Django Unchained hasn’t even come out yet and already it’s got people talking like crazy. Scheduled to be released on Christmas, the film is about a slave named Django who is freed by a bounty hunter who needs his help to hunt down a gang of killers that only Django has seen. If you’ve watched one of the trailers from the film, you probably already know that there will be blood, an inevitable rape scene, and some interesting language. And while Tarantino has won a Screenwriter of the Year award for his storytelling with this film, some people, many of them black, have been critical about the movie, and have been since the year began. In an interview with VIBE, Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio talked about the controversy surrounding the movie, and why they felt a new take on slavery was so important. Because as Jamie says in the interview, “Every two, three years there is a movie about the holocaust because they want you to remember and they want you to be reminded of what it was. When was the last time you seen a movie about slavery?”
According to VIBE, everyone from actor Nate Parker (who was in the running to play Django) to Tyler Perry and critical folks all over the place seemed a bit troubled about the story and its oh so interesting script, and claimed that slavery was not taken seriously in the film. But the actors say the film is a realistic depiction of slavery based on the research they’ve done, and that Tarantino did massive research on his own to bring some of the biggest atrocities of our nation’s history to light:
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: We knew there was going to be controversy. The question is: What is not a realistic depiction? I would argue that it is. It is Quentin’s re-creation; this character doesn’t exist. There’s nobody that is documented to do what Jamie’s character has done at the time. But the documentaries I saw went even further.
JAMIE FOXX: Put it this way: I completely understand what you’re saying. ‘Cause as black folks we’re always sensitive. As a black person it’s always racial. I come into this place to do a photo shoot and they got Ritz crackers and cheese. I’ll be like, ain’t this a Itchbay. Y’all didn’t know black people was coming. What’s with all this white Isht? By the same token, if there is fried chicken and watermelon I’ll say ain’t this a Itchbay? So, no matter what we do as black people it’s always gonna be that. Every single thing in my life is built around race. I don’t necessarily speak it because you can’t. But the minute I leave my house, I gotta put my other jacket on and say, ‘‘Hey, Thomas, Julian and Greg.” And I gotta be a certain person.
DICAPRIO: Thomas, Julian and Greg?
VIBE: Those are white people.
FOXX: No some of those people are black. But when I get home my other homies are like how was your day? Well, I only had to be white for at least eight hours today, [or] I only had to be white for four hours. Everything we do is that. When you’re talking about the script, of course it’s going to be controversy. I remember talking to Tyler Perry about it. [In Perry's very serious voice] ‘‘Ah man, the script, man. Have you read it?” When I finally read it, I called Tyler and we had a conversation. I said, ‘‘I got a different take on it than you did.” And we shared. And I called Tyler while we were shooting it. I said, ‘‘Do you know that Quentin Tarantino knows all of your Isht on TV. I don’t even watch all of your Isht.” He said, ‘‘Really?” The difference is the Quentin Tarantino Effect. I ran into Spike Lee at the BET Awards. You know Spike, he’ll let you have it whether it’s good, bad or ugly. And he said, ‘‘I’m not going to say anything bad about this film. It looks like y’all are getting it
KERRY WASHINGTON: This is not a doc. This is a Quentin Tarantino film. But I remember there was this one moment in the script where Jamie’s character was put in an awful crazy medieval metal mask. I said, ‘‘That’s some sick thing Quentin thought up.” And when I went to the production office to meet about my wardrobe, I saw into the research office. Twenty photos of real masks like that. It made me sad. I realized as much as my degrees and everything I’ve read on slave narratives [should have informed me], I didn’t even know that they wore masks like that, that people did that to us. It took a Tarantino movie for me to know that that’s not some crazy thing out of his imagination. That’s how it went down.
And speaking of that rape scene I told you about earlier…We all know that Quentin Tarantino can push the envelope like no other, it’s just what he does, and honestly, something he does well. But the actors spoke on the fact that they were like a family on set, and not only could Tarantino trust them to do their best, but they were given the opportunity to speak up when they felt the story should take a different turn, or if they felt the imagery should be toned down for the sake of the audience, especially the black audience:
FOXX: …Every slither of this film, we thought about it. And what was great about Quentin Tarantino is he welcomed our thoughts. And like most directors this is his baby. We had to make sure we were respectful, but we also had to make sure he could trust us. For example, there was a rape scene. Obviously that’s a dynamic moment. Like, I told him, black people watch a movie different that white folks. When you watch Inglourious Basterds, Jewish people have a more quiet response. [Whispers] ‘‘I can’t believe they did that.” When black people don’t like something it’s like: [louder] ‘‘Ay dawg, why Olivia Pope went down like that. That Isht is fucked up.” What I wanted to say and what we all knew was art is one thing and art is an acquired taste.
WASHINGTON: We didn’t want this story to get lost in the art.
FOXX: The way [Django] protected her, I get it. The way Quentin shot the scene still gives you the dynamic of what happened without the graphicness of us, me–Jamie Foxx, Eric Bishop–seeing Kerry Washington. Because there are certain things that we watch as black people that if we don’t agree with it, we not only turn off the movie but we turn off that person. When we feel like the character was compromised by the white establishmen
There are many other interesting tidbits about these actors (some of the best of our generation) and behind the scenes of Django, but you’ll have to check out the full interview at VIBE.com for all that. What do you think of the cover? And, what do you think about the comments made during the interview? Do you plan to check Django Unchained out?