not in our stars, but in ourselves
I really meant to be good, and watch lots of movies this weekend, and write about them here, but alas. We had company this weekend – which was great – so I was trying to be sociable. And then today, I really meant to watch something, but then I came across this article and I’ve been mad about it all day. For the linkphobic:
When Quentin Tarantino’s western revenge-fantasy Django Unchained was first announced, casting rumors pegged Will Smith as the titular slave-turned-vigilante. But Smith, who teams with his son Jaden in this summer’s sci-fi epic After Earth, tells EW that he turned down the part because his character would’ve been second fiddle to the bounty hunter (played by Christoph Waltz) who teaches Django his trade . “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!” says the Men in Black star, whose departure opened the door for Jamie Foxx to play the role.
Smith says that before he left the project, he even pleaded with Tarantino to let Django have a more central role in the story. “I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’” (Ironically, Waltz was considered a supporting actor during his Oscar-winning award season, while Jamie Foxx was promoted as the movie’s lead.)
But no hard feelings: Smith was a big fan of the final product. “I thought it was brilliant,” he says. “Just not for me.”
Okay. For my part, I agree more with the AV Club’s assessment:
When it was confirmed that Will Smith had passed on starring in Django Unchained—officially due to scheduling conflicts—most assumed that the real reason was due to typical Will Smith factors, such as not wanting to take a pay cut, or relinquish his increasingly demanded input into the screenplay, or rough up his non-threateningly sassy image. However, Smith says it was an even more Will Smithian factor than all that: “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!” Smith tells Entertainment Weekly, but probably doing so in that charmingly egotistical way that Will Smith has where he also laughs at it, like, “Can you believe me? I named the next 1,000 years of human existence ‘The Willennium.’ Ha ha, I’m incorrigible.”
Anyway, Smith says he attempted to get Tarantino to meet him halfway by revising his screenplay to make it more of a Will Smith movie by reducing Christoph Waltz’s role, saying, “I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’”—even though Django does get to kill plenty of bad guys and even enjoy a complete dramatic arc, in the movie named after him. But although Tarantino didn’t see fit to change his idea completely in order to meet Smith’s demands and possibly add a fun dance-rap song over the credits, Smith has no hard feelings, calling the finished film, “brilliant… just not for me” in what is the highest compliment Will Smith can pay something without Will Smith in it.
But Django‘s detractors are trying hard to make this into another exhibit in People vs. Tarantino. Now, somehow, Will Smith is calling attention to the central flaw in the movie! It should be about the SLAVE! Not about the WHITE GUY! Because Django isn’t the one who kills the worst of all the bad guys, he’s a supporting player. All the glory goes to the German guy. And can you believe that he’s telling a BLACK GUY about a MOUNTAIN? Unbelievable. Social justice, rah rah rah.
I’m sure you’re all sick of me getting all upset about Django Unchained, so I will try not to say anything else about it for a while. It is just galling to me that people ignore and misinterpret – or, perhaps, don’t even watch – the film. Now Will Smith is one of those people. Will Smith, despite not having done anything anyone cares about in fifteen years, is still pretty high-profile. He’s trying to justify his own egomania by tying it onto a broader, more nuanced discussion of elements in the film that are obviously problematic to a significant number of people.
Deep sigh. Deep breath.
Anyway, I will repeat that I found Django to be the true hero of the piece; Dr. Schultz assists him, but does not save him in the end; both Django and Schultz are fascinating and dynamic characters, as well as deeply sympathetic; one gets gunned down and the other reunites with the love of his life. I don’t know. I kind of see one of those as more of a lead and a hero than the other. Sorry, Will. You done goofed.
P.S. Let’s also take a moment to reflect on how vastly superior Jamie Foxx is as an actor. Had Smith taken the role, the allegations of Django’s lack of characterization may well have had more merit than they would have in more capable hands – like Foxx’s.