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Nothing To See Here: There's Little Reason To Be Worried About 'Django Unchained'

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by Edward Davis
May 11, 2012 12:22 PM
17 Comments
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Let's try and keep this brief, shall we? Two actors dropped out of Quentin Tarantino's would-be subversive Western cum slave epic "Django Unchained" this week -- to be more exact, the news of these two actors dropping out of the film came out this week. Presumably this actually happened a while ago. Sacha Baron Cohen had to exit the film to do press for his upcoming comedy, "The Dictator," and he and his people surely gave Tarantino and the producers a heads up about this, so it came as no sudden surprise.

Kurt Russell also dropped out of "Django Unchained" although his reasons are more nebulous, with some rumors claiming he stormed off set and quit, presumably because the material was too controversial. However, this posit seems rather ridiculous as Russell obviously read the script and knew what was involved (though apparently there are dubious eye witness accounts of the actor being on set; did he have a change of heart while actually having to play one of the backwood bigoted hillbillies in the movie?)

Some operating from a distant level have shown concern. "Two major actors dropped out!!!" they exclaim. Could something be wrong with the production? Worry and concern is clearly creeping into the movie blogosphere.

But here's a reason why you shouldn't fret (and you may have got a sense of this if you read our casting suggestions piece based on the script way back when). While fanboys never want to admit that Tarantino is anything less than perfect at all times, these two incidents may be the best two things to happen to "Django Unchained" since it was announced. Clocking in at almost 270 pages (approx 2hrs 45 min), the screenplay -- unlike the similarly long "Inglourious Basterds," which rightfully did earn itself a Best Original Screenplay nomination -- Tarantino's slave picture (which is essentially just another revenge picture) is undisciplined, unwieldy and epically long.

There are lots of tangents and detours, and fat does need to be trimmed from this script. Moreover, both Russell and Cohen's parts were small, and at this juncture there likely won't be recasting so don't get your hopes up for the return of Kevin Costner (who was originally pegged to play Russell's character). While Cohen was likely being a little modest when he called his role a "cameo" it was a rather brief sub-plot, so if it's been excised entirely as some have speculated, this isn't a bad thing. Additionally, rumors that allege Walton Goggins' character has absorbed the parts of Kurt Russell's character makes total sense: "Django Unchained" is littered with A, B and C sub-villains (almost all of them white, cowboy/slave owner/hillbilly types from the south) that tend to blur together. Ditching one of them can't hurt at all. In fact, it only helps. So two actors drop out and this potentially super-promising film gets shorter and more focused? Great, this is exactly what it needs. Don't be concerned or worried. In fact, be happy, as this is exactly what the doctor ordered. "Django Unchained," the already wisely tightened version, hits theaters on Christmas Day later this year.

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17 Comments

  • Caleb | May 12, 2012 10:41 PMReply

    This article is almost entirely comprised of conjecture, with little or no substance at all. Since when did the Tarantino camp hire the Playlist to play PR? I honestly hope you're getting some kind of compensation for that opus of dismissive bullshit. Look how ridiculously presumptuous you've allowed yourself to be with someone else's work. Big balls, really.

    And what's with the fanboy digs lately? Do you seriously not know what you are?

  • Alan | May 14, 2012 3:11 AM

    "Do you seriously not know what you are?" No, he doesn't.

  • Fred | May 11, 2012 4:12 PMReply

    Call me a Tarantino fan and believer or the same of Altman, Anderson, Lean, Fellini, Kurosawa, Lean, etc....not everyone wants everything tightened and shrunk to an MTV/ADD/Film School 101/extra-showtime-a-day standard. If it's good, more is often better.

  • Doctor Goodspeed | May 11, 2012 2:05 PMReply

    Whoever wrote this clearly hasn't read the script too well, as Russell's role wasn't "small" it was the 4th biggest role in the entire movie, so yeah. But blending it with Goggins' Billy Crash is a good idea, and I still say they should get Jonah Hill back for Scotty

  • Duddi | May 11, 2012 2:03 PMReply

    Well, why not just give a ring to Val Kilmer - i'm sure he's home having snacks, and waiting for something good to come !!! :)

  • d | May 11, 2012 1:47 PMReply

    The character of Scott Harmony was crucial....
    the fact that Ace Woody's character was merged with Billy Crash is another yikes point..
    I wish Q.T wouldn't rush his movies...He rushed Inglorious Basterds and that movie was O.K the script was AMAZING. Looks like this is gonna be the same...

  • Son | May 12, 2012 3:14 PM

    Scottie was crucial since he owned/loved Broomhilda, and his subplot served as an introduction to Calvin Candie and his devious ways, ending with him being murdered by Candie and Broomhilda falling into Candie's possession. I thought it was a pretty interesting part to the script/movie that focused on Broomhilda for a bit, so she had a decent amount of screen time. But I'm sure there are a million other ways to do the movie without that part, and I have faith in Tarantino to make a great film.

  • kinick | May 11, 2012 2:10 PM

    I'd like to know why the Scotty Harmony character was crucial?

    Personally, I'd nearly bet money it won't be recast, I think the character will be dropped but if anything from that subplot needs to be there it will be included in other/new scenes.

  • Joe | May 11, 2012 1:36 PMReply

    Wouldn't the 270-page script suggest a runtime of 4 hrs, 3o min (rather than the 2:45 you listed), going by the 1 page = 1 minute standard? Not that I would actually expect anything close to a 4-plus-hour movie, but I'm just wondering what the math is on that - how 270 pages translates to 165 minutes.

  • Sam | May 14, 2012 11:56 AM

    I think that might've been a typo. The script is, I think, about 168 pages.

  • Helgi | May 11, 2012 12:56 PMReply

    I am more concerned about the editing of this overly long film - who will edit it? Tarantino´s long-time editor/friend died last year. Who will replace her?

  • Edward Davis | May 11, 2012 1:01 PM

    The editor is Fred Raskin. He was the assistant editor on the Kill Bill films. He also did assistant editing on Nolan's Insomnia, did additional editing on PTA's Punch Drunk Love, Boogie Nights and more (he edited Fast Five too).

  • WRT | May 11, 2012 12:36 PMReply

    You're absolutely dead wrong dismissing SBC's part as "a rather brief sub-plot" that might just as well be excised. It was an absolutely CRITICAL flashback that clued us in to where Django's wife had been since she and Django had been split up. Yes, Scotty in-and-of-himself isn't critical, and surely another actor could play him, but you can't just lose that information and have the same movie. And to trim all the "fat" from the script would be to undermine Tarantino's aesthetic: his movies are disgressive, excessive, and long. This could be a 90 min thriller, but we'd have seen it before (structurally, narratively). The fat is what will allow DU to distinguish itself, among other things -- though, I suppose I agree with the specific point that the loss of one of many redneck villain types isn't the end of the world

  • Alan | May 11, 2012 9:36 PM

    "That sub-plot is driven by his character when in actuality, he doesn't need to be there."

    Nope, you still haven't clued into the point of that sequence: Candie is an evil man, and is willing to cheat, rob, steal, kill to get his way. This is key, because - in the second act - Django and Schultz go undercover into the Candie camp. These sequences function as dramatic irony, as we know how evil Candie truly is, but they don't (they didn't see these incidents), reinforcing the film's tension because the physical stakes for the characters are higher than they even expected.

    Just saying the guy runs a slave plantation in the script isn't enough to create a suitable antagonist because - by the time they find themselves on his turf - we have already witnessed plenty of evildoers in the film. QT needs to establish that Candie and his crew are the worst of the worst, and the Scotty sub-plot suggests this malevolence well before we/they have entered Candyland.

    Whatever happened to critics, like, criticizing the final film? Oh, wait, I guess I don't know what I'm talking about because I am a 'fan' or 'fanboy' or whatever label you want to put upon anyone that disagrees with your assertions.

  • Edward Davis | May 11, 2012 12:44 PM

    Said like a tried and true fan and believer.

    Yeah, and they can STILL do that sub-plot by putting the emphasis on HER rather than this minor Scotty character, who we know isn't around for long. That sub-plot is driven by his character when in actuality, he doesn't need to be there. Sure, it's a regular QT flourish, but his flourishes can bog down his own narratives. That is -- just like the author himself -- you are in love with each and every word on the page and the screen. I obviously like the guy a lot, but not all of us are devoted to the point that we're blind.

  • Sam | May 11, 2012 12:33 PMReply

    if there's any bad news come along, please put another picture. I'm starting to pity Leonardo diCaprio in this..

  • model_102 | May 12, 2012 1:53 PM

    The cast and director should try and get some big names for some small parts and medium parts and totally pulp fiction 2 this film and of course with the right plot and script , and any ways hears some names : johnny depp, christian bale, tom hardy , gary oldman , michael cane , michael keaton, and morgan freeman would be odd and different choices and there all very good in the right roles

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