There was a lot to see in Quentin Tarantino’s talky, three-hour whodunit western epic The Hateful Eight, but perhaps the most touching scene was when bedraggled fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) plucks a guitar while singing her own version of “Jim Jones at Botany Bay,” a traditional Australian folk ballad about a criminal found guilty. Among the only action scenes in the entire thing involve actor Kurt Russell, playing bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth, snatching the guitar from her hands, and smashing it to pieces. It turns out the guitar used on-set was no prop. It was an authentic and priceless 145-year-old C.F. Martin & Co. guitar the production used on loan from the guitar maker’s own museum.
On one hand, yikes, that had to have been pricey. On the other, well, you haven’t seen acclaimed actor Kurt Russell smash a priceless 145-year old guitar unless you’ve seen acclaimed actor Kurt Russell smash a priceless 145-year old guitar in 70mm.
Per Reverb, Martin’s director of the museum, archives, and special projects Dick Boat, who loaned Tarantino’s movie the guitar for the scene, said, “We were informed that it was an accident on set. 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 artifact from the Martin Museum.”
Sorry Dick, you know what they say about when you assume things.
Allegedly the irreplaceable antique was supposed to be swapped out with a double when Russell’s character smashed it, but nobody got around to telling old Kurt about it.
A quick Google search says that the range on Martin guitar prices run the gamut between “outrageously priced” and “holy shit is that really the price?” This vintage example from 1921 will set you back about $6,000. While this old Martin guitar, circa 1850, was appraised at a maximum of $2,400 on your grandma’s favorite TV show, Antiques Roadshow.
The Martin Museum was insured for the destroyed guitar’s purchase price, but the incident still doesn’t replace its value. Despite Boak saying with a tear in his eye, “the incident was very distressing to us,” Reverb reported Martin Museum representatives asked the production of The Hateful Eight “Can we please have all the pieces to display in our museum?”
The priceless guitar destroyed by Kurt Russell in that one Quentin Tarantino movie will probably draw more people into the museum than just another in a line of priceless Civil War-era stringed instruments.