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From Screenplay To Screen: Quentin Tarantino Talks Toning Down Violence In 'Django Unchained'

The Playlist By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist January 3, 2013 at 9:57AM

Amidst the ongoing flurry of debate over Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti western “Django Unchained,” one can at least declare safely that the hints to the final product on screen were always present. The screenplay -- leaked over a year ago and marked up in the director's handwriting -- contained the full vision of what Tarantino hoped to achieve, and now with disputes over the film's ruthless depiction of violence, the script and the director's words are here to clear the air.
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Quentin Tarantino

Amidst the ongoing flurry of debate over Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti western “Django Unchained,” one can at least declare safely that the hints to the final product on screen were always present. The screenplay -- leaked over a year ago and marked up in the director's handwriting -- contained the full vision of what Tarantino hoped to achieve, and now with disputes over the film's ruthless depiction of violence, the script and the director's words are here to clear the air.

With Spike Lee and Antoine Fuqua dismissed, anyone who's actually seen “Django Unchained” will notice in certain scenes a tonal shift, both in style and shown brutality, along the bloody road of Jamie Foxx's retribution. According to Tarantino, who was interviewed recently on NPR, that approach was painstakingly considered, but he admits that he pulled back in the end. "What happened during slavery times is a thousand times worse than [what] I show,” he said. “So if I were to show it a thousand times worse, to me, that wouldn't be exploitative, that would just be how it is.”

He added, “[There's] two types of violence in this film: There's the brutal reality of the violence that slaves lived under slavery laws for 245 years, and then there's the violence of Django's retribution and that's movie violence, and that's fun and that's cool, and that's really enjoyable and kind of what you're waiting for. And you're paying back the pain that you had to watch to get there.”

To garner a glimpse of the excised slavery sections he intended “to hurt and be painful,” one simply needs to turn to the original script. The 166-page document (which The Weinstein Company has hosted online for the awards season) showcases a number of extended sequences of violence and horrific behavior, but one specifically shown in trailers (and subsequently removed from the film) was the rape of Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) by the slaver Brittle Brothers.

The excerpt, which you can read below, is indeed affecting and played not the least bit for laughs, but for Tarantino there remained a point where the cruelty belied the point of the film. “[One] of the emotions I wanted you to get to is cheering Django, I wanted you to cheer his triumphs at the end and be rooting for him and if you don't cheer at the end, I haven't done the job,” he explained. “[When] I watched it with those rougher scenes, like the mandingo [fighting] scene or the dog scene or the castration scene, when they were rougher, I saw that I'd traumatized the audience too much. So their responses in all the other sections of the film were qualified by that trauma."

Fascinating stuff, and if you haven't already, check out both the screenplay and the interview, and see if Tarantino's text points to a different outcome than what his comments suggest.

Django Unchained script excerpt skip

This article is related to: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained


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