Over at the Hollywood Reporter, they're running a little post wherein Will Smith explains why he didn't take the lead role in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Here's what he says:
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)...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 fuck somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. I just couldn't connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.
In other words, the movie Smith "badly wanted to make" was not the movie that Quentin Tarantino had written. Sure, one could easily interpret Django Unchained as both a love story and a tale of vengeance (which it absolutely is), but whatever: Will Smith wanted to de-emphasize the violence, Tarantino didn't. No biggie. His reasons are his own, right?
Well, yeah, except here's the thing: Will Smith has already gone on the record about why he passed on Django Unchained, and the last time he discussed it - with Entertainment Weekly, back in 2013 - he had an entirely different explanation:
“Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. (Christoph Waltz) was the lead!” says the Men in Black star, whose departure opened the door for Jamie Foxx to play the role. Smith says that before he left the project, he even pleaded with Tarantino to let Django have a more central role in the story. “I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’"
"I thought it was brilliant,” he says. “Just not for me.”
So, either Smith didn't take the role because he couldn't connect to the inherent violence of the character, or he didn't take the role because he felt that robbing the character of a key moment of vengeance would mean he was playing second-fiddle to the film's real lead. That's...huh. That's an interesting about-face, isn't it? Kinda makes one suspect that Smith's latest answer is total bullshit...or, I don't know, that neither answer might be true. At this rate, we may never be sure why Will Smith didn't star in Django Unchained.
Let's meet back here in 2017 and see if the story's changed. Until then, speculate in the comments below.