When C.F. Martin & Co. lent a priceless, 140-year-old guitar to Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, it was on the understanding that it would be returned unharmed. Seeing that the film’s script involved Kurt Russell smashing the instrument in a fit of rage, the production came up with a skillful workaround: Between shots, they would swap the guitar out with one of six replicas made precisely for that purpose. Except that isn’t quite what happened. As the film’s sound mixer Mark Ulano recalled this week, “Somehow that didn’t get communicated to Kurt … Kurt shattered the antique guitar and everyone was pretty freaked out,” including Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose authentic look of shock apparently delighted Tarantino.
Though those involved with the production swore Martin took the loss in stride, that was apparently because the company didn’t quite understand just how the guitar got destroyed. After reading about Ulano’s remarks on blogs like anyone else, Martin Guitar Museum director Dick Boak gave a stern statement to Reverb, explaining how “distressed” the company was by the news:
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 … 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.
As a result, Boak says the company won’t loan out instruments to any more film productions — yes, even Wes Anderson’s forthcoming documentary, The Splendid Guitar That Sat on a Shelf and Nobody Ever Went Near.