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Jennifer Jason Leigh hits new heights of insanity in ‘The Hateful Eight’

By Brian Truitt | Gannett News Service

Jennifer Jason Leigh enjoyed the full Quentin Tarantino experience doing “The Hateful Eight,” in which her character cackles through getting splashed with vomited blood, piles on cuts and bruises, and loses teeth after blows to the face.

One day on set, Tarantino had yet another weird idea for Leigh’s deadly damsel Daisy Domergue in his Western epic. “I said, ‘Is that OK?’ ” the director recalls. “She goes, ‘Oh, you mean now I’m going to actually have a choice about this s—? Oh, no, noooo, now you’ve gone too far.’ ”

They both laugh about the moment now, but Leigh was committed to doing anything and everything to bring Daisy to glorious, kooky life. “She’s such a great part,” the actress says. “It appealed to everything I love about acting.”

Awards season voters have taken note. Leigh — who’s also a starring voice in the animated “Anomalisa” (opening Jan. 8 in Chicago) — has won a National Board of Review Award for supporting actress, garnered nominations for Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes, and is considered a favorite for an Oscar nod.

Tarantino wrote most of the characters specifically for the actors, but with Daisy — whom he saw as “a Manson girl out West, like Susan Atkins or something” — he wanted the character to reveal herself to him. In Leigh, he found an actress who could “make the right decisions for her.”

It was a hobby she’d always wanted to take up, but it was a tricky tune that required picking with both hands. It also clicked her into Daisy’s personality.

Co-star Samuel L. Jackson saw Leigh’s commitment “to craft that character from who she is when you first see her in that wagon with Kurt into that feral wild thing,” the actor says. “She’s as hateful as everybody else in the movie.”

An abundance of crazy stuff happens to Daisy, but Leigh had the foresight to take a picture of her face on the first day of filming, brandishing a black eye, and send it to her mom. “I was like, ‘I’m only going downhill from here.’ ”

Adds Tarantino: “She definitely wins the good sport award.”