Tarantino Wants Will Smith to Star in Django Unchained

by Anne Thompson
May 7, 2011 3:27 AM
10 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
If Quentin Tarantino lands Will Smith for his Django Unchained, it will have a huge impact on the movie. I'm not sure how I feel about it, truth to tell. Imagine that the film is The Good the Bad and the Ugly meets Mandingo or Manderlay. It's what Tarantino said he wanted to do: an entertaining spaghetti western--or southern in this case--but it's set in a very ugly place in our history, the racist south in all its abusive plantation glory.

It would take a filmmaker of Tarantino's prowess to tackle slavery in the south--as he did Nazis in World War II with Inglourious Basterds. It's a buddy buddy movie about a sophisticated outsider, German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz is attached), who bands up with slave Django and turns him into Django Freeman, as they pursue criminals and collect bounty. Eventually, they take on a more dangerous mission--saving Django's wife, who is held by a powerful Mississippi plantation owner and mandingo wrangler, notorious Monsieur Calvin Candie. UPDATE: Variety reports that Tarantino offered Leonardo DiCaprio (who speaks German thanks to his German-born mother and grandmother) the role of Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds and Schultz, but he passed on both.

The tone is key. How much fun will audiences have watching this black hero come into his own, shooting white bad guys on horseback, and angrily paying back years of horror? Safe to say, we in America--no matter where we live--haven't come close to dealing with this stuff. Are we ready for this movie? It will knock a hole in the culture in more ways than one. And I cannot wait. The script is incendiary.

So getting a globally beloved, wholesome, amiable star like Will Smith to play the angry black man role--see what I mean? Is huge.

THR reports that while Harvey Weinstein is committed to releasing the film domestically, they are seeking a foreign partner and Tarantino is meeting with studios (Universal did the honors on Inglourious Basterds). Smith would make a huge difference in the film's foreign appeal. It would also raise the budget considerably. Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson is also circling a role as house slave to Candie.

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10 Comments

  • greray | July 15, 2011 2:05 AMReply

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  • cadavra | May 8, 2011 10:10 AMReply

    Anne: A fair point, but ALI was more than a decade ago, when he was Will Smith, not WILL SMITH, and was still trying to prove he was a serious actor. I can't imagine he'd put up with Mann now.

    Paul: Travolta and Willis were in career doldrums when they made PULP FICTION. Pitt has always been pretty easy-going. None of them act as thier own producers. DeNiro only has a small role in JACKIE BROWN, and did it as a lark.

    Personally, I think it'd be swell if Smith did DJANGO. It's just the kind of gritty game-changer he could use right now. But he hasn't acted in someone else's live-action movie since BAGGER VANCE. We'll see.

  • Woody Strode | May 8, 2011 8:35 AMReply

    Come to terms? No one remembers ROOTS? As far as Will playing in a buddy-buddy western, no one remembers the failed WILD WILD WEST? This has GRINDHOUSE and MACHETE written all over it, another colossal failure.

  • DWG | May 8, 2011 6:02 AMReply

    Question: "How much fun will audiences have watching this black hero come into his own, shooting white bad guys on horseback, and angrily paying back years of horror?" or how about we rewrite this so it doesn't so backwards and hilariously bigoted: "How much fun will audiences have watching this hero come into his own, shooting bad guys on horseback, and paying back years of horror?"
    ANSWER: OOH ME! ME! I WOULD! I THINK IT'S AN AWESOME SET UP! AND TARANTINO IS A GREAT FILMMAKER TO REALIZE IT!

    Question: "Safe to say, we in America—no matter where we live—haven’t come close to dealing with this stuff. Are we ready for this movie?"
    ANSWER: Who exactly is "We"? White people? Black people? Native Americans? Southerners? Northerners? Westerners? The Klan? I mean, seriously, who are you talking about? Yourself? Wow. "Are we ready for this movie?" Ahm, isn't our President black? Are we ready for him? It's a movie. Or in language you may better understand, "[It will be] like writing history with lightning."

    wow...

  • Christopher Borne | May 7, 2011 12:58 PMReply

    Reminds me of that Chappelle Show sketch where the Haters go back in time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvXoOoQPFLs

  • Paul | May 7, 2011 11:35 AMReply

    "But what happens the first time Will and Quentin disagree on how a scene should be played? Glad I won’t be there to witness that."


    Uh, Tarantino will get his way? He's had Pitt, Travolta, Willis, De Niro in his movies. He's directed big stars before. People work with him because they respect him. He's not McG.

  • Anne Thompson | May 7, 2011 10:28 AMReply

    If Will Smith can defer to Michael Mann (Ali), he can work with Tarantino, who is smart to recognize what a departure this would be. It's a question of whether Smith will cotton to this material. It'd be a bold move.

  • cadavra | May 7, 2011 10:02 AMReply

    I strongly doubt this will happen. Will is too used to running his own shop to work with someone as single-minded as Tarantino. Most of Smith's films of the past decade have been directed by journeymen (Muccino, Zwart, Lawrence, Tennant) who will happily defer to his wishes in exchange for having a nine-figure grosser on their resumes. And who can blame them? But what happens the first time Will and Quentin disagree on how a scene should be played? Glad I won't be there to witness that.

  • pagan | May 7, 2011 9:49 AMReply

    It seems the Germans have been able to deal with their Nazi past far better than the Americans have been, with their Racism and slavery. It begs the question whether there is a genuine interest in coming to term with the history in the US, or is it a 'sweep everything under the carpet' attitude that prevails.

  • Sergio | May 7, 2011 2:54 AMReply

    "How much fun will audiences have watching this black hero come into his own, shooting white bad guys on horseback, and angrily paying back years of horror?"

    I for one sure will. I've been longing for the good old days when I used to watch overjoyed Jim Brown kicking ass.

    But Will Smith???? The Safe and Non-Threatening?????????????

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