Whether you’re a die-hard Quentin Tarantino fan or not, no one has any trouble remembering Django Unchained, the director’s 2012 foray into the spaghetti Western. The violent, star-studded tale of an antebellum-era slave-turned-bounty-hunter was a massive hit at box-offices the world over and marked career Oscar number two for both Tarantino and Christoph Waltz.
As with all Quentin Tarantino films, Django Unchained faced its own somewhat steady degree of controversy, from claims of racism regarding Tarantino’s re-imagining of history, to more commonplace criticism of his penchant for violence. Any time an interview took place with the director before, during, and after the film’s release, Tarantino was typically quite open to discussion on most topics, although sometimes of course, he reached his limits.
One of the topics that Tarantino did speak of quite regularly was his casting decision for Django. Having made it clear quite early on that Jamie Foxx wasn’t his original choice to play the role, Tarantino insisted that he had been speaking with several actors, the front-runner of which was Will Smith. After the film was released, the director revealed that after much discussion, Smith didn’t walk away from the project, but that the material just wasn’t 100 percent right for him. Now, during THR's annual actor’s roundtable, Smith has spoken of his real reasons for not taking the role of Django.
"It was about the creative direction of the story. To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin and I couldn’t see [eye to eye]."
Apparently, it was the violence that the two couldn’t see eye to eye over. Where Tarantino saw the film as a bloody tale of vengeance, Smith saw it as a love story:
"I wanted to make that movie so badly, but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story. We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to f— somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. I just couldn't connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.”
This revelation comes just as Quentin Tarantino is preparing to once again embark on a promotional campaign for his follow up to Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight. That film sees Tarantino return to the Western genre once again, this time in the much more minimalist setting of a log cabin in the woods during a fierce blizzard. The film hits theatres this December and boasts a typically diverse Tarantino cast, including: Channing Tatum (Magic Mike), Samuel L Jackson (Chi-Raq), Kurt Russell (Furious 7), and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Twin Peaks), among others.
There’s no denying that Will Smith is a massive Hollywood presence and can bring in a huge fanbase to anything he stars in. In this case however, it’s hard to imagine that Smith’s idea of a love story would have gone the distance. Anyone who’s ever watched a Quentin Tarantino film knows that his stories are not love stories. Fans don’t stand in line to see the latest Quentin Tarantino film because there’s the promise of love – they go to see a smart, entertaining and yes often comically violent tale unfold before their eyes. If there’s a lesson to be taken away from this incident, it’s this: when Quentin Tarantino has a vision for a film, it’s probably best not to mess with it. Like his films or not, the man knows what he’s doing.
The Hateful 8 will be presented in 70mm in select theatres December 25, 2015 with a nationwide digital release following on January 8, 2016.