"Django Unchained" was among the last of the award season films out of the starting gate. When new Directors Guild member Quentin Tarantino finally unveiled the two hour and 45-minute film at the DGA on Sunset, it played to raucous applause. Taylor Hackford, who directed Jamie Foxx in his Oscar-winning turn in the musical biopic "Ray," conducted the Q & A, below.
Another interview worth checking out is historian Henry Louis Gates' probing The Root podcast with Tarantino, which digs into what's real and what's exaggerated, the use of violence, the n-word, and Foxx's discomfort with playing a slave. Tarantino also expresses his hatred for western master John Ford, partly because he was willing to play a klansman in "Birth of a Nation." Here's the podcast and the transcript: parts one, two and three. THR's Tim Appelo rounds up the suspects for a behind-the-scenes production feature. And here are my Comic-Con report and video interviews with Foxx, Kerry Washington, Christoph Waltz and Walton Goggins, who came into the 18-week production late after both Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell had dropped out. And here's Karina Longworth.
Taylor Hackford: I think of Budd Boetticher and the original 'Django' and spaghetti westerns, but what's your inspiration for this?
Quentin Tarantino: When you actually shoot up in the Alabama Hills where those magnificent rocks are there's no way you can frame a shot and not think about "Ride Lonesome" or "The Tall T." Where it started out was not necessarily where it ended. At first the idea was I wanted to do a western, spaghetti westerns are my favorites, I did want to do my version of a spaghetti western, but you can't do a true spaghetti western any more than you can do a true film noir movie, they were a thing of their time: I'd shoot in Almeria Spain in German and Spanish and all kinds of people would be in it and we'd dub it all later, that would be a real spaghetti western. But thematically you can do things.
Sergio Corbucci, his was the most pitiless west that a character could walk through. They're cruel movies, their characters are capable of cruel actions, they were comments on Fascism left over from World War II. And exciting stories can happen inside of that landscape. I was trying to find an equivalent of Sergio Corbucci no-man's land, where life is cheap and people are pitiless. Being a slave in the antebellum south, that would be life is a dime. I aways wanted to tell that story anyway and from that moment on everything fell into place.
TH: "Burn" by Pontecorvo is a wonderful film about slavery. Your film turns a mirror on America, on our heritage. (applause)
QT: I can understand people being uncomfortable with slave narratives, it's the ugliest time of this country, and we haven't gotten over it yet. Nevertheless, everyone talks about: there's no stories, there's nothing left to tell, especially westerns, I've seen every type of western. There's all kinds of stories that could be told in a slave narrative that has never ever been touched. Let this be the first rock through the window.
TH: Your star is a very good friend, he's a man of pride. I know this must have been difficult for him to do.
QT: I couldn't have made this movie with a Django who didn't see eye to eye with me, who didn't understand the story we wanted to tell, why we were doing what we were doing. We had humor, how to nail the humor. And Jamie in this movie he was a true lead, and a lead actor leads by example. That's what he did, for the whole cast and the crew, he was just wonderful. But he had that extra little ingredient: he trusted me. There were moments, like, 'wow do we need to do this?' and I'd say 'well, it really is the trick,' and we'd talk about it. And, 'OK we'll do it.'
TH: The directorial nuances in this, some of them are stylistic and behavioral, like the scene in the bar when they scrape the beer. He's buying this slave a beer.
QT: We talked about that: 'You realize this is the first beer you've ever had.' 'I know this is the first beer I've ever had! And this beer is fuckin' good!'
TH: Then you go out into the street for a daylight shot. He's now facing off against the marshall and the marshall's shadow in the street. Classic western.
QT: I got Bob Richardson to shoot direct light, that's really hard to do.