Jamie Foxx Interview For Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’
Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Quentin Tarantino’s ’Django Unchained’ stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunger Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles – dead or alive. Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men chose not to go their separate ways. Instead, Schultz seeks out the South’s most wanted criminals with Django by his side. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago.
Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of ‘Candyland’, an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretences, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L Jackson), Candy’s trusted house-slave. Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organisation closes in on them. If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they are to choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival. ‘Django Unchained’ lands in cinemas on December 25th in the US and January 18th in the UK.
At the heart of Django’s quest in this film is his determination to find and free his lost wife, Broomhilda. I heard that was the most important thing for you when jumping into this character and this story?
Jamie Foxx: Yeah. To me the love story in the film was the most important thing. Of course there’s the danger, the guns and all of that, but when people look at it, if you look at ‘Gladiator’ or ‘Braveheart,’ movies like that, it was about their wife, their lady. I told Quentin that that was what I loved about the script, besides all of the other sh*t that’s going on, it’s about getting to his girl (laughs). Django’s not gonna be able to save slavery, he’s not gonna be able to cure it, he’s not gonna be able to make a person think one way or another. But what he can do is he can make sure his wife knows that she’s safe, and that’s the most important thing, for me. And that’s what Quentin felt and made sure we got. Django just wants his lady! I wouldn’t have had to kill nobody if at the first plantation I went to she was there, the movie could have been over and we could have went on and did our thing. But instead it had to be this, and I think that’s what’s great about it, and it’s what people will feel.
Django and Broomhilda’s devotion to each other allowed for a personal, intimate window into these characters? And especially considering the time period and the rules of these slave masters….
Jamie Foxx: Yeah, definitely. Back at that time, to be married was taboo. You could be killed. They forced marriages back then – or they forced copulation – so the strongest buck would mate with the strongest black woman and they could get stronger slaves. They didn’t want black people to be married. So Django being married was a big thing for me. This is a love story. And that’s what fuels him. He’s not trying to do anything but find the love of his life – which is like trying to find a needle in a world of haystacks.
What did you find most challenging when approaching the role like Django?
Jamie Foxx: What was interesting was the question for me, “How do you play a slave?” I’ve been Jamie Foxx and played these more Hollywood characters for so long, how do actually let go and play a slave? How do you do that? If I’m riding up in my Range Rover and if somebody called me a n*gger I would jump out and whoop their ass. The stakes are totally different in present day. So it was about going all the way back to allow the ghosts of slaves and your ancestors to speak through you… and Quentin challenged me on that. The first time we went into rehearsal I was like, “I want to say it like this,” and I was really putting me into the character. He pulled me to the side and said, “This is what I worried about. Can you actually play a slave?” And that was when it hit me, like, “Wow, he’s questioning me.” That made me work harder and go back to the drawing board, because a lot of the times your actual everyday life can make you become lax as actor. So I went back and made sure that every time I went in there I gave up to it, gave up to the character. All the way to when I was on the set, the things I would listen to, the music I would listen to.
Do you remember your initial thoughts when you spoke about the film to Quentin and read the script?
Jamie Foxx: I was honoured, immensely honoured. Quentin Tarantino, this guy is a student of cinema and he wanted to tell this story. When I met him and when he told me that he met Reginald Hudlin (producer) and Reggie said he didn’t like a certain slave movie because the slave was docile. Reggie said to Quentin, “I want to see our ‘Spartacus,’ I want to see the black slave take up arms and avenge his woman.” It was the most incredible script I’ve read in all of my life. I thought, “Who has the guts, and the knowledge to tell it like it really is?” I thought that the way he’s telling the story – as true and as honest – if it rips your flesh off, so be it. That’s what was exciting about the process.
What was it like working with Samuel L. Jackson? I can imagine him and Quentin Tarantino have an amazing rapport on set?
Jamie Foxx: Oh man. You can tell it’s his world and his time at all times (laughs). I would come in and watch Samuel L. Jackson as an actor and be like, “Wow, look at him, he’s like a dog laying down his territory.” (Laughs) During filming, people would ask me how the shoot was going, I would say, “Samuel L. Jackson is tearing the foundation from this thing.” To watch Quentin and Sam’s relationship, it makes you jealous, like, ‘Wow, man. Them dudes know each other.’ (Laughs) And I look forward to having that type of relationship with Quentin here on out. They know each other, they’ve got each other’s back, they figure things out. They came up with nifty stuff that I think that wasn’t even in the script, but that enhanced everything. Samuel L. Jackson was a juggernaut.
Then working with Leonardo DiCaprio, seeing him play Calvin Candie, how was that?
Jamie Foxx: It was amazing to watch Quentin work with Leo. Leo was like the new guy in town for a minute. Myself and Christoph had already got a relationship going, so to see him come into it… and to watch Leo knee-jerk, which I hope people understand; he knee-jerked when had to say some of that language. He was like, “Buddy, this is…. wow.” And Samuel L. Jackson said, “Hey man, it’s just another Tuesday, it was what it was, come on now.” And to see Leo come in the next day and not speak to anyone and go to work. He did one scene where he got a standing ovation. He was incredible. He absolutely killed it.
Look out for part 2 of this interview over the weekend.
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