Posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
The flirtation between Leonardo DiCaprio and Quentin Tarantino may finally be on the verge of bringing the two together on a project. The director originally wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to play Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, but Christoph Waltz ended up with the part, riding it all the way to the Oscars.
Not long ago word surfaced that the actor might be a top choice to play Calvin Candie, the wealthy slave plantation owner who is the chief antagonist of Tarantino’s upcoming project, Django Unchained. Turns out that report was on the money and DiCaprio is now in early talks for the part. But the question remains: who will play the freed slave Django, since it looks less and less like the director’s first choice, Will Smith, will sign on?
Deadline and Variety both talk about Leonardo DiCaprio’s early talks for Calvin Candie. The character doesn’t even come into the Django Unchained script until about sixty pages in, where he is first seen as the owner of Candyland, a club/brothel where white men can cavort openly with their young black female slaves.
After that introduction, Calvin Candie has a huge presence in the second half of the script, as he is in possession of something (OK, someone) that the heroes, Django and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), very much want.
Could Leo play the part? Absolutely. He might even be an inspired choice, given his general public image. Quentin Tarantino has written this script with unabashed homages to Sergio Leone, and casting DiCaprio in this part would be an acceptable nod to Leone casting Henry Fonda as the heavy in Once Upon a Time in the West. Not quite as serious a move, true, but close enough.
(One thing: in the script, Calvin Candie and his head house slave, to be played by Samuel L. Jackson, were meant to be the same age. But a little nip and tuck could turn their relationship into one of lifelong mentorship rather than friendship, which would work quite well in the context of the story.)
And what of Django? Both reports suggest that Will Smith is a longshot at this point, though Leonardo DiCaprio signing on might change that. Three other names have come up: Idris Elba (looks like some recent suspicion is proved correct), Chris Tucker and Jamie Foxx. Chris Tucker’s best acting was in Jackie Brown, but I can’t see him in the role, even if that would fit right into QT’s pattern of rehabilitating actors with big, meaty roles. Idris Elba is the best of the three choices, but he might do Pacific Rim. Jamie Foxx could play the part fine, but Idris Elba is a better fit for the impression I got while reading the script. Jamie Foxx would certainly be a bigger ‘name,’ however.