Quentin Tarantino proceeded to wow the fans gathered in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con on the morning of July 14 2012 with a taste of his upcoming movie, “Django Unchained.” Joining Tarantino for this eagerly anticipated panel were actors from the movie: Jamie Foxx, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, Christoph Waltz, and Kerry Washington. In addition to talking about it at length, Tarantino also showed some footage from “Django Unchained,” and the fans ended up giving it a big standing ovation. If people weren’t looking forward to Tarantino’s sixth movie as a director, that quickly changed with its images of beauty and violence.
For Tarantino, writing and directing “Django Unchained” fulfilled his long held desire to make a western or, more specifically, a “spaghetti western;” a broad sub-genre that emerged in the 1960s after the popularity of Sergio Leone movies like “A Fistful of Dollars” and “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Anthony Breznikin, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, who moderated this panel said he has read Tarantino’s script and described it as a “a twisted, bloody fairy tale with a great story of revenge and a fast-beating heart.”
Tarantino, who came to Comic-Con looking like a cowboy himself with his leather jacket and fedora hat, said the initial idea for “Django Unchained” came to him 13 years ago. The story revolves around a former slave who becomes a vengeful bounty hunter in the pre-Civil War South. The way Tarantino saw it, the “surreal, horrible, historical reality of slavery in the U.S.” served as a perfect fit for the spaghetti western genre.
Playing the Django of the movie’s title is Oscar winner Jamie Foxx who described Tarantino’s script as “courageous and controversial,” and that going to the set each day was the equivalent of “going to an all-star game every day” when taking into account the cast and material involved. In terms of getting into the mindset of a slave, Foxx said he was encouraged by Tarantino to “strip down” his life as a celebrity in order to better understand his character. The actor also said that his upbringing in the south as a kid helped him in playing this role:
“Being called a n***er when I was growing up, it helped me to grasp the nature of the script because I had certain parallels in my life to Django, growing up as a kid in the South.”
Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his performance in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” plays the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz who ends up freeing Django from slavery and trains him in his profession. Tarantino described Schultz as a Yoda-like character to Django, but Waltz said the characters have a different relationship than that which is “formed in the course of fantastic adventures.”
While Samuel L. Jackson didn’t appear for this Comic-Con panel, his character of Stephen was discussed quite a bit. Stephen is essentially the father of Calvin Candle (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character), and he runs Candle’s plantation along with Billy Crash (Walt Goggin’s character). But despite Stephen being a former slave himself, his character proves to be very unsympathetic in the large scheme of things as he controls the show behind the scenes.
Don Johnson plays Spencer ‘Big Daddy’ Bennett, a character he described as “funny and bad.” In researching the history of the Civil War, the actor described how many ex-slaves migrated to the west and encountered various American Indian tribes. This came to inform the character of ‘Big Daddy,’ and Johnson even said his voice was inspired by the classic cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. Johnson also described him as being a “kinder, gentler slave owner,” to which actress Kerry Washington said:
“That’s what they all say.”
Speaking of Washington, she plays Django’s wife Broomhilda who has been sold as a slave to Candle’s plantation. For the role, she had to be coached in the German language as that was part of her character’s backstory. It turns out that Broomhilda comes from her owner’s name as that was the case with real-life slaves. Washington even went out of her way to say that film “scares the s***” out of her as she was struggling to figure out how her character fit into “this brutal world” Tarantino came up with.
In addition to studying German, Washington also learned about horseback riding and was instructed by Tarantino to watch films from the 1930s and 40s that dealt with the antebellum South. Among those movies she watched were “The Flame of New Orleans” with Marlene Dietrich and “The Spoilers” in which Dietrich played a character by the name of Broomhilda. Washington even pointed that her character existed in a time period where “women had to be strong because the black family structure was torn down.” As a result, she found a particularly strength certain people had in this time period.
As for what’s next for Tarantino, the filmmaker openly admitted he’s not sure. For him, the biggest moviemaking adventures have been “Django Unchained” and “Kill Bill,” and he’s not certain as to how to follow up those epics. “Kill Bill, Vol. 3” is still something Tarantino wants to do, but he doesn’t see that happening for another ten years or so. He honestly said he doesn’t know who will be by the time he has finished this project.
This presentation at 2012’s Comic-Con in San Diego ended up getting people more excited about “Django Unchained” to where it is becoming 2012’s most anticipated movie after “The Dark Knight Rises.” While it may seem strange to release a movie like this on Christmas Day, Dimension Films did release “Wolf Creek” on that same day back in 2005 (talk about your counter-programming!).
This particular movie looks to redefine the world of movies in a big way. Tarantino ended the panel by saying:
“We’ll see you Christmas!”
We sure will buddy!
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