has been done on set, but I insist you need a brave, risk-taker type of director to be able to do what we did.

If you?re afraid you can?t achieve that on screen in every department, not only our work as actors - the wardrobe and the set design, of course, the lighting, the photography, everything - and I?ve heard the music is fantastic too.

Have you seen the film?

Bichir: I have not seen it and, being a big fan of Quentin?s films forever, as I was shooting the film I remember saying every end of the day, ?I can?t wait to see this! Please, give me my ticket! I want to buy it now!? I will be lucky to see it on Monday at the big Dome.

Because the film was shot in Cinerama?

Bichir: 70mm. I usually prefer to watch the films I do before everyone else is together, but I haven?t been able to do that because I?ve been busy, so I?m happy to wait until Monday.

Can you tell me about the coat that you wore as Bob?

Bichir: (laughs) It?s beautiful, yes. You know, I just love Courtney [Hoffman], she?s so great - our wardrobe designer. Oh, man, she?s so great. I think you need all those elements to create your character and if you don?t have that, then you?re only building castles in the air and that was a key part, for me, specifically, but, then you take a look at every single character and they all have their own personality and they all have their own little things - they?re own little, beautiful, crispy details here and there - that makes everything beautiful and perfect.
Mine was just glorious, you know? That coat - Courtney and I had this story that I think [Bob] probably made it. Bob the Mexican probably made it himself, you know? With cats - stray Mexican cats - some rats, maybe some raccoons. We have many different types of tiny animals - squirrels, mice, maybe, hamsters. (laughs) Yeah.

Was the coat heavy?

Bichir: It was very heavy. It was perfect. It was perfect because, you see, you have those elements with you and, then you play with them. If you are able to adapt those elements into the character, then you are halfway through. You are in good shape. I?m also talking about the hair, I?m talking about the beard, I?m talking about, you know, even the voice - everything, you know what I mean?

Was the beard your beard? It wasn?t a a piece?

Bichir: Yeah, yeah. No! You can?t wear that thing! I don?t like wearing fake nothing. Films go very fast, you know, you shoot that very quickly and if I was a monster actor it would be easy for me to jump in and out of the wagon, but I need to stay connected 24/7 and the best way of doing that is keeping the face at all times. It?s, kind of, a psychotic, crazy way of living life, but - to me - it?s the only way. I try to invent the least possible elements, as much as I can have those elements for real, then I?ll be fine.

Outside of Silent Night, do you play the piano?

Bichir: (laughs) We actors, I?m telling you. I remember doing this film where I was supposed to be an expert in scuba diving, right? But, you wouldn?t see the character scuba dive. It was just a couple of things here and there, but then, I became an expert in scuba diving and I?m a certified scuba diver.

That?s what we do.

I?m still working on some sonatas right now, some Chopin and Beethoven and even some Debussy.

Clair de Lune?

Bichir: Oui, madame! That?s exactly the one I?m working on right now and I?ve always loved music in general, like to play guitar badly and I used to play piano, but literally, play with it. Just play, like a kind, but now I have some proper instruction, so I?m having fun doing it and I learned how to play Silent Night the classic way and, then you can play with it in many different ways. I have a beautiful piano now in my house. Yes.

Were you playing the piano in real time during The Hateful Eight?

Bichir: You can?t do that. You can?t do that because the way sound works is that you create that separately and, then the sound masters they put it together. No, we didn?t do that. We did that separately.

What was it like to have your face shot off?

Bichir: Actors, we go through some weird stuff, always. You know, I once did a film with Javier Bardem called Perdita Durango [Dance with Devil: English Title]. He kills me by destroying my face with a broken bottle and, of course, that?s dummy. It?s a mechanic face and we used also a mechanic face. You can?t get shot in the face (laughs) and, then live to tell the story. It?s always weird to see that. It?s always weird to see your face, you know, animatronic-ly working in the scene. It is very, very creepy, but beautiful. It?s great.
I think that?s one of the things we, as moviegoers, love - the craziness of it. How do you do it? How do you do that? How do you do that? It?s beautiful. It?s wonderful.
I did get the shots in the body, though.

Were they squibs?

Bichir: Oh! Never got so many rounds in my life! Never because we did seven takes and it?s a total of ? four each. 28 rounds.

Can you feel it when they go off?

Bichir: Yes.

Does it hurt?

Bichir: You feel it. You feel the punch in front and in the back.

How many costumes must you have gone through?

Bichir: Oh, no, that was crazy because we had that, of course, ready and prepared to do as many takes a Quentin needed, but that?s part of the magic of being well organized and being well prepared for such a film. Everybody did a tremendous job and I have died in many different ways, in many different films, but this - this one - is one of my favourites.

Is it more strange to experience being killed as a character or to kill someone on screen?

Bichir: Yeah. Interesting. I kill a few people in many different ways also. You see, you cannot - because I?m a pacifist - you can?t get confused and think that you are encouraging violence by doing it because this is fiction and anyone who gets confused by it is stupid - is just an idiot. If you blame a film to commit a murder, then there?s something wrong with you, my friend. You know what I mean? Please, come on.

So, I can say: that it?s part of the job and it?s fun. It?s great, you know, because everything is fiction.

Was the set actually cold because we can see your breath on screen throughout the movie?

Bichir: Absolutely. No, you see our breath all the way through every scene because it was the real thing. It was the real thing back in the middle of the mountain and, then back in the studio. When we started in the studio Quentin wanted the set to be brought all the way down to under polar bear temperatures.
Yeah, that was crazy, especially for a tropical fish like myself. I?m Mexican, remember? That?s why you can only see my eyes! But, that as the way I was, you know, all day long. All the rest of the gang used to laugh at me all the time because they knew that whenever they saw only eyes - that was me.

For the outdoor shots, were you actually shooting during winter? Is all that snow real?

Bichir: No. It?s winter. That?s winter. Everything, all the way you see, every drop of snow, every flake is the real thing back where were outside the cabin, when you see all that. The mountains, that?s the real thing. You can?t fake that. Yes.

Your scenes in the barn as well??

Bichir: Yes. Yeah, no, no, that was crazy. My character spends a lot of time outside and, trust me, it?s crazy. I insist, I?ve never been under such temperatures. The coldest I?ve ever been was -9C, so that?s cold and this was -17C. Yeah. That was quite a lot, but we managed. I?m surprised I didn?t die. I thought, ?Yeah, this is my last film. Sure. I?ll be saying good-bye after this.? No, I survived.

In between takes would you use hand warmers and heaters?

Bichir: Oh, we had everything! Electric socks, warm this, warms that, underwear. Everything. Everything a tropical fish needs to survive. Oh, yeah, I didn?t play games and that?s when the coat came handy ?cause, oh, that was perfect. It was perfect. Oh, man, thank goodness for that.

Which scene or take was the most challenging?

Bichir: I think one of the most difficult scenes was the one at the barn with Sam[eul L. Jackson] because we were jumping in and out [of] the barn because the weather was too crazy and was playing games with us, so sometimes we began doing that scene and, then we had to stop it and take it back a few days later and, so that?s hard. It?s difficult because you?re already there and you want to finish it there and you have to take it back there a couple of days later. That?s always tricky.

That was one of them, but there were many. Every take is challenging and it was just very beautiful to see most of your heroes - people that I always admired - to be able to play in the same field as them fantastic soccer. I love football. It was just an honour to be a part of that cast, to see them so close, it was a gift for me, as an actor.

As an artist, you pray for those type of films with such a huge director like Quentin. He is one of the loveliest people I know. Quentin, he is such a lovely man and I know very few director who love his actors as much as Quentin does.

So, we can look forward to seeing you in more of his films??

Bichir: Oh! I would kill for that chance! This, to me, it has been one of the most powerful experiences ever because you are such a big fan of his work and, then to be able to witness what he does as an artist. That was a gift.

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