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Tarantino Wants Will Smith to Star in Django Unchained

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 7, 2011 at 3:27AM

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.
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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.

This article is related to: Directors, Genres, Headliners, Independents, Stuck In Love, In Production, Quentin Tarantino, Action, Western, Will Smith, Weinsteins, Screenwriters


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.