Watch out, 80s hairband rockers. You’re not the only ones who know how to smash a guitar. A 145-year-old guitar on loan from the archives and special projects section of the Martin Guitar Museum was accidentally smashed to bits when it was mistaken for a breakaway prop on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s period piece movie, “The Hateful Eight.” It’s a terrible mistake caused by poor communication that not only is making famed actor Kurt Russell the accidental culprit, but also, making it hard for future filmmakers to use the highly elusive and treasured musical artifacts.
Dick Boak, director of the Martin Museum in the archives and special projects team for C.F. Martin & Co., is piping mad over a priceless guitar being destroyed. Apparently, Russell, playing character John Ruth in the film, takes a guitar from Daisy Domergue (actress Jennifer Jason Leigh) and smashes it. However, unbeknownst to Russell, he wasn’t smashing one of the copies of the 1870s relic, but rather, the real deal. Boak told Reverb in a recent interview about the incident..
“We were informed that it was an accident on set,” he explained. “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.”
A Terrible Mix-Up
Mark Ulano, the Academy Award-winning sound mixer, said that the plan wasn’t for Russell to have smashed any guitar for that shot at all- but that Russell missed the memo. According to Ulano, the scene was supposed to stop right before Russell smashes the guitar, a quick swap made, and then when the cameras were rolling, for the copied Martin to meet its maker, so to speak.
Ulano told SSNInsider.com, “Well, somehow that didn’t get communicated to Kurt, so when you see that happen on the frame, Jennifer’s reaction is genuine.”
The Price To Pay
Because the late 19th century guitar was demolished, the Martin company has taken special precautions to ensure this will be the last antique Martin guitar to go down this way – at least in movies. Boak announced that the Martin museum will not loan guitars to movies under any circumstances. That seems a fair qualifier: for if you can’t trust a film crew stacked with Academy-Award winning professionals, who can you trust? The Martin Museum said they would not even loan out a replacement for the smashed guitar, and that the new policy was effective immediately.
The value of the guitar – being paid by the film company – is too low, since it was insured for its purchase price alone and not for its value as a musem artifact. The Museum, trying to figure out a way to salvage it, even initially asked for the pieces of the guitar returned, only to find that there was no way to repair it.
Said Boak simply: “It’s destroyed.”
Boak further noted, “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.”
Indeed, it’s a tough price to pay, and a terrible loss.