Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
Having now seen Django Unchained, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Jamie Foxx in the title role. The Oscar-winner gave a transformative performance, starting as a meek, clueless slave and slowly growing into a fearless, gunslinging bad ass. However, many readers likely remember that Foxx wasn’t writer/director Quentin Tarantino‘s first choice for the role. His first choice was Will Smith. Since turning down the role, Smith has pretty much remained mum on the details behind his decision.
Smith has now begun promoting his new movie, M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, and said the reason he didn’t take the role was because he didn’t think Django was the main character.
Thanks to Entertainment Weekly for the quote. Spoilers for Django below.
Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead….I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’
Does that suggest he wanted Tarantino to rewrite the script? EW then asked him what he thought of the finished product:
I thought it was brilliant. Just not for me.
I’m sure we all have a lot of thoughts after this but here are the first two. Quentin Tarantino won an Oscar for his script and Christoph Waltz won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. That suggests Smith was a tad off in his assessments, as would just about anyone else’s reading of the script. Schultz is a large supporting role, to be sure, but the film is called “Django Unchained” because it’s primarily about that’s character’s growth from helpless slave to confident killer. Maybe he doesn’t “kill the bad guy” directly, but he does blow up the bad guy’s house, save the girl, and kill about 15 of his underlings including the most diabolical one of all, Stephen, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
When Smith turned this role down, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. He’s long since passed the phase of his career where he has to take risks. What is a surprise is how he seems to have grossly misread the script. The original version that did the rounds was a bit different from what ended up on screen, but not that different.