The character of “Bob the Mexican,” played by Oscar-nominated actor Demian Bichir in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight didn’t start out with that cheeky description. In the earliest draft of the script, which was leaked in January 2014 prompting the famed auteur to vow never to shoot his snowy Western, Bob was a Frenchman. In fact, during the staged reading of the script back in April 2014 that eventually convinced Tarantino to go back on his word and push ahead to make The Hateful Eight his eighth feature film, Bob was played French actor Denis Menochet.
It was that November when Bichir was announced as the actor who would bring “Bob” to life on screen in “70mm gloriousness” as Tarantino’s script gushes. The director’s good friend and Grindhouse co-director Robert Rodriguez might have had something to do with this sudden change in Bob’s characterization. While working together on Machete Kills, the Texan native told Bichir that he was a “Tarantino actor,” a compliment that prompted Bichir to fire back jokingly that Rodriguez should tell that to the Kill Bill director. That seemed to have done the trick.
But what did this change in casting add to “Bob”? Well, comparing the shooting script with that earlier leaked script suggests that while Bichir and Tarantino made Bob’s Mexicanness an integral part of his character (a key plot point revolves around it, in fact), it also cost the actor a couple of more interesting scenes that were written for Bob when he was French but which were shuffled off to another performer in the necessary re-write.
Originally, it was Bob who was at the center of one of the funniest moments in the film, when a character is so happy to learn that “Oui” means “Yes” that she pleads to be asked whether her ass is fat. Tarantino clearly loved the setup but also realized that it wouldn’t work as well with “Bob the Mexican” so he gave his interaction to (not coincidentally a much more famous) actor. In fact, without spoiling too much of what happens in Tarantino’s claustrophobic tale of suspicious outlaws, it bears pointing out that “Bob the Frenchman” had a decidedly longer lifespan than “Bob the Mexican.”
But what Bichir lacks in dialogue and screen time he more than makes up for in physical performance: wearing an oversized coat, an overgrown beard, and an over the top hat, the Mexican actor milks his laconic replies for all their worth, even when they reek of the type of self-consciousness that marks Tarantino’s script (“You’re right mi amigo, muchas gracias,” “That sounds a whole lot like you’re calling me a liar, mi negro amigo”). In fact, his most affecting scene has him saying no lines, just playing “Silent Night” on an old piano but it’s not quite the showstopper some of his fellow cast members get — Kurt Russell, Walter Goggins, and Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh all get plenty of crackling dialogue and explosive shootout sequences, with Tarantino favorite Samuel L. Jackson having the most fun throughout.
One does wish Bichir had had more to do than smoke “Manzana Roja” tobacco, punctuate his dialogue with “mi amigo,” and be tasked with the menial tasks all through the film (tending horses, plucking a chicken, making coffee). For a film that really relishes turning post-Civil War racial relations through the ringer, it’d have been much more exciting to see Tarantino also give the one Mexican character more to do than merely be that — the Mexican one.
The Hateful Eight is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital.