Jennifer Jason Leigh has told how she had to watch powerless as Kurt Russell accidentally smashed a priceless guitar to pieces on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’.
The Martin six-string, made in the 1860s, was on loan to the movie from the company’s museum, and was supposed to be swapped for a replica in a scene where Russell’s character takes it from Leigh’s and breaks it.
But unaware it was the real thing, Russell broke it on camera – hence Leigh’s look of actual horror in the movie.
Speaking to Billboard, she said: “I thought we were going to trade out the guitars. You’re never going to cut a scene until Quentin says cut. And Kurt thought it must be a dummy guitar.
“I don’t think Quentin knew that it was the [vintage instrument], either. The scene was going exactly the way he wanted it to go, and he wanted to play one scene in the movie in real time without a cut, in one long take.
“Kurt felt terrible; he had no idea. When he found out, his eyes literally welled up. It ended up being great for the scene, but very sad for the guitar, and for my guitar teacher, and for me.”
Leigh even said that she had got to take it home with her, before its demise, and was planning to buy one for herself, believing it to cost $4000. The real value was substantially more than that, however.
“I was heartbroken about the guitar, because I was quite in love with it,” Leigh went on.
“I got to actually take it home with me, and I played it every day. It had the most beautiful, warm tone. I had asked how much it cost, and I was told $4,000, so I was kind of saving up my forced-call money [penalties paid for over-running], thinking, ‘At the end of this movie I’m gonna buy that baby… And it’s gonna be my memento that I give to myself.’
“I got a few zeroes wrong — it was a $40,000 guitar, and it was also a museum piece, so I never would have been able to buy it… But Kurt knew how much I loved that guitar. Then Quentin gave me another Martin guitar from the 1880s as my wrap present, which was kind of extraordinary.”
The news of the mistake emerged last week, and the Martin museum in Pennsylvania was not amused to find out that it was broken by an actor, having assumed it had been damaged in an accident.
Dick Boak, the museum’s director said: “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 artefact from the Martin Museum.”
“We want to make sure that people know that the incident was very distressing to us. 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.”
Tarantino has so far not commented on the matter.
Image credit: The Weinstein Company