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Quentin Tarantino Debates 'Django' Plot With Critic; Concedes Critic May Have a Point

by Matt Singer
December 26, 2012 1:40 PM
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The following post contains a few SPOILERS for "Django Unchained."

Quentin Tarantino on the set of "Django Unchained."

HuffPost Entertainment's Mike Ryan wasn't originally scheduled to interview Quentin Tarantino at the "Django Unchained" junket. But then Tarantino read Ryan's review of the movie, including the part where he described the two heroes' plot to rescue Django's wife Broomhilda as a "harebrained scheme" and a "convoluted plan." Naturally, he disagreed. Rather than complain about it to someone else, he decided to settle the matter in an informal debate with Ryan.

Their exchange is now published on Huffington Post, and it's a really interesting interview -- particularly because as the men discuss the matter, Tarantino eventually admits that Ryan kind of has a point about the whole thing. Specifically, they're talking about how Django (Jamie Foxx) and his bounty hunter partner Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) disguise themselves as Mandingo trainers in order to infiltrate the plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and sneak off with Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Ryan argued that their plan is needlessly complex and way too risky; why set up such an elaborate cover story when there is a simpler one available? Here's what went down (Ryan's in bold, Tarantino in plain italics):

I think the plan sets up some interesting things that happen in the movie. But it seemed overly grandiose ...

You don't have to be defensive about it; I just want to talk about that issue. And where I'm coming from is, actually, I see where you guys are coming from -- but, ultimately, I think you're wrong. And here's the thing about that: it's kind of a two-pronged thing. One thing is, Schultz can't afford to be wrong. He just can't afford to be wrong. They have to get Broomhilda. Now, frankly, if he was straight-up with him, how exactly would they get to Candyland and get invited to Candyland? To do everything they do would be kind of dubious.

Schultz is German. He heard on the street that there's a German-speaking woman being prostituted and now he's interested. Something like that?

No, no, no ... that, you know, I mean ... that ... could work. That could work. Here's the thing: you've got to think of who Schultz is. I see where you're coming from. But it does sound like you're thinking what you would do. You have to think about how Schultz would respond.

Tarantino goes on to explain that we've already seen Schultz to be a lover of enormously complicated plans. Earlier in the film, we watch him find and kill a bounty in the least pragmatic way possible. He could have gone to the local authorities, told them the situation, and had the man brought to him. Instead, he kills the bounty first, unnecessarily putting his life in danger and then talking his way out of it. So Schultz is clearly established as an eccentric showman -- and the Broomhilda situation allows him to play that role once again.

Ryan's point is that despite his love of risks, Schultz also comes off as a brilliant tactician who knows what will happen in every situation before it does. And for someone with such predictive abilities, the plan to save Broomhilda is a little short-sighted, especially when there is this other more reasonable plan sitting out there waiting for him.

Ryan and I talked about his problems with the "harebrained" scheme after the movie. I didn't love "Django" (you can read my own review here) but I didn't have much of a problem with Django and Schultz's plan for one simple reason: it doesn't work. It's not as if Schultz eschews a perfect scheme for a flawed one and still gets away with it all. He makes a mistake, and he pays for it. I found something appealing about watching this seemingly invincible guy laid low by his vanity. That's a common Tarantino theme -- recall Marcellus in "Pulp Fiction" telling Bruce Willis' Butch to ignore the sting he feels deep inside when he throws a fight. "That's pride fucking with you," he says. "Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps."

To Tarantino's credit, he practiced what his character preached. Despite his pride in his work, he was big enough to talk about this stuff with a writer -- and also big enough to admit that the writer wasn't entirely off-base.

Read more of "Quentin Tarantino, 'Django Unchained' Director, Challenged Us to a Debate On a 'Harebrained' Plot Point."


  • georgep | January 18, 2013 12:49 PMReply

    Did the critic even watch the movie? Both King and Stephen explained why the "snake-oil" story. They needed a big story to get Calvin's "curiosity" then his "attention," otherwise Calvin wouldn't even entertain them. He loves Mandigo fighting, isn't it obvious that's the way to get to Calvin? It was the offer of $12,000 that made their way in possible, and $300 for a broken slave would not have.

  • Calvin | December 28, 2012 8:48 PMReply

    This is an obvious plot hole and one that could be easily remedied. Firstly Calvin Candie could of had an attraction to Broomhilda and she could of been his "Number 1 Pony" hence the need for Schultz and Django to masquerade as Mandingo trainers to infiltrate Candyland and Free Broomhilda.

  • Amy | December 26, 2012 5:43 PMReply

    Tarantino's work is too heavy-handed, in some ways, with his subject matter and he is too cartoonish, farcical, blase, and exploitative in others. The issue of slavery is too painful for me to associate with comedy and/or Spaghetti Westerns. Yet, I may give this one a chance because I love the actors involved. He does seem passionate about his work and he seems to have good intentions most of the time. I'm just not a fan.

  • MDL | December 26, 2012 9:17 PM

    Amy, you say that "Tarantino's work is too heavy-handed, too cartoonish, farcical, blase, and exploitative...." You say that like it's a bad thing! If Tarantino was trying to make a real historical drama then you might have a point. But think about it. Tarantino knows exactly what he is doing. That is half the fun of his movies. They are over-the-top entertainment. For a good many people that is one reason to go to movies. His movies are only meant to be serious fun. If you don't like it that's fine - but no one expects Masterpiece Theatre when they see Tarantino.

  • BLOB | December 26, 2012 3:42 PMReply

    He admits he has a point in the same way he would've admitted had I said " man, that Django loves his wife, doesn't he?" The journalist points out an obvious character trait of Schultz's and Tarantino says "yep, that is correct. But that means that's a flaw in the character and not of the script. A character flaw that I'm acutely aware of." Hence, him saying that just because you would do things one way doesn't mean Dr. king necessarily does so as well.

  • antho42 | December 26, 2012 2:20 PMReply

    He explains that in the interview, Juandoe.

  • antho42 | December 26, 2012 4:02 PM

    No he is not, Juandoe. The film establishes that Schulz is smart but also a troublemaker that likes showmanship (i.e., "panache"). Not only do Candy end up punking him -- by signaling for the mandatory handshake-- Candy is gloating at the fact that he punked him. Schultz's pride is basically shattered: who could he had been punked by a barbaric child? Hence, the "I could not resist" explanation.

  • antho42 | December 26, 2012 4:00 PM

    No he is not, Juandoe. The film establishes that Schulz is smart but also a troublemaker that likes showmanship (i.e., "panache"). Not only do Candy end up punking him -- by signaling for the mandatory handshake-- Candy is gloating at the fact that he punked him. Schultz's pride is basically shattered: who could he had been punked by a barbaric child?

  • juandoe | December 26, 2012 2:51 PM

    The Schultz character is the whole yarn's anchor of reason---a crucial element in even
    the most cynical plot, otherwise it's a story run amuck, a ship without sail or compass. This is only one of several destructive plot holes that make this film entirely performance and production value dependent and ultimately render its screenplay a failure. We're talking screenplay/ plot structure, which can't be explained away and which, unfortunately, becomes an unavoidable detriment to even the most optimistic spectator---the kind of intrinsic flaw stops one from enjoying the show. Going in I hoped to be enthralled and entertained as much as the next guy.

  • juandoe | December 26, 2012 2:04 PMReply

    Did anyone else notice that it was Schultz's refusal to give Candy a handshake that triggered the spectacularly-excessive violent third-act resolution? This hollow gesture on Schultz' part debunks any integrity in his character--the character that had been built up as the most reasonable/dimensional in the entire yarn. This is only one example of various elements that are simply not justified. This is the main reason this film rests on strong performances and production value and ultimately fails.

  • Rackem | January 11, 2013 2:59 PM

    Obviously it was Shultz's refusal to shake Candy's hand that got a crapload of people killed. He says, "Sorry, I couldn't resist." Or something similar. Quit thinking about what YOU would do and think about it from the characters perspective. Watch Schult's body language and change in tone leading up to that fateful decision. He hates Candy so much he's willing to throw away his life along with Django and Brumhilde. It's not supposed to make sense. He got punked by Candy and snapped.

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