If the prospect of seeing Kevin Costner subvert his good guy image by playing a vicious slave trainer in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained sounded too good to be true… well, it turns out it was.

Costner was all but set to play a cruel villain in Tarantino’s revenge-fueled western romp, but has been forced to bow out. Filming on Django Unchained is scheduled to begin in abut a month and a half, so finding a replacement for the multiple Oscar-winner is definitely a priority.

Variety writer Justin Kroll tweeted yesterday that “scheduling conflicts” were the reason behind Costner’s departure from Tarantino’s latest cinematic project. Costner does have a lot on his acting docket right now, including roles in Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel, and the western flick, Hatfields & McCoys – not to mention his latest starring/directorial effort, the period drama A Little War of Our Own.

For those who have not been following Tarantino’s new project: Django Unchained is an homage to spaghetti westerns (the film’s title comes from the 1966 western, Django) set deep in the U.S. south during the slavery era. It follows ex-slave Django (Jamie Foxx) as he is trained by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) and sets out to free his wife from a wicked Mississippi plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his right-hand man/house slave (Samuel L. Jackson).

Here is an early description of the Django Unchained character (Ace Woody) that Costner was up to play:

He’s the sadistic trainer of the male fighting slaves who entertain the white patrons of Candyland as well as the female slaves who are forced to be prostitutes. The club and ranch are owned by Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) and Ace Woody is the one who pits the “mandingo” fighters against one another, and has little qualms about mistreating and even killing the slaves who don’t measure up.

The role of Ace Woody calls for an actor who can be both physically and emotionally menacing – which made Costner a potentially great choice for the role. We’ll find out for certain who his replacement is soon enough, but for now we’ll go ahead and nominate Timothy Olyphant (Justified) – or even Olyphant’s Deadwood costar, Gerald McRaney, who we already know is officially in talks to join Django Unchained, in an undisclosed role.

McRaney and Olyphant in 'Deadwood'

Django Unchained reads as being a film destined for controversy – even more so than Tarantino’s bloody “historical revisionist” piece, Inglourious Basterds. Spaghetti westerns have long influenced the filmmaker’s work (both Basterds and his Kill Bill movies pay respect to the genre) so Django Unchained will provide him the chance to fully express his adoration of the mythical Old West/revenge tales spun by Italian directors like Sergio Corbucci (Django) or Giorgio Ferroni (Blood for a Silver Dollar).

Just add a Tarantino spin to either of those aforementioned titles and you’ll have a good idea of what Django Unchained will be like – and whether that is or isn’t your thing. Suffice it to say, it’s definitely ours. ;-)

Django Unchained is scheduled for theatrical release in the U.S. on December 25th, 2012.

Source: Justin Kroll