Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, "Django Unchained," introduces us to Django, a black slave (Jamie Foxx) who, together with a German bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) attempts to save his wife from the clutches of a cruel plantation owner.
Metro sits down with Quentin Tarantino — the man behind the epic western.
METRO: How much pressure do you feel when you decide to embark on a new, ambitious project? Or is it just ‘another’ exciting challenge for you?
TARANTINO: I tend to throw myself into something I’m interested in, but then I just let things flow. I know more or less where I’m headed, but I let the characters take over and lead the way.”
How much of the storyline is based on fact vs. fiction? Could a man like Schulz have existed at the time?
Of course- even though in this case, he’s purely fictional. With Christoph, we came up with the idea Schulz was part of the refugees of the 1848 Revolution- a group of people who were against slavery and who had run away to America in order to escape death. Bu the spirit, the style of the character- that’s all me.
It certainly feels like you had Christoph Waltz in mind for Schulz when you wrote the script.
Absolutely. I’ve wanted to do Django for a while now only German dentists are hard to come by! But after Inglourious Basterds, Christoph became one of my muses and he appeared to me as soon as I began writing the opening scene. I didn’t think twice - Christoph was Schulz. We had this mysterious connection.
I believe you offered the part of Django to Will Smith before giving it to Jamie Foxx. Why the change of heart?
I had no one specific in mind - Django was just Django. In the sixties, I would have wanted someone like Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen. Jamie came over to mine and he understood the story- he was game. But the real reason I chose him over anyone else is that he makes a great cowboy. Back in the sixties, when all young actors had their own cowboy shows- I think Jamie would have had one too. Even as a black man. Bizarrely, I was after a mix between a spaghetti western hero and a young, 1960s TV star. Jamie was the one.
Did the violence bother Jamie Foxx?
Not at all. He wanted the movie to show how horrible slavery really was back then. No one’s really done that before. He loved Django’s cathartic violence.
You’re generally not thought of as being ‘political’ but…
(Interrupting) Django is a political movie. Although first and foremost, it’s a great adventure. But it’s political. My aim was to take the audience back to 1800s, in the South, before the American Civil War, and to show how life really was for black people.”
Where did this desire to denounce the violence that occurred back then come from?
I honestly don’t know why no other director has tackled the issue before. Maybe it’s a topic people would rather avoid. But it will never go away. The eradication of American Indians and the enslavement of black people are two of America’s original sins. Indians have more or less disappeared but the black community is still very much here. As is America’s unease. It’s a stain, a scar on my country’s face. The movie has done really well in the US, and the debates it has sparked are very gratifying. Between black people, white people, between black and white people. Even those who didn’t like the film are talking about it.
Director Spike Lee has accused you of exploiting slavery in the name of entertainment. Why is he so mad at you?
I don’t want to waste my time talking about him (feigns shock- then bursts out laughing).
Ever since Reservoir Dogs, it seems like nothing and no one can stop you from making the movies you want – even though they’re getting pricier with time. Is this a constant struggle?
If you want to make a big, ambitious movie like Django- you have to be willing to fight for it. And sometimes that involves battling with yourself. Especially when filming gets long and costly. I’ve always set my own path, pushing myself a little further with every movie that goes for my budgets as well! Luckily, I had the support of the Weinstein brothers and a big studio.
You say you keep pushing yourself- how far are you prepared to go?
Django was so difficult to make- my next movie will probably be much smaller. But who knows?