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Quentin Tarantino Sets Record Straight On Will Smith's (Non) Casting In 'Django Unchained'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 16, 2012 at 7:00PM

A double-shot of Django Unchained news in one day; how about that...
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Django promo 2

A double-shot of Django Unchained news in one day; how about that...

First, you'll recall last year, when news of Quentin Tarantino's slave revenge flick surfaced, and all the speculation on who would star as the title character, with Will Smith supposedly being Tarantino's very first choice for the part. At the time, Tarantino said that he planned to cast "top shelf" for the film; and it certainly didn't get more "top shelf" than Big Willie.

At the time of that post, Will Smith had reportedly received the screenplay, but hadn't yet signed on to play the part.

However, it was later suggested that Smith passed on the project, with lots of speculation as to why he did that, but no confirmed reasons, until very recently, when, while plugging Men In Black III, in an interview with Empire magazine, Will said the following when asked why he didn't take the part:

"I came really close, it was one of the most amazing screenplays I had ever ever seen... I was in the middle of 'Men In Black 3' and [Tarantino] was ready to go, and I just couldn't sit with him and get through the issues, so I didn't want to hold him up. That thing's going to be ridiculous. It is a genius screenplay."

Fast-forward to this past weekend for the other side of the story, directly from Tarantino himself, who set the record straight during the Django Comic-Con panel, saying the following, when asked about Will Smith's casting in the title role (courtesy of Total Film):

"Much more has been made out of that than is the case. When I wrote Django, I did not write it for anybody. I had no idea who was going to play it and it was kind of a little bit like, gosh, who is going to play this guy? And so I met with six different actors. "[Will Smith] was one of the people that I met with. And then I met with Jamie [Foxx] and he came over to my house and I was going to put him through the ringer. It was going to be like a three-tier meeting with everybody and kind of really test it out and this and that and let’s do some scenes together. And at the end of this long process, I would make my decision. And, frankly, Jamie was the last one that I got together with and after I got together with him, I called the other guys up and I go, 'Look, I found my Django. And no disrespect and everything and we could have taken it further and I know…' But you just know when you meet the guy and I met the guy. And one of the things about him, aside from everything else about Jamie, just when it comes to this movie, he just got it. He just understood. He understood what I was writing, he understood what needed to be there and he understood what needed to be on screen and he understood how people should take it. But then, also, just to cut to the chase, he was the cowboy. I met six guys, six magnificent actors, but he was the cowboy and I was looking for the cowboy."

So there ya have it folks; case closed. There seems to be some conflict between what Tarantino says here, and what was believed to be the case when it was first announced last year that Will Smith was supposedly Tarantino's choice for the role (casting top shelf as he said), with rumors that Smith didn't take it because of the controversial nature of the part, and also the fact that he'd be playing second fiddle to Christoph Waltz's character for much of the film.

But no matter at this point I guess. So, file this one away in the "done" pile. 

However, the immediate question that came to me as I read his response was, who were the 6 actors he met for the part? Will Smith and Jamie Foxx obviously take up 2 slots; Michael K. Williams told us last year that he was once in the running, so that makes 3. I don't recall Idris Elba ever publically stating that he was in contention, but I think he hinted at that last year, so I'm going to say he was number 4. That leaves 2 slots.

Who were the other 2 actors that Tarantino looked at? No, it doesn't matter anymore, but I'm curious... 

This article is related to: Django Unchained, Will Smith, Idris Elba


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