I just got the chance to sit down with the stars of Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited film Django Unchained. I'm going to post the audio of all the interviews later, but in the meantime, here are some highlights!
Foxx said the most fun part for him was being the cowboy, and he actually rode his own horse, Cheetah (named Tony in the movie). "I got to be a cowboy. I got to ride my horse and I got to spin guns like I used to spin plastic guns when I was a kid. And I got to wear the green jacket from Bonanza! I used to watch westerns as a kid, and getting to wear that green jacket, with the moleskin pants that are hugging you a little, the Huggies."
Kerry Washington insisted on actually being whipped (by a nylon whip) for the film. Jamie Foxx said, "Kerry Washington was the most courageous person on that set...I'd be like, 'Stunt back. Just go get me a back.'" They filmed on an actual slave plantation in New Orleans, and she and Foxx both said that was the hardest day on set, to hear the sound of the whip ringing through the halls as it actually did once. Foxx said that Tarantino would play music from big speakers in between takes, and that day he played a gospel song by Fred Hammond. Foxx sang softly, "No weapons formed against me can prosper," and spoke about how a little girl, an extra, raised her arms in the air during the song because "she was really feeling the holy ghost." Foxx said he looked over at Tarantino, "super director," and Tarantino was weeping. He said,"It's a testament to Quentin and his ability to understand the situation. He went to every single person on that set, whether they were extras or whatever, to make sure they were okay between every scene."
When speaking about the controversy inherent in making a film about slavery, Washington said, "Quentin has never been somebody who is intimidated by evil and by gore and by blood and just the dark side of humanity. I think that's why he's a powerful storyteller in the context of slavery. We've been afraid in a narrative context of the ugliness of this history, but Quentin is not afraid of ugly."
Washington also pointed out the poetry in Django being about a man and woman reuniting after being torn apart, and that she and Foxx were reunited eight years after making Ray when they made this film.
As usual, Tarantino gave a miniature film school to the actors; he instructed Jamie to watch a lot of spaghetti westerns, of course, and he wanted Kerry to watch Marlene Dietrich films. Goggins said that he showed westerns on set every Sunday, and Washington said, "Just working with him is like being in film school. He references work all the time, whether it's television, film, music, theatre." He was talking about some movie that Don Johnson had done in the past, and Johnson said, "I wasn't in that movie," and Tarantino reminded him that he actually was, in fact. Foxx said that after they'd do a take, Tarantino would say, '"Guys, we got that take, we could stop, but we're gonna do another one. You know why?' And everyone would chime in, 'Because you love making movies!'"
Foxx and Waltz both discussed Tarantino's constant rewrites. Foxx said he'd go home at night and come back with four pages of brand new, perfect dialogue. Tarantino just made up Foxx's favorite line from the film on the fly. "I got six bullets, motherfucker." "I got two guns, motherfucker." Waltz said, "[A script is] almost like a living organism and with Quentin more than with anybody else. There are directors who storyboard the whole thing, adhere to the script religiously, have a shot list that's mathematically perfect. There's something to be said for it, against it. With Quentin it's a living organism. The shooting takes care of collecting the material for his edit, so that's six more days to shoot and the release date is supposed to be the 25th of December...I think it'll open December 25th." Let's all hope.
Goggins feels incredibly lucky to be working with this cast on this film. "I'm the guy that ate the canary." He said while doing the Hall H panel earlier today, "I felt at the panel that I was one of the 6500 people sitting in the audience. I feel like I'm living my own version of film history, and I'm not closing my eyes once."
In fact, every actor expressed gleeful admiration at working with Tarantino. Washington said, "I think he's one of our auteurs. He's a really visionary, proflic filmmaker who has a really original voice." Foxx said, "Quentin Tarantino would use everything, every inspiration. He'd allow characters to really grow and develop. I think watching Leonardo DiCaprio and Quentin work was one of the most amazing things. Leonardo's this good-looking guy that you see with the models and he comes in so different and ready to work, and Quentin would just watch things change with him and then change them for every character. On a dime, he'd change and it was all fantastic." Waltz said, "His eyes are better than ours, I dare say. He sees stuff long before they really make their presence felt. And he thinks ahead because he's the author. He's not so much a director, he's the author."