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SDCC '12: DJANGO UNCHAINED Panel

After waking up at 6 am this morning and waiting in line for four hours, I am finally in Hall H for the entirety of the day. The room is going to be packed to capacity today again for a tone of great panels. One of my most anticipated films of Comic-Con is Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. The Western opens on Christmas day, and stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and others.

Foxx, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, Waltz, Kerry Washington, and Tarantino were here for the panel. Tarantino talked about how he started crafting this story 13 years ago. The idea began as a film about a slave that became a bounty hunter and killed white men before the Civil War. He then added a bit of a love story as well.
Jamie Foxx talked about taking on this role, stating that he was lucky to be able to get this role and was excited about being involved. He then related a story about how QT stated he did not think he would be able to transform himself into the role of a slave. He admitted that he had to do a lot of homework. Foxx then shared that he could relate to the character because he had experienced racism firsthand as a kid.
The whole movie is about Django becoming a hero, becoming a cowboy, but he started out as the sixth slave out of seven in a chain gang. Waltz was referred to as Yoda to Jamie Foxx's Django, and I can totally see that comparison. Waltz responded by saying that his character needs Django to get the story going. He went on to talk about the fact that the movie is a classic Spaghetti Western. He stated that Django and his character Dr. King Schulz are a team, and need one another.
Tarantino talked about how he was interested in making a movie about a black character navigating the Antebellum South. He wanted to shake up the genre by dealing with slavery. Tarantino then went on to talk about Dr. King's character being a mentor and showing Django to be a gunfighter. At first, Dr King is teacher, but Django gains the upper hand during the segment where they go to Mississippi and Dr. King is out of his element. Tarantino talked about how Dr. King is a dentist, and he is able to hide in plain sight and as a dentist is meant to be there.
Eight minutes of footage was shown, which was simply amazing. The footage showed how Django and Dr. Schultz came to be working together. The clip showed footage from only the first half of the movie, and did not show DiCaprio, Jackson, or Washington's character. The footage gave us a wonderful taste of the film and the main characters.
Tarantino then began talking about DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson's character. Jackson plays Steven, who raised DiCaprio's Calvin Candy. Candy is a plantation owner who controls the cotton trade for the region. Tarantino talked about how on the plantation property, each owner was much like a king.
Then the moderator began talking about Don Johnson's character, Big Daddy. Johnson related that he thought he was the perfect person to play the part, and be able to make him "big and flamboyant". Big Daddy is a character that is a mix of funny and bad. Johnson used Foghorn Leghorn as his inspiration for his character's voice, which was met by laughs from the audience.
Washington talked about her character being owned by a German plantation owner and learning to speak and sing German. Waltz said Washington asked him to help her learn German, but he did not have to because she was so good. Washington talked about how she likes to work on projects that scare her, but states she was a bit overwhelmed by the tone of the film.
Tarantino then talked about how a slave wedding was not common during that time period.  They are still filming, and how there are two more weeks left. He then discussed the addition of Jonah Hill to the cast. Hill's character is introduced in such a funny way that ranks up their with handing out the color names in Reservoir Dogs.
Tarantino dropped the big bomb that John Shaft is the descendant of Django and his wife Brunhilda Von Shaft.
Here is a synopsis of the fan Q&A:
  • Tarantino was asked about his use of strong female characters, and why he writes them into his films. He responded by saying "he just digs strong chicks". While Brunhilda is a strong character, she is actually much more like a "princess in exile who is captured in the tower of the evil king. When we first catch up with her, she is struggling to escape." 
  • Tarantino was asked what past films he gave to the cast for reference. He responded by saying that he gave her The Flame of New Orleans starring Marlene Dietrich, which was set in the Antebellum South. 
  • Tarantino then was asked about his next project. He responded that he has not even thought about that since he is so wrapped up in production and press for this film. 
I have been a fan of Tarantino's movies since Reservoir Dogs. My favorites are Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Inglorious Basterds. For me, there is so much to love about his storytelling ability. A Tarantino Western is something that I am looking forward to unspool for myself on Christmas morning.
Follow me on Twitter at @Jim_Napier
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