By The Playlist | Indiewire May 6, 2011 at 12:51PM
Samuel L. Jackson Closing In On Role Of Evil Plantation Owner's Right-Hand Slave
Here's a surprise move we weren't initially expecting, though perhaps thinking on it a beat it makes sense. Will Smith has apparently emerged as Quentin Tarantino's top choice to play the lead character in his slavery/Spaghetti Western epic, "Django Unchained."
Why? When? Who? When? Where? Or What, you say? (especially if you're a Playlist member). Well, once we're over the fact that our pick, Micheal K. Williams is not likely getting the role, a logic does seem to rise from the casting news. For one, Tarantino already worked with one of the world's biggest stars, Brad Pitt, for his WWII tale, "Inglourious Basterds," and why not work with another in Smith (maybe Tom Cruise is next in "Kill BIll 3"? ;) ) Secondly, as many have noted who have read the "Django Unchained" screenplay already, including us, it's not the most commercial venture in the whole world and it's a controversial minefield of racial politics (there's n-bombs dropping left, right and center and obviously any depiction of slavery is incredibly demeaning).
It's also incredibly long, the slavery revenge picture could easily run 2 1/2 hours like 'Basterds' did (or even longer), but what better way for Tarantino to retain full control, and colorfully cast around the lead then to hire one of the world's biggest and most box-office profitable stars. As that kind of tool, the casting move stands to reason, but it certainly wouldn't have been our first, second or third choice (indeed, we recently posted our dream casting picks for the film and Smith, and folks like Denzel Washington, were nowhere to be found; on purpose mind you).
However, as we expected, the role of Stephen seems to be set for Samuel Jackson. The character of Stephen is a manipulative right-hand top slave to the evil plantation owner Calvin Candie (not cast yet) who currently owns the freed slave Django's wife. In the picture, Django teams up with a German bounty hunter (to be played by Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife from slavery and the clutches of the aforementioned slave owner. In the last few days,both Tarantino and Waltz have shied away from admitting that Waltz had the role, but it now appears that was done because the reality is Quentin has yet to get an official green light from the U.S. distributors and producers, The Weinstein Company, but with Will Smith potentially waiting in the weeks, his signing on would likely mean a very done deal.
However, apparently one of the world's biggest actors has yet to read the script and there is that little thing about the monstrous fee he normally commands for even leaving the house, let alone arriving on a film set. That said, it's also very possible that Smith is willing to take some kind of pay cut in lieu of a major back end deal (Pitt essentially did the same and waived his normal fee; stars to make some compromises to work with QT)
We're kind of hoping this one falls through, not so we can see Micheal K. Williams in the role, but so we can see anyone but Will Smith in the role, no offense to him, he seems like a nice enough guy, but he isn't exactly creative casting as he's essentially the black version of Tom Cruise. But again, maybe it's just Tarantino's way of casting a huge star and then not having to compromise one iota of his vision. Like we said, we assumed we would be on a totally different page when it came to casting, but dare to dream, we guess. Variety says Tarantino offered one of the supporting roles to Brad Pitt, but the actor decided to pass.