How badly does Quentin Tarantino want Will Smith? He's willing to give him the world to make it happen.
Deadline reports that Sony has landed the very lucrative international rights to "Django Unchained." While ordinarily this would be a boring rights piece, it's pretty much a chess piece move for Tarantino. Sony has served as Will Smith's big screen home for years. He's the anchor of their mega "Men In Black" franchise and pretty much every film he's made in the past decade has been under their roof with the exception of "I Am Legend" and "Shark Tale." However, Universal, which repped "Inglourious Basterds" overseas, didn't go down without a fight.
At a big meeting last Friday between Tarantino and Universal, "employees wore T-shirts emblazoned with the languages of all the managing directors of the territories in town. And a bag of handmade scalps was presented to Tarantino -- a reference to the "100 Nazi scalps" from Inglourious Basterds to remind Quentin how well the studio did for that movie last time around." But, it wasn't enough.
And while some may gripe about Smith's potential casting, with the A-list actor and internationally bankable star on board, it pretty much would give Tarantino the freedom to make the movie as he envisions it. But there are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, as some of our commenters have noted, Smith isn't exactly known for his gritty roles or foul mouth and "Django Unchained" would be a huge change from his usual screen persona. If you thought "Hancock" was a bit left of field, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Moreover, like his good buddy Tom Cruise, Will Smith likes to have input on his scripts (it's actually one of the big reasons why there were constant, unending rewrites on "Men In Black 3"). Will he get that kind of input if he works with an auteur like Tarantino? Or would he be willing to cede the controls and just be guided by the director? We'll have to see. But having given the script a read, the first act could definitely use some character development for Django so it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for the script to get a bit of re-tooling.
Another interesting move from a film that everyone will be watching very closely. The Weinstein Company has the domestic rights on the film which is angling for a late summer/early fall start date.