In Quentin Tarantino’s explosive Friday film Django Unchained, Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a plantation slave who partners with Christoph Waltz’s bounty hunter to wreak vengeance on his former owners and rescue the wife (played by Kerry Washington) he’s lost to the slave trade. Over to Foxx on being Django.
How did you become involved with Django Unchained?
When I first heard that Django was about to be shot with another actor, I just thought, ‘Wow, that sounds amazing.’ And then all of a sudden, things were changing. I got a chance to read the script, which blew me away. And the next thing you know I’m sitting in Quentin Tarantino’s house and I’m putting my bid in…. I told him whoever he picked, it was going to be a monumental film. But I also told him that I knew it... that I knew this world. That I’m from the south and… well, without going into the script, I just told him what I’d experienced. I told him it equipped me for something like this — and of course that I ride horses and I already had my own horse (laughs).
Tell us about the character and how you approached him.
Sometimes when you do movies, they parallel you. And so this is a definite parallel of me, being a young black boy from the south, you know. All I ever wanted to do was just live my life…. And that’s what Django is. Django just wants his wife back. He just wants his woman. He doesn’t want to cure slavery. He doesn’t want to kill everyone to right the wrongs. He just wants to love his girl and live his life.
What’s the relationship between this film and the 1960s spaghetti Western Django?
This film is close in the sense that it’s a revenge film and has those classic spaghetti Western elements. The actor from the original Django (Franco Nero) is also in our movie. So if you’re a movie buff, you’ll see him in there… Franco Nero.
Jamie Foxx as Django
in Django Unchained
How did you prepare for the role?
I had to train, but I also lost weight because there was no Bally’s gym or 24-Hour Fitness back then. You know, I wanted to make sure that I was in the right type of shape. Like I said, I had my own horse, so I asked Quentin if it was okay to train with it and the next thing you know, my horse is actually in the movie! As far as twirling guns and all that, I had a trainer who taught me all those cool tricks. So, hours and hours of twirling those guns, being on the horse and then learning to ride bareback, which is tough at 28-miles per hour (laughs).... That was crazy, but we captured all that.
What were you expecting to find in Quentin Tarantino as a director and what was it actually like working with him?
It was way more than I expected. I knew he was passionate, but I didn’t know how passionate. And then how he approaches it…. Every time he would come to the set, if he’s working on one character that day, he would be that character. Meaning, if he came to the set and it’s a Django day, he would be Django! If it was Leonardo’s (DiCaprio) day and it was all about his character, Candie, he would be Calvin Candie. I told him, ‘Quentin, if you ever do Rolling Stone, you should open up that magazine and it should be you dressed as all your characters.” And then there’s the fun aspect of it. Although he was all, ‘give me my performances’, the next thing you know he’d be joking around and making people laugh. He’d play music in between scenes and we’d do shots every hundred rolls. On my first day, I said to him, ‘What kind of set is this? This is amazing’. And he says to me, ‘What kind of set is it? What kind of set is it? It’s a Quentin Tarantino set!’ It was almost like there was a party going on, but at the same time people were so about their jobs and making it right for him.
Why do you think his films are so popular?
Did you know that Quentin Tarantino is one of the most googled entertainers? Before Leonardo, before George Clooney, before Brad Pitt, before everybody. I brought him that information and he said, ‘I didn’t know that.’ I said, ‘That means people really dig you. They wait for you to speak…. When you give your interpretation of how you see the world, people want to see that.’ We know that when Quentin Tarantino lands in the theatre, it’s going to make you take notice because he takes risks and he thinks outside the box.
What was it like working with Christoph Waltz? You two have great chemistry on screen. You know, I was so enamoured with his performance in Inglourious Basterds that the first few meetings I was just looking at him like, ‘Man, you killed that!’ And he’s all: ‘Oh, no, no, no….’ He doesn’t like it when I get all excited. Once we started talking about the racial stuff he was like, ‘I don’t really know what that’s all about.’ And I said, ‘Well you keep that.’ Because that helps his character. It was a matter of just talking to him and getting to know him and him getting to know me.
Tell us about Leonardo DiCaprio playing a villain. A first for him...
That dude right there? Real deal. To play the villain like he had to play him. I had known him before, but we became friends on this movie. I was like, ‘Brother I know what you’re burning for. You’re burning for that real acting and Quentin Tarantino is giving it to you.’ I watched them from the distance and it was like watching a martial arts film, the wax-on and the wax-off, how Quentin worked with Leonardo. Those quiet moments where we couldn’t hear what they were saying in the corner, but then they would say ‘action’, and you’d see it. People will be blown away by his performance.
What was the biggest challenge in making Django Unchained?
Going back to those times... just having to go there every day. Having to see that because of the colour of your skin you were considered filth. That’s tough to wrap your head around when you’re driving from your nice house to work… and that’s what Quentin Tarantino told me. He said: ‘In order for you to get into this character, you’ve got to leave Jamie Foxx somewhere out there. I don’t want him coming to the set. You have to be this guy. You have to be a slave.’ That was the challenge.
Are you anticipating another big jump for your career as a result of Django?
When something like Django comes along and Quentin Tarantino is gracious enough to put you in the movie, that’s big. I think it made him feel uncomfortable, but I told him anyway, ‘No, you’ve got to understand. What you’re doing for me as an actor, you’re putting me in the stratosphere. You are the old school director that makes stars out of people…’ Regardless of how it lands and how it’s taken, people know.... From the moment people found out I was in Django, I mean people were just calling and calling and calling….
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