It’s been widely reported that director Quentin Tarantino first wanted Will Smith to star in the title role of his upcoming slavery-era Western Django Unchained. When Smith turned it down, the role eventually went to Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, but in this exclusive excerpt from his interview in the December issue of Playboy, Tarantino reveals for the first time that there were several other actors in contention for the part — and he was planning on pitting them against each other.
“I met six different actors and had extensive meetings with all of them, and I went in-depth on all of their work,” Tarantino tells Playboy (in the issue that will be on stands Nov. 20). “Idris Elba, Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard, M.K. Williams [from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire], Tyrese. 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. And then I met Jamie and realized I didn’t need to do that.” So what was it about Foxx that led Tarantino to cast him? “He was the cowboy… 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.’”
Tarantino also revealed why he’s still keen on calling a wrap on his filmmaking career sooner rather than later — and how many more films he may make before he retires; why he didn’t immediately have Leonardo DiCaprio in mind for the role of Django Unchained‘s villain, the plantation owner Calvin Candie; and who his ideal wife would be. Check out all the highlights below:
On quitting making movies: “I just don’t want to be an old-man filmmaker. I want to stop at a certain point. Directors don’t get better as they get older. Usually the worst films in their filmography are those last four at the end. I am all about my filmography, and one bad film f—s up three good ones.…When directors get out-of-date, it’s not pretty. I’m on a journey that needs to have an end and not be about me trying to get another job. I want this artistic journey to have a climax. I want to work toward something. You stop when you stop, but in a fanciful world, 10 movies in my filmography would be nice. I’ve made seven. If I have a change of heart, if I come up with a new story, I could come back. But if I stop at 10, that would be okay as an artistic statement.”
On writing Calvin Candie with someone other than DiCaprio in mind: “I don’t want to say who, simply because when I finished the script, I realized they were a little older than I wanted the character to be. That’s a problem I have. I’ll be thinking about somebody and not take into account that I’m thinking of them from 20 years ago.”
On originally seeking Will Smith to play the lead in Django Unchained: “We spent quite a few hours together over a weekend when he was in New York doing Men in Black III. …I think half the process was an excuse for us to hang out and spend time with one another. …It just wasn’t 100 percent right, and we didn’t have time to try to make it that way.”
On getting high while in production: “I wouldn’t do anything impaired while making a movie. I don’t so much write high, but say you’re thinking about a musical sequence. You smoke a joint, you put on some music, you listen to it and you come up with some good ideas.…I don’t need pot to write, but it’s kind of cool.”
On rewriting history in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained: “You turn on a movie and know how things are going to go in most films. Every once in a while films don’t play by the rules. It’s liberating when you don’t know what’s happening next.…I thought, What about telling these kinds of stories my way — rough and tough but gratifying at the end?”
On his ideal wife: “If I want to live in Paris for a year, what the f—? I can. I don’t have to arrange anything; I can just do it. If there is an actor or director I want to get obsessed with and study their films for the next 12 days, I can do that. The perfect person would be a Playmate who would enjoy that.”
On the Aurora, Colo., shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and the issue of films glorifying violence: “I think that guy was a nut. He went in there to kill a bunch of people because he knew there would be a lot of people there… That’s no different from a guy going into a McDonald’s and shooting up people at lunchtime because he knows a lot of people will be there.”
On rising to the level of his earlier work: “I want there to be anticipation. I was actually quite proud when I read that Django is one of the most anticipated movies coming out this year. It’s a black Western. Where’s the anticipation coming from? I guess a lot of it is me. That’s pretty f—ing awesome.”
You can read the full interview here (warning — link NSFW).