Martin Guitars ‘Distressed’ at Tarantino’s Treatment of Priceless Instrument

Why in the world was Quentin Tarantino--the "Madman of Movie Mayhem"--given access to a one-of-a-kind, century-and-a-half-old Martin guitar?
hateful eight martin guitar

When Reverb ran a story on Tuesday, “The Hateful Eight” Hates on Six Strings”–about the crappy treatment of a super-rare authentic 1870s-era Martin guitar on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight that had been reported earlier by the website SSNInsider–Dick Boak, Martin’s historian, archivist, and museum director was… well, let’s just say he was surprised, to put it mildly.

It was news to Boak that the script actually called for actor Kurt Russell to smash the guitar–although Russell was supposed to smash one of six doubles of the ancient Martin and not the real thing. Boak knew the one-of-a-kind instrument–which was on loan from the Martin museum–had been damaged, but said he had no idea it was smashed during filming.


Boak contacted Reverb earlier today with this response:

“We were informed that it was an accident on set,” Boak says. “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.”

In other words, Tarantino: Don’t expect Martin Guitars ever to work with you again on anything.

“As a result of the incident, the company will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances,” Boak says.

After telling Martin that the instrument had been damaged, the filmmakers returned the pieces so the company’s repairmen could try to reconstruct it, but the guitar was ruined.

“Upon inspection of the pieces, we realized that the guitar was beyond fixing,” Boak told Reverb. “It’s destroyed.”

What’s more:

“We want to make sure that people know that the incident was very distressing to us,” Boak says. “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.”

One lingering question: Why in the world was Quentin Tarantino–the “Madman of Movie Mayhem“–given access to a one-of-a-kind, century-and-a-half-old Martin guitar in the first place?

Mark Kemp
Mark Kemp

Former AG editor Mark Kemp is the author of Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South (Simon & Schuster, 2004; University of Georgia Press, 2006).