With Leonardo DiCaprio snagging a best supporting actor Golden Globe nod this week for his villainous role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, out in theaters Christmas Day, the lens has narrowed on the normally hero-prone actor embodying a cackling, cruel plantation owner.
Turn your eyes, then, to these three clips from the exploitation spaghetti western homage, below. In this first clip, DiCaprio showcases sleazy, blue-eyed charm as Calvin Candie, facing off against Jamie Foxx as freed slave Django. “Where did you dig him up,” DiCaprio sneers to Christoph Waltz’s dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, with Foxx standing nearby. When DiCaprio and Foxx finally stand eye-to-eye, Foxx doesn’t flinch as DiCaprio, smoking and pompous, asks him about “Mandingos” — African slaves pitted against each other for private, to-the-death fights, like brawling gladiators. The moment — thick with tension — breaks when DiCaprio turns to Waltz, offering him a drink. You almost expect DiCaprio to evilly twirl the tips of his brown mustache.
This second clip plays off the quick chemistry between Foxx and Waltz. Schultz, who frees Django to save his wife (Kerry Washington), a.k.a. “Broomhilda,” here tells the former slave that Broomhilda is confirmed to be at Candie’s. “He didn’t call her by name, but she’s a young lady with whip marks on her back and speaks German,” whispers Waltz, and then warns, “Don’t get so carried away with your retribution.” But like every great western revenge-seeking protagonist, from squinty-eyed Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to straight arrow Lee Van Cleef in 1969’s Sabata, Foxx throws Dr. Schultz’s earlier words of advice back at him in a soft, don’t-mess-with-me voice: “This is my world, and in my world you gotta get dirty.”
In this third clip, Washington — trembling, crying, and vulnerable at Candie’s plantation — is questioned by almost unrecognizable Samuel L. Jackson as the head house slave Stephen, his white hair and puffy eyebrows gleaming. He keeps pressing her that she knows Django, and she repeats “no.” When he asks why she’s crying, she looks up and says, “You’re scaring me.” Jackson has always played off a vibrant inner intensity, and even bent over with a cane, playing an old man, he’s straight up frightening.
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