“Kill white people and get paid for it? What's not to like?”
Quentin Tarantino . 2011.
Welcome to the only Western boasting characters called… Brunhilda and… D’Artagnan
If one started to list, or worse, ask Quentin Tarantino to enumerate his influences, that would the whole week shot. He is a director of many parts. But none of them is Sergio Leone… There is only Sergio Leone.
Consequently, there is more to complain about than admire on this Tarantino Western. Or as he preferred to dub it, a Southern. (Far more opportunity to use, repeatedly, his signature N word, more than 110 timews).
Django did not exhilarate me - not once - the way the Franco Nero Djangos did. Or Once Upon A Time in the West and The Outlaw Josey Wales (and its almost sequel, The Unforgiven) still do. Apparently, this is the first of QT's films without his usual editor, the late, great Sally Menke. And it sure shows... Over-long, or even Costner-long, is being polite. Too fracking long is being correct. And for a Western, far too much dialogue. Oh sure, he writes clever. We know that. Just cut it somewhat...
Or go write a play, already!
On top of which, QT is suddenly pretentious. He claimed that Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington were really playing the great-great-great-grandparents of… John Shaft ! Y Aw c’mon Quentin, you mean, that a 20th Century ballsy black guy would take his mother ‘s maiden name… Von Schaft !
And what’s with the bunch of Aussies taking Django and the slaves to the mine... including QT, the worst film actor in the Western world. Indeed, how come Django wasn't in the caboose with the iron bars along with the other slaves, instead of being pulled along by QT on his horse.
How that horse must have suffered! Like his film, QT has put on a lot of baggage. I'd love to see a still of QT trying to get on the horse!!!.
The film overstayed its welcome. As did Christophe Waltz (second Tarantino-Oscar or not). Delivering speeches rather than dialogue, he became quite tiring. (So did the film). Also he should avoid being photographed from the rear – when he appears to be a very small fella with long hair, like a boy all dressed up in Daddy’s duds.
Waltz would make tiny Tom look tall(ish).
Yet Waltz – or rather, his German dentist turned bounty hunter called Dr King Schulz – is the reason why Will Smith passed on playing the title role. Well, it was not the lead role. That was Doc Schulz.. And Will, well, he has to be the lead. (So he said, not me; to Entertainment Weekly). “The other character was the lead! I was like: No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!'"
“Gentlemen, you had my curiosity.
But now you have my attention”.
Fortunately, there was Leonardo DiCaprio - - as the smooth talkin’ baddy (much better than Waltz; ironically, Leo had been first choice for Waltz’s Nazi baddy in Inglorious Basterds). In his sixth QT film, Sam Jackson became tiring, too. And Jamie Foxx? Well, at least he said less. But I've seen him better. (And dressed better!). Even his fun scene with the original Django, Franco Nero, was not fun. It was.... flat. Should have been one helluva laugh.
'The D is silent," says Jamie about his name. “I know,” says Nero. I know?!! Is that all Tarantinio could come ip with. I know?!! “You think I don't know that!” would have been (slightly) better. Or, '“The D is silent.” “Yah, like you should be."
Then again, like the film , the scene had no dazzle. Didn't work. Should have been cut. QT has lost his zip..At the end of the film - at last! - I just felt.... tired. Such a pity. His biggest US hit or not. never felt tired after a dose of Leone and/or Eastwood. Or Boettiocher, Ford, Hawks, Mann, Sturges, etc. Nobody does it better...
Even Joseph L Mankiewicz made a better oater than this:
There Was A Crooked Man, 1969.
And for someone who says he hates John Ford (mainly because he played a racist in DW Griffiths' Birth of a Nation - no further and obvious comment) - QT shot a scene in silhouette. The Ford signature shot!
Now I hear QT is threatening to release a longer version of Django, so much had been cut out... This might even work in the film's favour. If it puts more action between the lengthy speeches... and explain or show why Leo suddenly has a bloody hand when he turns the tables on Schulz and Django - because, apparently, Leo hit said table with such force, he cut his hand, and just carried on.... Needed a cutaway to explain that bloody hand.... And also aneven longer cut might diffuse the insane telegraphing ze beeg finish. Soon as we see Leo's so obviously film set fake Candie Land mansion, we just know it's gonna git all blown to Zabriskie Point fragments. And when QT and his Aussies are seen carrying dynamite as well as slaves, well, there you go... Just hope the boss doesn't add more himself in any longer version - just more of Walton Goggins, who deserved more than a cough and a spit - and screams.
But I digress. This is a casting site
Django .Will Smith was first choice. (Denzel was too old!). But Smith but was stuck in Men In Black 3 and - the polite version was “I didn’t feel as though I could ask him to wait for eight months.”
Then, as Tarantino told Mike Fleming in Playboy, he turned it into a real contest. “I met six different actors and had extensive meetings… and went in-depth on all of their work.” They were: hot Brit Idris Elba (who succeeded Tom Cruise ex-role in Pacific Rim), Tyrese Gibson, Terrence Howard, Chris Tucker (he had a memorable bit in QT's Jackie Brown), Michael K Williams (from The Wire, like Idris, and making a dent in from HHB's Boardwalk Empire]. “They all appreciated the material, and I was going to put them through the paces, make them go off against one another and kind of put up an obstacle course…”
That was when Jamie Foxx rode in. On his own horse. Cheetah…
“He was the cowboy,” said QT. “Forget the fact that he has his own horse - and that is actually his horse in the movie. He’s from Texas; he understands… He understood what it’s like to be thought of as an ‘other.’”
Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly .Lady Gaga was considered for Leo’s sister. Plus QT’s favourite stuntichian, the New Zealander Zoe Bell, who was Lucy Lawless’ stunt double in Zena: Warrior Princess before joiningTeam Tarantino - doubling Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 1 & 2. On into Death Proof, Planet Terror, Inglorious Basterds.
Art Speck . Or Ace Woodywhen QT persuaded Kevin Costner to become the humorless, sadistic (indeed, murderous) trainer of Mandingo-style slave fighters for DiCaprio’s Candyland club. Another QT supporting gem, but it would have tied up Costner up for two months when he was committed to being Superman’s earth daddy, Pa Kent, in Man of Steel plus his own Western plans, The Hatfields and McCoys, a full series this time and, therefore, a whole new departure for the History Channel. (Costner also passed on Bill in Kill Bill).
Kurt Russell, who co-starred with Costner in 3000 Miles To Graceland, 2001, was next in line, but finally Remar - already cast as Butch Pooch played them both!
Well, that is to say that Ace This or That was divided between both Remar’s Ace Speck – and Walton Goggins’ role. Having got his hands on the script, Goggins and his agent worked hard on fixing a meet with QT. Not difficult, of course, as QT knew Goggins (as we all did) from scene-stealing The Shield and Justified.
Result: The son of Alabama read for six different characters.
The one he craved was Ace Woody, already earmarked for Costner. “And they weren’t about to recast me in that. And so aside from Ace, I wanted to play Billy Crash because there was a scene that didn’t ultimately make it in the movie between Billy and Broomhilda [Kerry Washington as the kidnapped Mrs Django] that was so - Quentin can do so complicated and so weird and so funny…”
Once Goggins joined the location, both Costner and Russell had fallen out of Woody. QT had the answer.. "I want you to play Ace Woody. We’re just going to call him Billy Crash.”
“Sweet name,” said Goggins. “Yeah,” added Foxx,
“you could have your own radio show: Billy Crash, 101.9!"
Mr Stonesipher . Tarantino has an elephant’s memory... It has been suggested that because Sid Haig refused to be Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, that QT played a joke on him. He had his casting director tell Sid’s agent that Sid was booked for a Django role. When he wasn’t. Owch!
This, therefore, is the first Tarantino Western, There is talk of a second… So we might yet get to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt (impossible to play Jano while prepping his directing debut, Don Jon), Michael K Williams (not free dor an unspecified role) and Sacha Baron Cohen or Jonah Hill, both due as the wealthy social misfit Scott Harmony (gunned down by Cohen off promoting The Dictator). All three roles were scrapped when these guys couldn’t play them.
Oh and when Will Smith saw the movie, he thought it was brilliant. “Just not for me.”
As lame as it often was, it was too good for Smith. Particularly at the box-office, where its biggest ever QT gross of $413m (and five Oscar noms) buried all the recent Smith vehicles.