Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Written by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Edited by||Fred Raskin|
|Distributed by||The Weinstein Company (North America)
|Box office||$425.4 million|
Django Unchained (//, JANG-oh) is a 2012 American western film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Set in the Old West and Antebellum South, it is a highly stylized variation of the spaghetti Western. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson.
The story is set in early winter and the following spring, during the antebellum era of the Deep South, with preliminary scenes taking place in Old West Texas. The film follows Django (Foxx), an African-American slave, and Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), an English-speaking German bounty hunter posing as a traveling dentist. Schultz buys and then promises to free Django in exchange for his help in collecting a large bounty on three outlaws. Schultz subsequently promises to teach Django bounty hunting, and split the bounties with him, if Django assists him in hunting down other outlaws throughout the winter. He further offers to help Django to locate and free his long-lost wife (Washington) from her cruel plantation owner (DiCaprio).
The film was a major critical and commercial success and was nominated for several film industry awards, including five Academy Awards. Waltz won several awards for his performance, among them Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Academy Awards. Tarantino won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA award for writing the film's original screenplay. The film grossed over $425 million worldwide in theaters against its $100 million budget, making it Tarantino's highest-grossing theatrical release.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Music
- 5 Release
- 6 Reception
- 7 Potential future projects
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In Texas 1858, the Speck brothers, Ace and Dicky, drive African-American slaves on foot. Among the shackled slaves is Django, sold off and separated from his wife, Broomhilda. The Speck brothers are stopped by Dr. King Schultz, a German ex-dentist and bounty hunter from Düsseldorf. Schultz asks to buy one of the slaves; when he questions Django about his knowledge of the Brittle brothers, for whom Schultz is carrying a warrant, Ace becomes irritated and aims his shotgun at Schultz. Schultz quickly kills Ace and leaves Dicky at the mercy of the newly freed slaves, who shoot Dicky in the head.
Django can identify the Brittle brothers, so Schultz offers Django his freedom in exchange for help tracking them down. After executing the Brittles, Django partners with Schultz through the winter and becomes his apprentice. Schultz discovers that Django has a natural ability with a gun and is an incredibly accurate shot. Schultz explains that he feels responsible for Django, since he is the first person he has ever freed, and offers to help Django reunite with and free Broomhilda. Django, now fully trained, collects his first bounty, keeping the handbill for good luck.
In Mississippi, Schultz learns the identity of Broomhilda's owner: Calvin Candie, the charming but brutal owner of the Candyland plantation, where slaves are forced to fight to the death in wrestling matches called "Mandingo fights". Schultz, expecting Candie will not sell Broomhilda if they ask for her directly, feigns interest in purchasing one of Candie's prized fighters for far more than the normal price. Schultz and Django meet Candie at his gentleman's club in Greenville and submit their offer. Intrigued, Candie invites them to Candyland. After secretly briefing Broomhilda, Schultz claims to be charmed by the German-speaking Broomhilda and offers to buy her.
During dinner, Candie's staunchly loyal house slave, Stephen, becomes suspicious. Deducing that Django and Broomhilda know each other and that the sale of the Mandingo fighter is misdirection, Stephen alerts Candie and admonishes him for his greed. Candie is angered at being fooled and having his time wasted, but contains his anger long enough to theatrically display his knowledge of phrenology, which he uses to explain why the slaves have failed to kill their oppressors, despite ample opportunity.
Candie's bodyguard, Butch Pooch, bursts into the room with his shotgun trained on the two bounty hunters, and Candie explodes in anger, threatening to kill Broomhilda. He offers an alteration of the original deal, with Broomhilda taking the Mandingo fighter's place at the same price, and threatens her death, should the deal be rejected. After business appears concluded, Candie insists that the deal be sealed through a hand-shake, which Schultz initially refuses. Eventually Schultz appears to concede, but instead kills Candie with a concealed derringer. Schultz is killed by Butch and Django kills him in turn. An extensive gunfight between Django and Candie's henchmen ensues. Django guns down a great number of his opponents, but surrenders when Broomhilda is taken hostage.
The next morning, Stephen tells Django that he will be sold to a mine and worked to death. En route to the mine, Django proves to his dim-witted Australian escorts that he is a bounty hunter by showing them the handbill from his first kill. He convinces them that there is a large bounty for criminals hiding at Candyland, and promises that they would receive the majority of the money. The escorts release him and give him a pistol; he kills them before stealing a horse and returning to Candyland.
Returning to the plantation, Django kills more of Candie's henchmen, takes Broomhilda's freedom papers from the dead Schultz's pocket, bids goodbye to his friend and frees Broomhilda from a nearby cabin. When Candie's mourners return from his burial, Django kills the remaining henchmen and Candie's sister Lara, releases the two remaining house slaves, and kneecaps Stephen. Django ignites dynamite that he has planted throughout the mansion, and he and Broomhilda watch from a distance as the mansion explodes, killing Stephen, before riding off together.
- Jamie Foxx as Django "Freeman"
- Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz
- Leonardo DiCaprio as "Monsieur" Calvin J. Candie
- Kerry Washington as Broomhilda "Hildi" Von Shaft
- Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen
- Don Johnson as Spencer "Big Daddy" Bennett
- Walton Goggins as Billy Crash
- James Remar as Ace Speck and Butch Pooch
- Dennis Christopher as Leonide "Leo" Moguy
- James Russo as Dicky Speck
- David Steen as Mr. Stonecipher
- Tom Wopat as U.S. Marshall Gill Tatum
- Dana Michelle Gourrier as Cora
- Nichole Galicia as Sheba
- Laura Cayouette as Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly
- Ato Essandoh as D'Artagnan
- Sammi Rotibi as Rodney
- Clay Donahue as Fontenot
- Escalante Lundy as Big Fred
- Miriam F. Glover as Betina
- Omar J. Dorsey as Chicken Charlie
- Franco Nero as Amerigo Vessepi
Other roles include Russ Tamblyn as Son of a Gunfighter, Amber Tamblyn as Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter, Don Stroud as Sheriff Bill Sharp, Bruce Dern as Old Man Carrucan, M. C. Gainey as Big John Brittle, Cooper Huckabee as Lil Raj Brittle, Doc Duhame as Ellis Brittle, Jonah Hill as Bag Head #2, a member of a Ku Klux Klan-like group; Lee Horsley as Sheriff Gus (Snowy Snow), Rex Linn as Tennessee Harry, Misty Upham as Minnie, and Danièle Watts as Coco. Zoë Bell, Michael Bowen, Robert Carradine, Jake Garber, Ted Neeley, James Parks, and Tom Savini play Candyland trackers, while Michael Parks and John Jarratt, alongside Tarantino himself in a cameo appearance as Robert, play the LeQuint Dickey Mining Company employees.
In 2007, Tarantino discussed an idea for a type of spaghetti western set in the United States' pre-Civil War Deep South. He called this type of film "a southern", stating that he wanted "to do movies that deal with America's horrible past with slavery and stuff but do them like spaghetti westerns, not like big issue movies. I want to do them like they're genre films, but they deal with everything that America has never dealt with because it's ashamed of it, and other countries don't really deal with because they don't feel they have the right to." Tarantino later explained the genesis of the idea: "I was writing a book about Sergio Corbucci when I came up with a way to tell the story. ... I was writing about how his movies have this evil Wild West, a horrible Wild West. It was surreal, it dealt a lot with fascism. So I'm writing this whole piece on this, and I'm thinking: 'I don't really know if Sergio was thinking [this] while he was doing this. But I know I'm thinking it now. And I can do it!' "
Tarantino finished the script on April 26, 2011, and handed in the final draft to The Weinstein Company. In October 2012, frequent Tarantino collaborator RZA said that he and Tarantino had intended to cross over Django Unchained with RZA's Tarantino-presented martial-arts film The Man with the Iron Fists. The crossover would have seen a younger version of the blacksmith character from RZA's film appear as a slave in an auction. However, scheduling conflicts prevented RZA's participation.
One inspiration for the film is Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti western Django, whose star Franco Nero has a cameo appearance in Django Unchained. Another inspiration is the 1975 film Mandingo, about a slave trained to fight other slaves. Tarantino included scenes in the snow as a homage to The Great Silence. "Silenzio takes place in the snow. I liked the action in the snow so much, Django Unchained has a big snow section in the middle," Tarantino said in an interview.
The title Django Unchained alludes to the titles of the 1966 Corbucci film Django; Hercules Unchained, the American title for the 1959 Italian epic fantasy film Ercole e la regina di Lidia, about the mythical hero's escape from enslavement to a wicked master; and to Angel Unchained, the 1970 American biker film about a biker exacting revenge on a large group of rednecks.
Among those considered for the title role of Django, Michael K. Williams and Will Smith were mentioned as possibilities, but in the end Jamie Foxx was cast in the role. Smith later said he turned down the role because it "wasn't the lead". Tyrese Gibson sent in an audition tape as the character. Franco Nero, the original Django from the 1966 Italian film, was rumored for the role of Calvin Candie, but instead was given a cameo appearance as a minor character. Nero suggested that he play a mysterious horseman who haunts Django in visions and is revealed in an ending flashback to be Django's father; Tarantino opted not to use the idea. Kevin Costner was in negotiations to join as Ace Woody, a Mandingo trainer and Candie's right-hand man, but Costner dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Kurt Russell was cast instead but also later left the role. When Kurt Russell dropped out, the role of Ace Woody was not recast; instead, the character was merged with Walton Goggins's character, Billy Crash.
Jonah Hill was offered the role of Scotty Harmony, a gambler who loses Broomhilda to Candie in a poker game, but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with The Watch. Sacha Baron Cohen was also offered the role, but declined in order to appear in Les Misérables. Neither Scotty nor the poker game appear in the final cut of the film. Hill later appeared in the film in a different role. Joseph Gordon-Levitt said that "would have loved, loved to have" been in the film but would be unable to appear because of a prior commitment to direct his first film, Don Jon. DiCaprio played his first role as a villain as the cruel plantation owner Calvin Candie.
In a January 2013 interview with Vanity Fair, costume designer Sharen Davis said much of the film's wardrobe was inspired by spaghetti westerns and other works of art. For Django's wardrobe, Davis and Tarantino watched the television series Bonanza and referred to it frequently. The pair even hired the hatmaker who designed the hat worn by the Bonanza character Little Joe, played by Michael Landon. Davis described Django's look as a "rock-n-roll take on the character". Django's sunglasses were inspired by Charles Bronson's character in The White Buffalo (1977). Davis used Thomas Gainsborough's 1770 oil painting The Blue Boy as a reference for Django's valet outfit.
In the final scene, Broomhilda wears a dress similar to that of Ida Galli's character in Blood for a Silver Dollar (1965). Davis said the idea of Calvin Candie's costume came partly from Rhett Butler, and that Don Johnson's signature Miami Vice look inspired Big Daddy's cream-colored linen suit in the film. King Schultz's faux chinchilla coat was inspired by Telly Savalas in Kojak. Davis also revealed that many of her costume ideas did not make the final cut of the film, leaving some unexplained characters such as Zoë Bell's tracker, who was intended to drop her bandana to reveal an absent jaw.
Principal photography for Django Unchained started in California in November 2011 continuing in Wyoming in February 2012 and at the National Historic Landmark Evergreen Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana, outside of New Orleans, in March 2012. The film was shot in the anamorphic format on 35 mm film. Although originally scripted, a sub-plot centering on Zoë Bell's masked tracker was cut, and remained unfilmed, due to time constraints. After 130 shooting days, the film wrapped up principal photography in July 2012.
Django Unchained was the first Tarantino film not edited by Sally Menke, who died in 2010. Editing duties were instead handled by Fred Raskin, who had worked as an assistant editor on Tarantino's Kill Bill. Raskin was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Editing but lost to William Goldenberg for his work on Argo.
The film features both original and existing music tracks. Tracks composed specifically for the film include "100 Black Coffins" by Rick Ross and produced by and featuring Jamie Foxx, "Who Did That To You?" by John Legend, "Ancora Qui" by Ennio Morricone and Elisa, and "Freedom" by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton. The theme, "Django", was also the theme song of the 1966 film. Musician Frank Ocean wrote an original song for the film's soundtrack, but it was rejected by Tarantino, who explained that "Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn't a scene for it." Frank Ocean later published the song, entitled "Wiseman", on his Tumblr blog. The film also features a few famous pieces of western classical music, including Beethoven's "Für Elise" and "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem. Tarantino has stated that he avoids using full scores of original music: "I just don't like the idea of giving that much power to anybody on one of my movies." The film's soundtrack album was released on December 18, 2012. Ennio Morricone made statements criticizing Tarantino's use of his music in Django Unchained and stated that he would "never work" with the director after this film, but later agreed to compose an original film score for Tarantino's The Hateful Eight in 2015.
The first teaser poster was inspired by a fan-art poster by Italian artist Federico Mancosu. His artwork was published in May 2011, a few days after the synopsis and the official title were released to the public. In August 2012, at Tarantino's request, the production companies bought the concept artwork from Mancosu to use for promotional purposes as well as on the crew passes and clothing for staff during filming.
Django Unchained was released on December 25, 2012, in the United States by The Weinstein Company and released on January 18, 2013, by Sony Pictures Releasing International in the United Kingdom. The film was screened for the first time at the Directors Guild of America on December 1, 2012, with additional screening events having been held for critics leading up to the film's wide release. The premiere of Django Unchained was delayed by one week following the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.
The film was released on March 22, 2013, by Sony Pictures in India. In March 2013, Django Unchained was announced to be the first Tarantino film approved for official distribution in China's strictly controlled film market. Lily Kuo, writing for Quartz, wrote that "the film depicts one of America's darker periods, when slavery was legal, which Chinese officials like to use to push back against criticism from the United States." The film was released in China on May 12, 2013.
After a total of 143 days, the film ended its American theatrical run on May 16, 2013 with a gross of $162,805,434 in North America. It grossed $262,562,804 in foreign countries including $51,597,323 of Germany, $37,297,979 of France, and $24,893,462 of the United Kingdom, making a worldwide total gross of $425,368,238. As of 2013, Django Unchained became Tarantino's highest-grossing film, surpassing his 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, which grossed $321.4 million worldwide.
The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital Download on April 16, 2013. In the United States, the film has grossed $31,939,733 from DVD sales and $30,286,838 from Blu-ray sales, making a total of $62,226,571.
The film has been acclaimed by critics and has garnered a rating of 88% on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 247 critical reviews with an average rating of 8 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "Bold, bloody, and stylistically daring, Django Unchained is another incendiary masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 81, indicating "universal acclaim".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four and said: "The film offers one sensational sequence after another, all set around these two intriguing characters who seem opposites but share pragmatic, financial and personal issues." Ebert also added, "had I not been prevented from seeing it sooner because of an injury, this would have been on my year's best films list." Peter Bradshaw, film critic for The Guardian, awarded the film five stars, writing: "I can only say Django delivers, wholesale, that particular narcotic and delirious pleasure that Tarantino still knows how to confect in the cinema, something to do with the manipulation of surfaces. It's as unwholesome, deplorable and delicious as a forbidden cigarette." Writing in The New York Times, critic A. O. Scott compared Django to Tarantino's earlier Inglourious Basterds: "Like Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained is crazily entertaining, brazenly irresponsible and also ethically serious in a way that is entirely consistent with its playfulness." Designating the film a Times 'critics' pick, Scott said Django is "a troubling and important movie about slavery and racism." Filmmaker Michael Moore praised Django, tweeting that the movie "is one of the best film satires ever. A rare American movie on slavery and the origins of our sick racist history."
To the contrary, Owen Gleiberman, film critic for the Entertainment Weekly, wrote that "Django isn't nearly the film that Inglourious was. It's less clever, and it doesn't have enough major characters – or enough of Tarantino's trademark structural ingenuity – to earn its two-hour-and-45-minute running time." In his review for the Indy Week, David Fellerath wrote: "Django Unchained shows signs that Tarantino did little research beyond repeated viewings of Sergio Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti Western Django and a blaxploitation from 1975 called Boss Nigger, written by and starring Fred Williamson." New Yorker 's Anthony Lane was "disturbed by their [Tarantino's fans'] yelps of triumphant laughter, at the screening I attended, as a white woman was blown away by Django's guns."
Objections to specific elements of the film
Portrayal and descriptions of African-Americans and slavery
Some commentators have felt that the film's heavy usage of the word "nigger" is inappropriate, affecting them to an even greater extent than the depicted violence against the slaves. Other reviewers have defended the usage of the language in the historic context of race and slavery in the United States.
Filmmaker Spike Lee, in an interview with Vibe, said he would not see the film, explaining "All I'm going to say is that it's disrespectful to my ancestors. That's just me.... I'm not speaking on behalf of anybody else." Lee later wrote, "American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It was a Holocaust. My ancestors are slaves stolen from Africa. I will honor them." Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, interpreted the movie as "preparation for race war."
Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe compared Samuel L. Jackson's Stephen character to black Republicans like Clarence Thomas or Herman Cain. Samuel L. Jackson said that he believed his character to have "the same moral compass as Clarence Thomas does." Jackson defended heavy use of the word "nigger": "Saying Tarantino said 'nigger' too many times is like complaining they said 'kyke' (sic) too many times in a movie about Nazis."
Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Columbia University, compared the fugitive ex–Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner to a real-life Django, saying "It's almost like watching 'Django Unchained' in real life. It's kind of exciting." Writing in the Los Angeles Times, journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan noted the difference between Tarantino's Jackie Brown and Django Unchained: "It is an institution whose horrors need no exaggerating, yet Django does exactly that, either to enlighten or entertain. A white director slinging around the n-word in a homage to '70s blaxploitation à la Jackie Brown is one thing, but the same director turning the savageness of slavery into pulp fiction is quite another."
While hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live, Jamie Foxx joked about being excited "to kill all the white people in the movie". Columnist Jeff Kuhner wrote a reaction to the SNL skit for The Washington Times, saying: "Anti-white bigotry has become embedded in our postmodern culture. Take Django Unchained. The movie boils down to one central theme: the white man as devil—a moral scourge who must be eradicated like a lethal virus."
Use of violence
Some reviews criticized the film for being too violent. The originally planned premiere of Django was postponed following the Sandy Hook school shooting on December 14, 2012. Thomas Frank criticized the film's use of violence as follows:
Not surprisingly, Quentin Tarantino has lately become the focus for this sort of criticism (about the relationship between the movies and acts of violence). The fact that Django Unchained arrived in theaters right around the time of the Sandy Hook massacre didn't help. Yet he has refused to give an inch in discussing the link between movie violence and real life. Obviously I don't think one has to do with the other. Movies are about make-believe. It's about imagination. Part of the thing is trying to create a realistic experience, but we are faking it. Is it possible that anyone in our cynical world credits a self-serving sophistry like this? Of course an industry under fire will claim that its hands are clean, just as the NRA has done – and of course a favorite son, be it Tarantino or LaPierre, can be counted on to make the claim louder than anyone else. But do they really believe that imaginative expression is without consequence?
The Independent said the movie was part of "the new sadism in cinema" and added, "There is something disconcerting about sitting in a crowded cinema as an audience guffaws at the latest garroting or falls about in hysterics as someone is beheaded or has a limb lopped off".
Adam Serwer from Mother Jones provided a more nuanced view, saying that "Django, like many Tarantino films, also has been criticized as cartoonishly violent, but it is only so when Django is killing slave owners and overseers. The violence against slaves is always appropriately terrifying. This, if nothing else, puts Django in the running for Tarantino's best film, the first one in which he discovers violence as horror rather than just spectacle. When Shultz turns his head away from a slave being torn apart by dogs, Django explains to Calvin Candie—the plantation owner played by Leo DiCaprio—that Shultz just isn't used to Americans."
Although Tarantino has said about Mandingo fighting, "I was always aware those things existed", there is no definitive historical evidence that slave owners ever staged gladiator-like fights to the death between male slaves like the fight depicted in the movie. Historian Edna Greene Medford notes that there are only undocumented rumors that such fights took place. David Blight, the director of Yale's center for the study of slavery, said it was not a matter of moral or ethical reservations that prevented slave owners from pitting slaves against each other in combat, but rather economic self-interest: slave owners would not have wanted to put their substantial financial investments at risk in gladiatorial battles.
The non-historical term "Mandingo" for a fine fighting or breeding slave comes not from Tarantino, but the earlier film Mandingo.
Writing in The New Yorker, William Jelani Cobb observed that Tarantino's occasional historical elasticity sometimes worked to the film's advantage. "There are moments," Cobb wrote, "where this convex history works brilliantly, like when Tarantino depicts the Ku Klux Klan a decade prior to its actual formation in order to thoroughly ridicule its members' veiled racism." The marauding masked group depicted in the film were known as "The Regulators" and were depicted as spiritual forebears of the later post-civil war KKK and not as the actual KKK.
On the matter of historical accuracy, Christopher Caldwell wrote in the Financial Times: "Of course, we must not mistake a feature film for a public television documentary", pointing out that the film should be treated as entertainment, not as a historical account of the time period it is set in. "Django uses slavery the way a pornographic film might use a nurses' convention: as a pretext for what is really meant to entertain us. What is really meant to entertain us in Django is violence." Richard Brody, however, wrote in The New Yorker that Tarantino's "vision of slavery's monstrosity is historically accurate.... Tarantino rightly depicts slavery as no mere administrative ownership but a grievous and monstrous infliction of cruelty."
Django Unchained garnered several awards and nominations. The American Film Institute named it one of their Top Ten Movies of the Year in December 2012. The film received three Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Screenplay for Tarantino. Tarantino won the award for Best Original Screenplay. Christoph Waltz received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor, his second time receiving all three awards, having previously won for his role in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. The NAACP Image Awards gave the film four nominations, while the National Board of Review named DiCaprio their Best Supporting Actor. Django Unchained earned a nomination for Best Theatrical Motion Picture from the Producers Guild of America.
Potential future projects
Tarantino has said in an interview that he has 90 minutes of material of the film on the cutting room floor and considered re-editing Django Unchained into a four-hour, four-night cable miniseries. Tarantino said that breaking the story into four parts would be more satisfying to audiences than a four-hour movie: "...it wouldn't be an endurance test. It would be a mini-series. And people love those."
In the 2014 film A Million Ways to Die in the West, Django is seen shooting the proprietor of a racially charged shooting game, saying 'people die at the fair'.
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