The first thing you notice is the facial hair. How could you not? Quentin Tarantino’s cast, assembled to tell his vengeance Western The Hateful Eight, sports some of the finest on-screen lip sweaters since Martin Scorsese staged his Gangs of New York. But who rocks the best bushy beards in the bunch?
Entertainment Weekly has eight character portraits as part of their Hateful Eight preview. (We linked to the cover the other day.) Let’s meet each cast member, and rank their complete facial extravaganza, using a scale of 1 through 5 – with one being relatively fresh-faced, and 5 being Galdalf the Grey.
John Ruth (Kurt Russell)What’s his role? Also known as "The Hangman," Ruth is a mean son of a bitch who is riding toward the town of Red Rock with a female bounty in tow. That murderous prisoner is named Daisy Domergue, and we’ll learn more about her in a bit.
How’s his facial hair? He gets a 4. Russell’s no stranger to a mustache, and he sports a lengthy handlebar here that’s a nice salt-and-pepper shade. He loses a point for the stubble on his chin, which creates a bit of a soul patch and prevents Ruth from rocking a full facial sweater.
Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson)What’s his role? Seeing as how Tarantino is setting his drama in the years following the Civil War, regular QT collaborator Sam Jackson’s playing a former Union officer who now spends his days in the frozen mountains of Wyoming. When trouble comes a’calling, though, you better be sure that Warren – aka "The Bounty Hunter" – knows how to handle himself… and his firearms.
How’s his facial hair? It’s a 3. Partially because his chin is obscured in this first-look photo by a scarf. But Sam’s facial hair looks manicured and in check in this pic. He also looks so damn cold!
Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh)What’s her role? Before you could say "Sausage Party," Tarantino introduces Daisy, the detained prisoner in John Ruth’s charge. She goes by the obvious nickname of "The Prisoner" is Tarantino’s script, and EW warns us that just because she’s handcuffed doesn’t mean she has been neutralized.
How’s her facial hair? Nonexistent, which means she gets a 1, though it’s worth noting that Ruth probably had to administer a beating or two to keep Domergue in line. Look at the bruises on her battered cheek and eye.
Joe Gage (Michael Madsen)What’s his role? Gage is one of the first men we associate with Minnie’s Haberdashery, a claustrophobic location that – we believe – is going to contain a good deal of the action in Tarantino’s Western. According to EW, the character who goes by the nickname "The Cow Puncher" has already taken his place in the haberdashery when the strangers pull into town, so his agenda is mysterious.
How’s his facial hair? Also a 1. Disappointingly, Madsen chose not to bury his beautiful features under a beard and mustache, so he ranks low on our hair chart. He does look 15 years younger than his actual age (56), as a result, though.
Oswaldo Mobrey (Tim Roth)What’s his role? With a nickname like "The Little Man," you can bet that Tom Roth’s Mobrey carries a big chip on his shoulder, likely to overcompensate for his size. EW reports that he’s also an outsider to Red Rock, a British citizen who likes to think of himself as "the new hangman" of this one-horse town.
How’s his facial hair? Stylish! We’re finally back in business, with a rock-solid 3 of a beard-mustache combo. What I really love about Roth’s choices are the slightly-angled wing tips he put on his mustache. He better attempt to twirl them at least once in The Hateful Eight or I’m going to be deeply disappointed.
Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins)What's his role? Apparently, Mannix is "The Sheriff" of Red Rock – a Southern boy who sought a new life on the great Western frontier. Don’t ask me why he’s wearing black. My guess is that, because this is a traditional Quentin Tarantino story, the good guys and the bad guys cross the line so many times, it’s hard to tell them apart.
How’s his facial hair? Absent. I wonder if the actors on set who were required to be clean shaven were jealous of cast members like Kurt Russell and Tim Roth. Did guys like Madsen and Goggins throw shade at their male counterparts, wishing they, too, could sport amazing period-specific beards? Anyway, Goggins gets a 1… and my disappointed gaze.
General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern)What’s his role? If Samuel L. Jackson represents the former Union army, Bruce Dern’s character – known as "The Confederate" – stands in for the defeated Southern states (giving Tarantino another opportunity to weigh in on the practice of slavery, if he so chooses). EW describes Dern’s character as "laconic," though early reports that crossed my desk pegged him as a maniac, and the above picture almost backs that up.
How’s his facial hair? A real contender for Best Beard, and a rock-solid 4. Dern wears every bit of his age, looking like a deranged Uncle Jessie from the set of The Dukes of Hazzard. The only thing that holds him back is that the actor wore a better beard in Nebraska.
Bob (Damien Bichir)What’s his role? Bob? That’s it? Bob? With all of the creative names mentioned above, Tarantino settles on Bob for Bichir’s character? We’re told he goes by "The Mexican," and that he’s running Minnie’s Haberdashry while Minnie is away on vacation. Which means it’s his responsibility to keep the roughnecks in line when the shit starts hitting the fan in Hateful Eight. Do you think Bob is up to the task?
How’s his facial hair? Seriously? Look at that thing. It’s a perfect 5, and Damien Bichir wins our unofficial and completely non-scientific Hateful Eight beard contest. That thing on Bichir’s face is so powerful, so rugged, and so unkempt that I think it deserves its own backstory, and a couple of lines of dialogue. I can’t wait to see all of these characters in action when The Hateful Eight starts screening on November 13.