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Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained: Casting is Key; DiCaprio In, Smith Out? Who Will Play Django?

by Anne Thompson and Sophia Savage
June 8, 2011 4:55 AM
23 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood


Quentin Tarantino is known for his unorthodox, out-of-the-box casting choices, from John Travolta, Robert Forster and Pam Grier to Brad Pitt, Kurt Russell, and David Carradine. Now Leonardo DiCaprio (who Tarantino chased for the role of Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds) is in talks to play the villain in spaghetti western Django Unchained. He would play evil Mississippi Candyland plantation owner Calvin Candie, who also runs the Cleopatra Club that features sexually abused female slaves and mandingos forced to fight in death matches.

Still uncast--with Will Smith far from a sure thing--is Django, the slave freed and trained as a bounty hunter by sophisticated German Christolph Waltz (who won a supporting actor Oscar as Landa). He is appalled by the racist ways of the antebellum South, and helps to prepare Django to face Candie so that he can rescue his wife, Broomhilda. Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) plays Candie's right hand man/head house slave. UPDATE: Inglourious Basterds star Michael Fassbender's revelatory tweet that he's been cast in an unidentified role has been debunked, as it's not a verified Fassbender Twitter account.

Vote in our Django casing poll below:

The combo of DiCaprio and Tarantino is intriguing to say the least. Deadline reports that Idris Elba, Jamie Foxx and Chris Tucker are also in the mix for Django. The range of actors in the running reveal how pivotal this casting is. Like Inglourious Basterds, irreverence is king here, and the movie's tone will be set by Django. Smith or Tucker would bring some light humor to the intense role of a very angry black man, while Foxx--no slouch in the comedy department--is a powerful dramatic actor. So is The Wire's Elba, who is British (Elba's The Wire co-star, American actor Wood Harris, who played Avon Barksdale, is also worth consideration). Why do we want a descendant of American slaves to play the role? Other suggestions include Anthony Mackie and Omar Epps.

Who should play Django?
Will Smith
Idris Elba
Jamie Foxx
Chris Tucker
Anthony Mackie
Omar Epps
Wood Harris
Mekhi Phifer
  
pollcode.com free polls

Who should play Broomhilda?
Thandie Newton
Kerry Washington
Halle Berry
Kimberley Elise
Taraji P. Henson
Rosario Dawson
Sanaa Lathan
Naomie Harris
Jada Pinkett Smith
  
pollcode.com free polls

23 Comments

  • alexis Dalesio | October 16, 2011 4:11 AMReply

    I cant wait for this movie! This director recognizes talent, not box office sell-outs! I cant wait to see what he has in store for Don Johnson, the most under rated actor in Hollywood.

  • gstar | June 12, 2011 5:14 AMReply

    Edris, Terry Cruz or Micheal. J .White. as Django. Micheal Fassbender must have a part. Jada Pinket, Zoe Saldanda and Zoe Bell too.

  • Brandon | June 9, 2011 12:35 PMReply

    Why isn't Michael K. Williams in the running to play Django? He was lights-out fantastic playing Omar Little on The Wire, and this could be the breakthrough role he needs to hit the big time. His famous facial scar could even be worked into the script.

  • K | December 5, 2012 12:56 AM

    YES

  • chris | June 9, 2011 4:38 AMReply

    Dicaprio passes on Basterds - only to have Inception dropped in his lap. must be nice.

  • mary | June 9, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    I think "Django Unchained" won't alienate most of Will Smith's fans. Today, most audience would know the difference between stars' onscreen roles and stars' real personalities. For instance, playing unlikeable role in "Shutter Island" really didn't hurt Leonardo DiCaprio's box office power; on a smaller scale, starring in the erotic film "Chloe" really didn't hurt Amanda Seyfried's box office power to open romantic films like "Letters to Juliet".

    BTW, Will Smith also passed on the lead role of "Inception" before Leonardo DiCaprio took the role, and I really don't think that "Inception" hurted Leonardo DiCaprio's box office power.

  • Rob N | June 9, 2011 1:36 AMReply

    @ AS

    This seems like a trivial thing to be arguing over. The point is that this isn't the first time DiCaprio has been associated with a QT project. No matter who passed on the Landa casting, the actor and director have talked about a possible team-up before, which is worth noting when reports like this begin trickling in.

    On another note: I haven't read the script, but I heard Django was supposed to be a bit scrawny compared to the other slaves. I'm not sure Elba could pull that off.

  • Sergio | June 8, 2011 11:45 AMReply

    EALY? Nope. He's one of those green eyed "pretty boys' Too soft. You need someone hard for the role

  • AS | June 8, 2011 11:26 AMReply

    @ Anne Thompson

    I read the little Variety piece. It just bluntly states that "Tarantino wants DiCaprio to play the role of Hans Landa." There are no inside sources quoted (legitimate or otherwise) that could have provided this information. There has still been no credible evidence that has been presented to suggest that the DiCaprio rumor is anything more than speculation.

  • machin3man | June 8, 2011 10:59 AMReply

    Everyone is forgetting about the best choice for Django: MICHEAL EALY!!!!!!!
    Probably the most underrated black actor of the 21st Century.

    Love Idris and Mackie, but they're all gonna be doing big stuff soon, give Michael Ealy his shot!

  • Anne Thompson | June 8, 2011 10:37 AMReply

    It was reported at the time by Variety that Tarantino wanted DiCaprio to play Hans Landa and then moved on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Landa

  • Anne Thompson | June 8, 2011 10:31 AMReply

    I've read the script, and there are similarities to Mandingo, of which Tarantino is surely aware. But he is fashioning a spaghetti western revenge plot here, so while he's going for some shock value, it doesn't have the sensationalistic blaxploitation tone that bothered me in the Richard Fleischer film.

    I have never believed that Will Smith would go for this--although Sony acquiring some rights upped that possibility. Django is a pretty key character throughout the script--he and Christoph Waltz are the two main leads but he does have the title role. Michael Williams is a strong candidate, we should have put him in the poll.

    I like the idea of DiCaprio working with Tarantino, who brings out the best in actors and shows them things they did not know they could do--like play a real villain. DiCaprio is just coming into his prime. He's shown pretty good judgement so far, I'd say.

  • AS | June 8, 2011 10:23 AMReply

    @ Anne Thompson

    So he can speak German, great, that just leaves French and Spanish. Where specifically did you acquire the information that Dicaprio was the one that passed on it?

    P.S. I was writing the Fassbender bit before you had your little "update."

  • Sergio | June 8, 2011 10:19 AMReply

    First if all we're have dealt with this A LOT and Shadow and Act on INDIEWIRE.com (check us ou of you haven't) and according to people who have read the script from the script neither Smith (who always plays it very very safe and who is NO WAY going to take any risk alienating his white filmgoers) or Elba are right for the role. (Also it looks like Elba is going to be in Guillermo Del Toro's next film) Aside from that the charcater of Django doesn't' even take the lead until the last 30 pages of the script from what I hear. Right now the feeling is that it's either going to be Mackie of Michael Williams

    And Joan I ABSOLUTELY agree with you Mandingo is such an underrated film. I even have it on blu-ray

  • indy42 | June 8, 2011 10:18 AMReply

    Where's Michael K. Williams on this list? I'm not sure he'd be perfect, but he should at least be on the poll...

  • Lena | June 8, 2011 10:05 AMReply

    What about Michael K. Williams as Django?

  • Anne Thompson | June 8, 2011 9:58 AMReply

    First, Leonardo DiCaprio speaks German. His grandmother and mother are German. He passed on Hans Landa and then you are right, Tarantino searched far and wide looking for a bilingual actor who could play Landa and found Christoph Waltz.

    Second, I have already corrected the Fassbender false twitter issue.

  • meth | June 8, 2011 9:48 AMReply

    I hope either Anthony Mackie or Idris Elba plays Django.

  • AS | June 8, 2011 9:38 AMReply

    Thompson you've got some serious edits to make. I mean did you do any research before writing this article?

    1st:

    It is well known, by most anyway, that QT never "chased after DiCaprio" for the role of Hans Landa. The reverse might be true, but QT never wanted LD. All you have to do is listen to just one interview with Tarantino regarding Basterds and you'd know that QT wrote the part for a bilingual actor. I mean the character speaks French, German, English and some Spanish fluently. How was DiCaprio supposed to do that?

    Also, part of the whole concept of Inglourious Basterds was that QT wanted to avoid the typical Hollywood cliches by having all of the actors speak their native languages. No British actors playing German! So again, it would make no sense for Tarantino to cast DiCaprio.

    During the casting process, QT became extremely worried that he may have actually written a role that was impossible to play. He said that manny actors could do it in all the languages but "no one could capture the poetry of my dialogue in all of the languages." He came very close to closing down all production on the film just because he could not find an actor to play Landa. And then Christoph waltzed into the room and the rest is history.

    2nd:

    Michael Fassbender has never claimed to be in Django Unchained. There was a Twitter account that was opened a few days ago, claiming to be Michael Fassbender. On this account, the phony Fassbender said he was cast in QT's next. The account was so convincing that even Eli Roth thought it was him. Eli later corrected his mistake by clarifying that the account was in fact fake. By you knew that already didn't you Anne?

  • Joan | June 8, 2011 8:18 AMReply

    Why does this sound so much to me like Mandingo - an underated film if there ever was one, which includes Mandingo slaves fighting to the finish. I'm sure Tarantino knows the film - I only hope he can improve upon it!

  • Brian | June 8, 2011 6:20 AMReply

    I'm a big Tarantino fan, but if he casts Leo, I will seriously consider skipping this film. DiCaprio has ruined Scorsese's last four films, Chris Nolan's last film, and, I'm quite sure, Clint Eastwood's NEXT film!

  • mary | June 8, 2011 5:20 AMReply

    It would be sad if Will Smith still want to play safe and pass on the role of Django. Does he see what happen to Harrison Ford?

    That said, Leonardo DiCaprio would give the box office power that Quentin Tarantino needs; Leonardo DiCaprio is one of very few actors who can open adult-driven dramas, including the R-rated dramas. (If Will Smith can star in this film, it would give him more box office power to open adult dramas like "Ali" in the future.)

  • Yibbet | June 8, 2011 5:11 AMReply

    Where's Regina King?

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