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There’s a glorious scene in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight where Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue picks up a guitar and begins to play a song. The song is quiet and haunting and it adds a level of menace to the proceedings inside Minnie’s Haberdashery. At the end of the scene, an angry Kurt Russell grabs the guitar and smashes it in a fit of rage. Daisy Domergue appears horrified. Well, it turns out that look of horror was actually from Jennifer Jason Leigh, because that guitar was a 145 year old antique and the actor had just destroyed it.
Reverb published the story a couple of days ago about what happened to the guitar. Apparently, the plan had been to cut the scene at the end of the song, and then swap the antique out for a replica, that "The Hangman" John Ruth would then destroy. There was apparently a miscommunication and Kurt Russell wasn’t aware of the plan to swap out the guitar. So he simply went to town on the real thing. Now, in a twist worthy of a Tarantino script, it turns out the museum that owned the guitar had never been told the full story about what had happened to their piece.
The Martin Guitar Museum, which lent the authentic 1870s-era Martin guitar, had only been told that an "accident" had happened which they apparently took to mean that something fell on it, or that some other unforeseen and unavoidable event had occurred. Because the guitar was completely smashed because an actor wasn’t told the details properly, they view this as a completely different situation. Dick Boak, the director of the museum now says that the institution will no longer lend guitars for movies under any circumstances. His anger is pretty clear.
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.
Originally, the Reverb story makes it sound like the museum wasn’t particularly upset by the event. They actually asked if they could have the pieces so they could be displayed, because hey, the antique guitar smashed by Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight is probably worthy of a place of honor. However, Boak now states that they wanted the pieces to attempt to restore the guitar, which they determined was impossible once they realized the extent of the damage.
So, on the one hand, we have a classic and priceless antique that will never be seen again. On the other hand, the guitar’s last act will always be available to see, as its final moments were captured on film forever. Maybe not the best trade, but we’ll say this. That guitar sure made a pretty song.