About the Production
DJANGO UNCHAINED's journey to the big screen began over ten years ago, when writer-
director Quentin Tarantino first thought of the film's main character, Django. "The initial germ of the
whole idea was a slave who becomes a bounty hunter and then goes after overseers that are hiding out on
plantations," Tarantino recalls. "I just started writing, and Django presented himself to me. At the
beginning he just was who he was -- the sixth slave from the seventh on a chain gang line. But he just
kept revealing himself to me more and more as I wrote."
Although DJANGO UNCHAINED takes place in the Antebellum South, Tarantino found that
Django's story might best be represented as a Western. "I've always wanted to do a Western. I like all
kinds of Westerns, but since Spaghetti Westerns have always been my favorite, I thought that the day I do
one, it would be in that Sergio Corbucci universe," Tarantino says.
For Tarantino, Westerns represented grand, masterful depictions of good and evil. He found that
the genre's scope and structure were fitting for this particular story of one man's struggle to infiltrate a
notorious plantation in order to rescue his wife. "It can't be more nightmarish than it was in real life. It
can't be more surrealistic than it was in real life. It can't be more outrageous than it was in real life,"
Tarantino explains. "It's unimaginable to think of the pain and the suffering that went on in this country,
making it perfect for a Spaghetti Western interpretation. The reality fits into the biggest canvas that you
could think of for this story."
Producer Reginald Hudlin agrees that the genre was an unconventional but appropriate fit. "The
shifting moral tone, the dark corners, the moral complexity of both A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and the
Corbucci films was a huge influence on Quentin's storytelling. Quentin's intense study of the genre led
to the inspired idea of mashing up the slave narrative with the Spaghetti Western which creates a movie
we have never seen before."
Shortly following the release of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, Tarantino worked feverishly on
the screenplay for DJANGO UNCHAINED. Christoph Waltz, an Academy Award-winner for
BASTERDS, was present for much of the creative process. "I read the script as it was in the making,"
Waltz, who plays Dr. King Schultz, remembers. "It unfolded in front of me, more or less. I went up to
Quentin's house and he sat me at his table and put the pages in front of me and then watched me read it.
It was a wonderful ritual. I was very touched that he would actually let me participate not in the genesis
of the script, but in his train of thought." As an early fan of the Spaghetti Western, Waltz took to the script's close connection to the genre.
"The big time of the Spaghetti Western was really the time when I started to get interested in movies as a
kid, the late 60s, and then early 70s, and onwards."
The name "Django" is familiar to fans of Spaghetti Westerns: Franco Nero first portrayed the
character in 1966 in DJANGO. Nero joined the production to make a cameo appearance in DJANGO
UNCHAINED. "For us in Austria, 'Django' was a household name. Not necessarily Franco Nero, but
'Django.'" Waltz says. "Every Spaghetti Western that came out, even the obscurest ones, in the German
version had 'Django' in their titles, even though there was no Django in the plot or in the story. They just
put 'Django' in because Django really was the distilled key word, so to say, to name the genre. If it had
'Django' in it, you knew it was a Spaghetti Western."
"I like evoking the DJANGO title for what it means to Spaghetti Westerns and that mythology,"
Tarantino says. "At the same time, there's a 40-film series of nonrelated DJANGO rip-off sequels that
are their own spot of Spaghetti Western history. I'm proud to say that we are a new edition to the
unrelated DJANGO rip-off sequels."
Indeed, the original DJANGO was so popular that other films borrowed the name as a marketing
tool. The more imaginative titles include DJANGO, KILL; DJANGO THE AVENGER; VIVA!
DJANGO, and BALLAD OF DJANGO, to name a few.
Tarantino completed his script on April 26, 2011 and began sharing it with friends and colleagues.
As "publishing day" approached, the producers began gearing up for production. "As you hear Quentin
typing in his house, you're a couple months out, you start calling all the players. You call [Stunt
Coordinator] Jeff Dashnaw, and you call [Sound Mixer] Mark Ulano, and you call [Makeup Department
Head] Heba Thorisdottir, You call everybody and you say he's getting close. You try and keep
everybody available because we're a family, we've all done so many movies together, and we love
working together," producer Pilar Savone says.
The reaction to the script was overwhelming. Hudlin, for one, admired the script's unique and
honest depiction of slavery in the years before the Civil War. "We have to remember not only the best of
who we are, but the worst of who we are," Hudlin says. "And we're not going to appreciate the best of
who we are until we see and celebrate the heroism of people who saw evil and faced it down. Even
though these characters are fictional, they represent hundreds, if not more, of real men and women, Black,
White, who stood up in the face of evil and said 'no.'"
With the script in place, Tarantino set out to find the right actors for the ensemble. Jamie Foxx, an
Academy Award winner for RAY, won the role of Django. "We got together and he was just terrific,"
Tarantino recalls. "He understood the story, the context of the story and the historical importance of the
film. He got it 100%. He's a terrific actor and he looks perfect for the character, but there's a cowboy quality to him. When I met him, I was imagining that if they cast black guys in the 60s to be the stars of
Western TV shows, I could imagine Jamie having his own TV show. He looks good on a horse, and good
in the outfit."
Foxx responded to the script's honest portrayal of the brutality of slavery. "It was the most
incredible script I've read in all of my life," Foxx says. "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."
Foxx notes that Django and Broomhilda's devotion to each other allowed for a personal, intimate
window into these characters. "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 stop slavery. 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."
"The reason that we tighten up because it was a bad place," Foxx continues. "It was a dangerous
time, and we sometimes feel that it does hold us in captivity without the chains, metaphorically."
Kerry Washington, who took on the role of Broomhilda, also connected to the bond that exists
between Broomhilda and Django. "The thing that most drew me to the project was this idea that in a time
when so much of the world was committed to the idea that people of African decent were not human, that
you could have this love story take place between these two human beings who love each other so much
at a time when they couldn't legally be married on their own accord because they weren't even their own
people. They were property. These two people find a way because of the power of their love to be
together, and to honor their commitment of marriage to each other in this historical context. It's just so
Washington also saw a connection between DJANGO UNCHAINED and Tarantino's overall
body of work. "He is not afraid of violence, and darkness, and the dark side of the soul," Washington
says. "I think that you need someone who isn't afraid of those areas to be able to tell a story that takes
place in this time. Because it is fundamentally a love story, you also need someone who believes in the
goodness of human beings, and believes in love, and believes in beauty to be able to hold onto the love
story in the space of all that evil and darkness and greed. I think it's amazing that he's able to hold both
of those spaces."
"Love, rescue, transformation: that's the destination. That's the journey Quentin has written for
Jamie and Kerry in this movie," producer Stacey Sher agrees. Samuel L. Jackson, who starred for Tarantino in PULP FICTION and JACKIE BROWN, explains
that his interest in DJANGO UNCHAINED was twofold: "It's a piece of our history that generally gets
sort of whitewashed or perfumed in a way that this film just doesn't do," Jackson says, adding, "It's
always great to find a character on the inside of one of Quentin's stories to wrap myself around."
Production began on November 28, 2011 at a familiar location for fans of the western genre:
Melody Ranch, in Santa Clarita, California. Once owned by Gene Autry, the western town was used in
countless classic movies and television series, including STAGECOACH, HIGH NOON and Gunsmoke.
Foxx and Waltz trained with stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw and horse wrangler Rusty
Hendrickson for months prior to saddling up for the cameras. "I kind of relish it," Waltz says of his
relationship with his equine companion. "They introduced me to an approach that is more than just
riding. I really love the fact that if I do the right thing, the horse will understand. And if the horse doesn't
understand it is more than likely because I didn't communicate clearly."
Clear communication and weeks of preparation were required when the production moved to Big
Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, CA to film the sequence in which Spencer Bennett gathers a mob together to
raid Schultz's wagon. Given the skill needed to pull off the elaborate sequence, Dashnaw brought in the
most capable horsemen he could find, resulting in a multi-generational group of the most gifted stuntmen
working today. "Their timing was impeccable," Dashnaw remembers. "We had kids from nineteen years
old to fifty-five years old in that shot. It just kind of leveled everybody out. It was very satisfying because
there was three different generations of stunt people there from grandsons, to sons, to fathers, they were
"I think we had about thirty-five horses in that scene at one time," Hendrickson says. "And then
we carry a core of twenty horses that are randomly in the film throughout, mixing and matching. Some
horses are paired with three different actors that come and go."
Following their tenure at Melody Ranch and Big Sky, the production saddled up and relocated
about two hundred miles north to Lone Pine, California, just outside of Death Valley. HIGH SIERRA,
BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, and THE OX-BOW INCIDENT are just a few of the hundreds of films
that used Lone Pine's Alabama Hills as a backdrop. Django (Foxx) and Schultz's (Waltz) first meeting
was filmed in the stark woods of Independence, just north of Lone Pine.
James Russo and James Remar, who co-starred in THE COTTON CLUB in 1983, enjoyed their
brief reunion during the filming of DJANGO UNCHAINED's opening sequence. "It was a blast. We
had a good time. The weather was definitely sub-zero up in Lone Pine. I think the elevation was about
ten thousand feet. The winds were howling. They were very long night shoots, and I had the honor of
lying on the freezing ground after getting shot," Remar remembers. Lone Pine was just cold enough to give the effect of the frigid temperatures Tarantino wanted to
represent. "It was very, very important to Quentin because he believes in the magic of effects being
created without CGI. And the impact of movie magic on people. And so we'd go out to this place where
we were going to shoot the opening scene of the movie, and there was a production assistant that checked
to make sure that you could see your breath, that it was both cold enough, and moist enough so that you
could see your breath," Stacey Sher remembers.
But they all went to Wyoming after that," Remar notes. "I hear the cold of Lone Pine paled in
Due to a lack of snow in Mammoth, California, the production made a hasty relocation to Jackson,
Wyoming, where the Grand Tetons provided the backdrop for the film's winter scenes. Production
designer Michael Riva explained how the lack of snow proved serendipitous: "We had to disassemble the
entire set, put it on a truck, and we shipped it to Wyoming. And it was beautiful. There were many
locations that were really terrific, like steam rivers, hills with tons of snow, and elk preserves. It started to
open up the picture. The picture became very large, and the scope became really grand."
"The move to Jackson Hole was serendipitous. Filming in Wyoming made this movie bigger in so
many ways. It made Django's journey even more epic," Savone enthuses.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, Walt Goggins, Dana Gourrier, Nichole
Galicia and Laura Cayouette joined DJANGO UNCHAINED when the production made its way to a
warmer location: New Orleans, Louisiana.
Waltz, for one, embraced his time in New Orleans. He comments: "I'm from an alpine region.
The swamp and subtropical situation with not just the landscape and the plants, but the animals that live in
it like turtles, alligators, snakes. It's really a trip."
Evergreen Plantation, a historic site about an hour outside of the city, doubled for Don Johnson's
"You can imagine it was quite a sight at that time -- Django in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit and
Dr. Schultz riding on a wagon with a giant tooth with a gold filling on waggling back and forth. This is a
sleepy plantation in Tennessee." Johnson says of the absurdity of the scenes that were shot at Evergreen.
Johnson was a welcome addition to the cast. Foxx, who portrayed Tubbs in Michael Mann's
MIAMI VICE, reveled in working with the man who originated the role of Crocket. "It was like seeing
something magical, like a unicorn. There's Don Johnson," Foxx muses. "He was great choice. He
absolutely killed it, and none of these characters are quite likable in certain aspects because they're not
supposed to be."
"Don is Southern, and that was really important to Quentin," Sher says. "They've known each
other for years. It was great because the production had him for great big chunks. He left, he came back.
We were just always so thrilled when he'd come back to us."
Contrasting Johnson's white suit is one of the more bold costume choices in the film: Django's
"Blue Boy" outfit. "Jamie loved the Blue Boy," costume designer Sharen Davis says. "At our first
fitting, we were trying to work on his first change -- the hero costume, but he was so excited about blue
boy. He was in character. He was Django thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I have new clothes for the first time in
my life.' Seriously, you could barely get him out of he outfit. He just loved it."
The slave quarters seen in DJANGO UNCHAINED were also part of Evergreen. "You can't walk
through those places and not shed tears and feel something," Foxx says of the experience of shooting on
the plantation. "I took my three and a half and my eighteen year old children, and I let them walk through
there. I said, 'This is where you come from.' That's where we needed to be so we could really get down
into the story."
Following Django's showdown with the Brittle Brothers, the production moved to the Candyland
exterior, overlooking Evergreen Plantation's sugar cane fields. "We decided on big, flat area, a little bit
Wyeth-y, a little bit like DAYS OF HEAVEN. Just very simple, clean, and not foreboding at all," Riva
said. "I think we achieved that by just having it centered in the middle there. And we let the bad stuff
The Candyland interior was housed on a stage at Second Line Studio in New Orleans. "I clearly
saw Leo's character as the devil, so I wanted to surround him with as much red as possible as I could,"
Riva said of the design of the plantation. "For Django and, and Schultz, it seemed to me that they were
Western heroes, they were the warm nicotines, and the ambers. I tried to keep those colors in each set. At
the end of the movie, things get darker, things get redder, things get more serious. It's not very
complicated, but for me it helped to separate the two worlds that come clashing together."
Michael Riva passed away during the production of DJANGO UNCHAINED. "I feel really
blessed that I got to work with and know Michael Riva on a day-to-day basis. He was a magical,
mischievous, creative, brilliant, loving person, and artist," Sher says.
Candyland is the nucleus of a hostile, dysfunctional, powerful operation, run by Calvin Candie.
"One of the things that was interesting about the Antebellum South is the fact that when you had slavery
you had the equivalent of big corporations today," Tarantino says. "You had big corporations then, but
they would just be families."
Leonardo DiCaprio took on his first truly villainous role in playing Calvin Candie, Candyland's
owner and namesake. "He has a level of commitment and seriousness about his work that I don't think
people recognize because he's very quiet, and he's very humble, and he keeps to himself. He is the person who learned as a young man from Robert DeNiro in THIS BOY'S LIFE. He's the person who
cares about the filmmakers that he works with, and he brings his intelligence, and his commitment, and
his desire to get you closer and closer to the truth," Sher says of DiCaprio.
"He let me know he was interested in it," Tarantino says of DiCaprio. "I tried not to be that
specific with the character in the script, and I tried not to describe him too much, so it could be open for
interpretation. But I was thinking, possibly, of an older actor. And then Leo read the script and liked it
and we got together and started talking."
DiCaprio made an impact, and Tarantino's concept of the character shifted. "I just started
imagining how much easier it would be to reconfigure the guy as a Caligula; a boy emperor," Tarantino
says. "His daddy's daddy's daddy started a cotton business and his daddy's daddy continued it and made it
profitable, and his daddy made it even more profitable. Now, he's the fourth Candie in line to take over
the cotton business and he's bored with it. He doesn't care about cotton: that's why he's into the
Mandingo fighters. But he's the petulant boy prince. He's Louis XIV in Versailles. So I wanted to really
play with that idea, of King Louis XIV, but in the South. Candyland is a completely enclosed
community, about 65 miles long. That's a fiefdom. He has the power of a king; he can execute people, or
do whatever he wants."
"One of the most vile aspects of his character is that he's just got this charm, and yet he doesn't
really think he's doing anything wrong," Remar says of Candie's rationale. "He's this guy that's got too
much money, too much power, too much time on his hands, and he can run people's lives. He's a
Caligula. He's quite mad, but he justifies all of it. People aren't gonna like him. But they'll respect his
work. I mean I'm watching it and I'm very drawn in. He is very precise. He pays a great deal of
attention to detail."
Walt Goggins, who plays Billy Crash, comments on the complexity of Candyland's hierarchy:
"He's a part of sustaining this plantation system, because Billy Crash has it pretty good. Billy Crash and
Stephen have a real understanding that we have to keep this gravy train going because we're getting paid,
and life's pretty good for us at Candyland."
Samuel L. Jackson's Stephen has perhaps the most complicated relationship with Candie. "Once
we started doing table readings in Los Angeles I discovered where I wanted to go with him, who he was,
and what I wanted him to be," Jackson explains of Stephen. "It's an interesting relationship between Leo
and I that works out very well in terms of Django's relationship to Dr. Schultz. Their relationship is
almost shadowed by our relationship."
"I was here since his father was here, and probably spent a lot of time with him as a child and kind
of raised him. I'm almost like the father that's gone," Jackson says. "We have another relationship in
private than the one we have in public. Leo's characterization is awesome, and when we're alone he becomes the child that I used to take care of, and teach things, and talk to, and have a sterner relationship
with in terms of making him get in line and understanding what's going on."
Jackson worked with makeup artists Allan Apone and Jake Garber to design Stephen's aged,
weathered appearance. "Thank goodness Quentin hung in there with us and waited until we got it exactly
right," Jackson says. "We did about seven, eight makeup tests until we got to this particular place."
Even though Waltz and Cayouette had collaborated with Tarantino previously, all relationships
paled in comparison to Tarantino's rapport with Jackson. "Quentin and Sam's relationship makes you
jealous, like, 'Wow, man. Them dudes know each other.'" Foxx jokes. "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 Jackson was a true juggernaut."
DJANGO UNCHAINED also allowed Jackson to re-team with Kerry Washington, his co-star
from MOTHER AND CHILD and LAKEVIEW TERRACE. "I'm always glad to be in a creative space
with Kerry. She has this very soft, and gentle, and beautiful nature that is filled with fragility that covers
this strong thing that she has inside her. I just really like interacting with her. Every time we get together
something special happens." Jackson says.
"She was the one who we all cared about the most," Foxx adds. "If you talked to Quentin and Leo
and everybody, we wanted to make sure she was good because she had to go through hell. And to watch
her go through hell every day, it was tough."
Broomhilda's second language provided a welcome distraction for Washington. "Learning
German was actually really helpful for me," Washington recalls. "Once the role was offered to me I
became paralyzed with fear because I had a sense of how difficult the role was going to be for me
emotionally. I didn't know how to enter into it. I was concerned for myself in the process because I
could just feel how raw her world was. The German lessons, and wrapping my head around the German
helped me to hook into Broomhilda in ways that were not emotionally overwhelming at first. Developing
that part of her helped me approach the character without feeling like I was going to suffocate from the
sorrow of it."
Laura Cayouette plays Lara Lee, Candie's sister. "I think her part in Candyland, and also in this
movie is to sort of bring a bit of lace to this very brutal, brutal world," Cayouette says. "In a larger sense,
I think she represents the old South. I think she represents the thing that, that men went off to war to fight
for, and, and the ridiculousness and beauty of what it takes to dress like that, and you know, have your
hair done that way."
"The first time we see her, she has a little bit of a Blanche Dubois kind of thing. She pulls it off.
Her next change, she comes down like Queen Elizabeth. The tiara, and you know, royal colors. Her whole life is probably putting on clothes. She's not married anymore, she's head of household. The
family's rich, so she's always themed," costume designer Sharen Davis says.
Dennis Christopher, who plays Moguy, found that the production offered him an unexpected
chance to study the realities of slavery. "Slavery was not just a little blip in history. It's something that
built this country, and the cruelty that it embodies is something that we really have to look at. I did a lot of
research before I came down here, and one of the things that I walk away with is how little I really
learned about it in school. And you can never know the depths of evil that a man can sink to unless you
talk about it, unless you start the conversation, unless you illustrate it."
James Remar returned to the production, this time portraying Butch Pooch, Candie's bodyguard.
"I'm not a Southerner, I'm a very professional bodyguard, not really involved with the whole symbiosis
of Candyland. I have one job, and that's to protect Calvin Candie," Remar says.
The production made one last trip to the Los Angeles area to wrap on July 24, 2012. "It's been
such an adventure," Washington says. "We're in Wyoming one week, and the next week we're in
Louisiana, and then we're in Los Angeles. We're all over the place in the same way that this character is
trekking across the United States to find his wife. I think the adventure of making the film, and the
adventure that Django goes on, are epic journeys in the name of love, which I think is pretty awesome."
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