​Jennifer Jason Leigh looks ahead

Jennifer Jason Leigh won fans, but no Oscar, for her role in the 1982 film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Fast forward to next Sunday night, when she'll be awaiting the call for THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE. Tracy Smith now on the difference 34 years can make:

In Quentin Tarantino's big-screen western epic, "The Hateful Eight," there are plenty of familiar faces (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth) ... and one you might not have seen for a while.


Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a prisoner on her way to be hanged, and you can tell from her shiner and blood-stained face that it hasn't been an easy trip.

"The way you look in that movie, how would you describe it?" Smith asked.

"You know, she's had a rough go," said Leigh. "I mean, she has a black eye, and her face is scratched up and bruised. And I remember the very first day of shooting just taking a picture and sending it to my mom, just saying that, 'This is as good as it's gonna get.'"

And she's not kidding: For much of the movie, she's chained to Kurt Russell, a bounty hunter who rules with an iron fist (usually to her face).

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Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Hateful Eight."
Weinstein Company

"I mean, it really is a fun job," Leigh said. "I mean, what we get to do is great."

"It's funny, 'cause you kind of think that you'd be a little sick of Kurt Russell," Smith said, "since you were handcuffed" for the entire film.

"Never. Never. No, I wish I were still handcuffed to him, to be quite honest. He's just the best guy, he really is."

At 54, Leigh never imagined she'd be in cahoots with Quentin Tarantino. But then, she never thought she'd hear the words "Best Supporting Actress" -- her recent Oscar nomination for "The Hateful Eight."

And if that weren't enough: She's also the voice of the title character in the Oscar-nominated stop-motion animated film, "Anomalisa."

"It took us three days to voice it, but it took them two years to actually make the movie," she said, "because, at best, they shot two seconds a day -- if they had a good day."

"That's wild!"

"Incredible, Incredible. The sex scene alone took six months to shoot. Six-month puppet sex scene!"

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A tender scene between Michael and Lisa (voiced by David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the stop-motion animated feature, "Anomalisa."
Paramount Pictures

"Do you allow yourself to think about what Oscar night will be like?"

"I didn't even allow myself to think about what this interview would be like!"

It's a big moment for any actor, especially one who thought her acting career was all but over.

In the 1980s and '90s, Leigh was a fixture on the big screen. She was a total a nut case as Bridget Fonda's creepy copycat roommate in "Single White Female" ... she played a tough-talking reporter who packed a wallop in "The Hudsucker Proxy" ... she was at her droll and witty best as Dorothy Parker in "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle."


But her career really began with a major hit: 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

She was 19, and happy to be working, but not all that surprised - show business was just part of life growing up.

"I grew up in Hollywood. So it really did seem like that's what people did when they grew up," she said. "It didn't seem like some far-away dream or something like, 'Could that happen?' It just seemed like, 'Oh yeah, that's what people do when they grow up.' There's a naiveté to that, obviously. But I think that worked in my favor ... because it didn't seem impossible."