You know I nearly suggested Will Smith in my original Django Unchained script review but given his career choices lately (does anyone dare suggest a third Men in Black movie was anything more than running back to the money tree?) – I never thought he could be reachable for this. Perhaps he still isn’t but I’m as happy as Larry (who was Larry anyway?) at the story that is emerging today.
The Hollywood Reporter say Smith could be gearing up for a return to the Wild Wild West, but in a serious, Spaghetti Western way. Quentin Tarantino has signaled Smith out as his first choice for the title character of his next movie – a black slave who is freed by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) and is trained into the art of contract killing before attempting to save his enslaved wife from an evil plantation owner.
This means that Tarantino probably wrote the character for Will Smith specifically in mind as he did the Bounty Hunter for Waltz and Inglourious Basterds’ Aldo Raine for Brad Pitt and more often than not when it comes to the starring roles, Quentin gets his intended man.
Though it’s said Smith may not have read the screenplay yet, an epic 2 and a half hour tome which isn’t shy with it’s racial bluntness (the offensive slurs nigger, pony are used frequently) and is about the controversial slavery era of America which might be off-putting for an actor who has shaped a very particular image for himself as a star, so a firm deal is some ways off yet though an informal offer has been made.
Reading between the lines Quentin named dropped Smith as a potential lead during meetings with studios eying international distribution on the Weinstein Company film (he met with Universal yesterday, with the rest of the majors coming next week) which is probably how this story has leaked.
Insiders suggest Smith would be willing to waiver his whopping $20 million salary to work with Quentin, something Pitt did similarly on Basterds. Few very actors get the opportunity to lead a Quentin Tarantino movie and they are all usually grateful for the opportunity. I mean can you remember the last time Quentin didn’t get his leading man first choice? Never, right?
Django will be a role unlike any Smith has ever had in the past… basically beginning the film as a dumb, slurring and confused meathead slave and eventually becoming an accomplished killer and gunslinger… basically he becomes Clint Eastwood by the end. That’s the journey we follow and it’s gonna be fascinating to see Smith do something like this.
Plus, the character screamed out for a movie star as Django Unchained is not written as a commercial blockbuster and you really felt it needed a box office draw, and from the looks of things they have plucked the biggest film star on the planet. Casting Will Smith means Tarantino can add obscure supporting characters in and around the film – people like Franco Nero, Keith Carradine and Treat Williams as previously suggested, who haven’t sold a movie on their name alone in years.
I also have to give kudos to an OWF talkbacker who seemingly called that the role of Stephen, described in the screenplay as “the Basil Rathbone of house niggers”, the top right hand man black slave to the evil plantation owner was written for Samuel L. Jackson. That seems to have been confirmed as THR say the role is his.
Also interestingly it seems Brad Pitt was offered a supporting role (no idea which one that could be) but has passed on the film.
The Weinsteins have had the script in their hands for the past week and I imagine they felt the same way I did about it’s tricky commercial prospects and weren’t ready to greenlight without a huge star.
Tarantino hopes to shoot the movie in the fall and is clearly casting up right now.
This article was first posted on May 7, 2011