By Drew Taylor | The Playlist April 18, 2013 at 1:06PM
There is a host of extras on the deluxe Blu-ray edition of Quentin Tarantino's revisionist splatter-western "Django Unchained" (out this week), but amidst all the special features, there's one thing you won't find: deleted scenes. During the press day we attended for the film back in December, Tarantino theorized that there could be a longer "Dances with Wolves"-esque director's cut one day, but as of now, that has yet to materialize (Samuel L. Jackson has joked he can't wait to see the five-hour cut). But just because those deleted scenes aren’t part of the supplementary material or reintegrated into the film (yet), doesn't mean that they weren't there at some point – either at script phase or during filming. It's with this in mind that we run down the biggest deletions, omissions, or adjustments between what "Django Unchained" was to be, and what it ended up being.
Even for super-fans of the film (this writer included), "Django Unchained" felt like Tarantino's messiest movie by a considerable margin. Robbed of inventive structural or chronological devices, it's his most doggedly linear film, but at various points in the movie it feels like huge chunks are missing – even at nearly three hours it feels incomplete. Tarantino seems to know this too – there are snippets of dialogue on the official soundtrack that never actually appear in the final film and he has gone out of his way to note that the Vertigo comic book tie-in is based on his original screenplay, so you get the whole "Django Unchained" enchilada with that one. Here's an in-depth rundown of all the major differences, and if you're interested, for even deeper texture, make sure to look at our in-depth examination of the characters of the original screenplay.
"Django Unchained" had a revolving door of actors who were attached to the movie and then quietly exited, but there was one role that seemed less "difficult" than "cursed." To explain: In the final film, freed slave bounty hunter Django (Jamie Foxx) and his mentor/partner King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) finally track Django's long lost wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) to Mississippi, and then discover that she has been sold to villainous slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the climax of the film is set in motion.
But how did Broomhilda end up in Candyland? In the script, a very tangential flashback -- one of those less linear moments that was totally cut from the film -- told us a lot more of Broomhilda's back-story and also revealed the excised role of Scotty Harmony. Tarantino originally cast Jonah Hill as Scotty, which made sense as Harmony was described in the script as a sexually inexperienced, slightly overweight, twenty-something "boy." But Hill dropped out and then Tarantino -- apparently totally rethinking the character -- hired Sacha Baron Cohen for it, before he dropped out as well ("Django Unchained" ran so long over schedule, many actors were forced to leave because of prior bookings).
Originally, Broomhilda was bought for Scotty by his plantation owner father from the Greenville auction (where she and Django were separated). But, almost immediately, as the script notes, "Broomhilda climbs into the driver's seat. In more ways then [sp] one." When she reaches the plantation, Broomhilda becomes "Scotty's sort of de facto sweetheart," and one night Scotty takes her into Greenville for a night on the town, eventually ending up at Calvin Candie's Cleopatra Club. Candie shows up and introduces himself, at which point Broomhilda leaves.
The night turns into a card game between Scotty and Candie, at which the stakes, when they run out of money, become Candie's favorite slave Sheba vs Broomhilda (Candie: "We ain't playin' for money no more. We matchin' nigger gals. And a nigger gal you got."). After Candie produces a winning hand (a "STRAIGHT FLUSH" in the script), Scotty calls him a cheater, and Candie challenges him to a duel for besmirching his name in his own club. Scotty realizes his predicament -- he can't go home without Broomhilda nor can he face his parents. He can't leave -- and Candie shoots him dead.
This tangent was elaborate, over ten pages long and God knows how much time it would have taken up in the film and cost to produce (we're looking at least an additional 20 minutes). But it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the script, and an amazing introduction to Candie's character. Now, though, the only things that remain from this bit are the character of Sheba and the reference to how much Broomhilda enjoys jellybeans.
The biggest blow to "Django Unchained" is that it lost so much of Broomhilda. Once the aforementioned sequence was deleted from the movie, so was (basically) that whole character. Now Broomhilda exists as a cipher –- a ghostly vision of pure love seen from a far away distance. She's a damsel and nothing more. For a director known for his complex portrayals of strong female characters (The Bride, Jackie Brown, the "Death Proof" girls, Mia Wallace), it seems almost criminal.
The Broomhilda section of the movie had some really meaty and interesting inversions: about how much her previous white owners loved her, about how she was really the one calling the shots with Scotty, and how even if she didn't love Scotty, at least she had agency with regards to the power dynamics attached to their relationship. Not to mention that after Candie kills Scotty, he humiliates Broomhilda afterwards, whipping her naked through the streets of Greenville outside the Cleopatra Club.
But all that's gone, now. And it wasn't filmed either, so don't look for it in a longer cut. When we mentioned at the press day that she seemingly signed on to be in a movie that contained this sequence and ended up being in one that didn't, she got noticeably offended. "I would have been in any version of this movie," she said. But the disappointment had to have been there. If Tarantino had shot this stuff then she would have become a character the audience was aching to return to, and not just a pretty plot device that exists to motivate Django.
Another omission that eventually got out into the world was the song R&B heavy-hitter Frank Ocean wrote for the film. Entitled "Wiseman," it's anchored by some spaghetti western-esque guitar strums and some truly gorgeous lyrics by Ocean, told from a slave's point of view (listen to it here). The problem is that it's a love song, one in which weepy strings gild the lyrics and sentiment is front and center ("but your mother would be proud of you"). When the Broomhilda/Django love story was robbed of its centrality due to the removal of her sequence, there was really no place for such earnestness -- it's too sweet for "Django Unchained" as it is now. "I could have thrown it in quickly just to have it [in the film],” Tarantino said last year. “But that’s not why he wrote it and not his intention. So I didn’t want to cheapen his effort. But the song is fantastic...”