Tarantino and DiCaprio on the Challenges of ‘Django Unchained’

Movies & TV

There’s still about a week to go until Django Unchained hits theaters but the cast has been on the promo trail to fill in the blanks. Over the weekend, The Playlist caught up with director Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo Dicaprio who gave up some revealing bits about the film.

Read a few highlights below:

Leonard DiCaprio says the hateful way he had to treat some of the characters in the film was disturbing to him and he had his initial reservations.
“This was my first attempt at playing a character that I had this much disdain for. It was an incredibly uncomfortable environment to be in,” DiCaprio admitted. “I’ve seen racism growing up but the degree I had to treat other people in this film was disturbing. It was a very uncomfortable situation.”

“One of the pivotal moments for me and this character, was this initial readthrough, and I brought up, ‘Do we need to push it this far? Does it need to be this violent?'” DiCaprio recalled. “And [the actors and Quentin] said, ‘If you sugar-coat this people are going to resent the hell out of you.’ By holding the character back you’re going to do an injustice to the film. That was the thing that ignited me into going where I did with the character. Once I did even more research, read about the sugar plantations, we’re just scratching the surface. It’s a subject matter that should be looked at more often. I commend Quentin for combining so many different genres and making the subject matter entertaining for an audience. At the core of it what was great was a group of actors who were all there for one another to support and drive each other. Honestly it felt like we were cheerleaders for each other.”

Quentin Tarantino sought out Sidney Poitier for advice to ask him if he was going too far with some of the racist elements in the script.
“I made sure that if anybody was uncomfortable I made sure we talked about it beforehand. And I mean before I hired them,” Tarantino said. “There was only one thing that I felt uncomfortable about. Not shooting but upon finishing the script – it’s one thing to write ‘Exterior Greenvile, a hundred slaves walk through deep shit mud wearing masks and metal collars and it’s this black Auschwitz.’ It’s another thing to get 100 black folks, put them in chains, and march them through the mud. I started questioning – ‘could I do it’?” I don’t think I’ve ever thought that about anything – can I be the reason that that is even happening. I came up with an idea of just shooting those scenes alone in the west Indies and Brazil. They have their own issues with slavery but my problem was having Americans do it. I wanted to escape it.”

“I went out to dinner with Sidney Poitier and I was explaining my hairbrain scene and escaping and he listened to me and told me that I had to man up. He goes, ‘Quentin, for whatever reason I think you were born to tell this story. You can’t be afraid of your own movie. You just need to do it. Everybody knows what time it is. Just treat them with love and respect, treat them like actors not atmosphere, what we’re doing and what we’re trying to get across. You’re going to do this in the South. Those people need jobs.’ There were a lot of guys, ‘Oh man I was a slave in ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’…”

When asked if there’s a longer cut of the film. Tarantino said yes there is, and he may release an expanded version of “Django Unchained” at some point.
“I’m not exactly sure [when I might],” Tarantino said. “I’m going to wait until the film goes around the world, does what it does. And then I’m going to make a decision. I make these scripts that are almost novels. If I had to do this whole thing over again I would have published this as a novel and done this after the fact. Maybe next time. I could do what Kevin Costner did with the expanded edition of ‘Dances with Wolves,’ and I could very well do that. Because if I put some of that in I have to change the story. But I want this version to be the story for a while.”