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Django/Zorro

And Tarantino said: ‘Black and brown come together.’ Reggie Hudlin on a comic book’s birth By David Betancourt February 5 at 10:00 PM Django/Zorro. (courtesy of Dynamite Comics) Overseeing historic moments involving heroes of color is nothing new for Reggie Hudlin. From his five-year run writing Black Panther for Marvel…

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The Man Who Helped Unchain ‘Django’

Here’s a wonderful article profiling me in the Wall Street Journal.  The Journal did a really important story on me at the beginning of my career before the launch of HOUSE PARTY, so their support means a lot to me.

The Man Who Helped Unchain ‘Django’

By A.D. Pruitt

February 16, 2013

Reginald HudlinReginald Hudlin has been a player in the entertainment world for over 20 years, but on Feb. 24  Hudlin will have his first shot at winning an Oscar as one of the producers for “Django Unchained.”  The Quentin Tarantino-directed film starring Jamie Foxx as a renegade slave turned bounty hunter is nominated for Best Picture, making Hudlin just the fourth African- American producer to receive such a nod.

Hudlin, former president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television, is a prolific writer, director and producer for TV and film with much of his creative work touching on African-American-themed projects.  He is best known for his debut film “House Party” that starred hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play and directing such hits as “Boomerang” with Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry.

So, it was little surprise that Tarantino picked Hudlin’s brain more than a decade ago about how to make a movie about American slavery.   “We were having a long conversation about slave movies and I stated my opinion that most of them don’t work because they’re more focused on victimology,” said Hudlin in a phone interview with The Wall Street Journal.  “I wanted to see people who fought back; the equivalent of Spartacus in an Antebellum context.”

Hudlin said he had forgotten about that conversation until Tarantino called him up with a script and said “look you planted the seed and this is the tree.”

Not everyone, however, appreciates what “Django” has grown into.  While the film’s  has had critical and commercial success, it has also sparked fierce criticism from black intellectuals and artists including film director Spike Lee who told “Vibe” magazine he wouldn’t see the movie because “it’s disrespectful to my ancestors.” As the sole black producer on Django, Hudlin shares his views about the criticism, the state of black Hollywood and if a “Django” sequel is in the works.

Jamie Foxx, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained.”How did Tarantino bring on you as a producer?

He called (me) over the house handed me the script. I told him how much I loved it and he asked me if I had any notes. I shared with him my thoughts…and then I wished him good luck. Then he said…we need to do this one together. We had never worked together before, but it was an exciting prospect. I knew this was an important movie. So, three days later we’re meeting with studios. A week after that, we’re scouting locations in Louisiana.

When you read the script did you think this was going to be a land mine for criticism particularly with the violence and the use of the “N-word”?

I thought that the movie was powerful. Of course, it was going to be controversial.  There’s so few stories made about black people that each film takes on an inordinate amount of importance …particularly in this period of our history.

Black people have not come to terms with how to deal with this most painful part of our past. You look at the Jewish community….they take the Holocaust, the most painful part of their heritage [and] their attitude is: we will never forget and we will take strength from this, we would never let the world forget. The black community has not come to that same kind of consensus.

How do you think this film changes the conversation?

First of all, there is a conversation. There weren’t people sitting around talking about slavery a year ago. People were talking about “Basketball Wives.” The very fact that people are talking about slavery, depictions of our history, researching different real life characters…is for the good.

Were you surprised by the acclaim “Django” has received?

I always felt very confident [with] the material. It was a great script, Quentin is a great director. We had a dream cast. Every day on the set, magic happened.

“Django” has been characterized as a Spaghetti Western. I thought it was also made in the spirit of the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s.

The phrase blaxploitation film is an unfortunate slur that has stuck on that period of movies. I think what defines those films are strong Black people who stand up for what they believe in and fight back. The fact we’ve never had as many images of strong black men and women since that period is criminal.

Tell me about your comic book series based on the characters from “Django.”

It’s really exciting because it’s based on the original script. We’re not just drawing the movie, we’re including all these scenes which may have been shot, but cut or maybe never shot at all. And the artist who’s drawing the books hasn’t seen the film yet. He’s doing his own version of the characters which sometimes look very different from the actors we cast.

Do you foresee a “Django” sequel?

I promised Quentin I would not harass him about a sequel for another six months. I know that Quentin has never done a sequel and it’s sort of torturous because he has fantastic ideas for sequels for almost all of his films. I have to presume there will not be a sequel, but I don’t have to accept it.

What do you think about the state of black Hollywood now?

The fact is things are much better. There are black actors in many more TV shows and movies than ever before. You can’t say there isn’t improvement in terms of more opportunity. I think what people continue to be frustrated about is the range of representation.

What do you think “Django’s” legacy will be?

Not only is “Django” Quentin’s biggest hit, it’s on its way to being the biggest western of all time. To say the biggest western of all time stars Jamie Foxx is an amazing statement.

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Oscar-Nominated Producer Reginald Hudlin Talks ‘Django Unchained’

Once central to the 1990’s Wave of Black Films, Hudlin Speaks on His Recent Oscar Nod

Reginald Hudlin

By Gil Robertson IV for Ebony.com

As a newly minted Academy Award nominee (as one of nine producers on Django Unchained), Reginald Hudlin has once again demonstrated his strength as a creative force in Hollywood. Beginning his career as the director of the classic hip-hop comedy House Party, Hudlin has gone on to showcase his considerable talents by directing other hit films like Boomerang and The Great White Hype, and as a writer and producer for several successful TV shows. A former president of entertainment for BET, the Harvard University graduate has been a consistent power player, widely respected throughout the industry for his commitment to his craft.

EBONY.com recently caught up with Hudlin to discuss his success on Django Unchained and his incredible career.

As a newly minted Academy Award nominee (as one of nine producers on Django Unchained), Reginald Hudlin has once again demonstrated his strength as a creative force in Hollywood. Beginning his career as the director of the classic hip-hop comedy House Party, Hudlin has gone on to showcase his considerable talents by directing other hit films like Boomerang and The Great White Hype, and as a writer and producer for several successful TV shows. A former president of entertainment for BET, the Harvard University graduate has been a consistent power player, widely respected throughout the industry for his commitment to his craft.

EBONY.com recently caught up with Hudlin to discuss his success on Django Unchained and his incredible career.

EBONY: How does it feel to make history as only the fourth African-American to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Picture category?

Reginald Hudlin: It’s an incredible honor! Hopefully some time soon, there will be so many Black folks nominated in this category that we’ll stop counting.

EBONY: What are your thoughts regarding the various controversies with Django Unchained?

RH: This movie is not only QT’s biggest film, but it is on track to be the most successful Western in movie history. That’s right: a Black Western starring Jamie Foxx. A huge part of that box office success has been Black viewers. They were almost half the audience on opening day, and Black viewers have consistently remained around 30 percent of the box office thus far. So the people are clearly voting with their dollars. To quote Jay-Z, “Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t lie.”

Our success is clearly more than just people going to see the film. All types of educators, critics, intellectuals, social activists and parents have contacted me in one form or another for helping to make the film happen. Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, has seen it four times. Dick Gregory has seen it 12 times. We never expected to please everybody, but once you remove the distortion effect of the media, it’s pretty clear that we are pleasing most people.

EBONY: How did you get involved with the film?

RH: Quentin and I have been friends for over 15 years. It’s a natural and easy friendship because we are pretty obsessive with our love of pop culture, whether it be film, music or comic books. We also don’t see any division between high and low art. Sometimes the most relevant expressions of pop culture are in mediums or genres that are dismissed by the mainstream, but they end up having a bigger long-term cultural impact.

Over a decade ago, Quentin and I were talking about movies about slavery and I brought up my frustration with most of them. I had no interest in seeing yet another movie about noble suffering. I wanted to see foot to ass. There were all kinds of Black people who stood up and fought back, including members of my own family. I wanted to see stories about them. It was one of many conversations we had about movies, so I didn’t think much of it until April of 2011, when he handed me the script and reminded me of that conversation and how that had been the seed for Django Unchained. There are not a lot of people in Hollywood who would acknowledge that, or bring you on as a producer to help ensure the spirit of the project. But Quentin is a rare individual.

EBONY: Do you have any comments regarding Quentin’s Best Director nomination omission among Oscar voters?

RH: I think everyone on the film did superlative work. I think Quentin is a masterful director as well as a brilliant writer. I think Sharen Davis is an incredible costume designer. I think the original music by John Legend and Jamie Foxx is incredible. I think Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson gave performances that will be remembered in film history. I can go on and on because I feel so proud of my colleagues and so protective of them. But you can’t complain about what you don’t have. I’m very proud of Quentin and Christoph winning Golden Globes, and I hope that’s the start of a trend.

EBONY: What would you say is the takeaway for moviegoers seeing Django?

RH: The film has spurred a national conversation about slavery, which is America’s original sin. It’s a conversation that is long overdue if we as a nation are going to make the most of the 21st century.

The film also tells us that a love story between a Black man and a Black women can have tremendous success at the box office, and that people of all races and ages will support it. 

Lastly, the film gives us a kickass Black hero in the spirit of Stagolee and other mythic characters. Django stands in for true-life heroes whose stories may never be told, like my great-great-grandfather, who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Gil Robertson IV is a noted A&E and Black lifestyle journalist, author and producer. President and co-founder of the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), he resides in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Follow the AAFCA on Twitter @theaafca.

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The Road To The Golden Globes

The Road to the Golden Globes

Here’s a little photo essay about our Golden Globes experience.

Traffic on the way to the Golden Globe Awards

The traffic is incredible. This is a street I zip up and down four times a day, right near my house. Today it’s the only route to the Golden Globes and it takes a half hour to go five blocks.

Chrisette

Fortunately my wife looks beautiful. But I can’t tell her because I woke up with no voice that morning. I didn’t really speak to anyone until I hit the red carpet.

Reginald and fellow producers Pilar Savone and Stacey Sher

Me and my fellow producers Pilar Savone and Stacey Sher inside the room. This is my forth award show this week so even though it’s an incredible array of stars, you’ve partying with them every day so it’s like senior week in high school before graduation.

Reginald and Christoph Waltz at the afterparty

Me and Christoph Waltz at the afterparty later. He insisted I pose with his Golden Globe. Who am I to refuse?

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'Django Unchained' Producer Reginald Hudlin Talks Bringing the Film To Comic Form

By Joseph Hughes for Comics Alliance

Reginald Hudlin has worn a lot of hats. He’s been a producer, comic writer, and director, amongst other work. Recently, Hudlin’s applied two of those skills to one project, as both a producer on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and, as it turns out, the writer who’s adapting the film into a miniseries for DC Comics, along with artist R.M. Guera.

ComicsAlliance had a chance to speak with Hudlin about writing the Django Unchained comic, talking comics with Tarantino, and the very real possibility of Kill Bill someday being adapted as a comic as well.

ComicsAlliance: Talk a bit about how this comic came about. It’s meant to include things that were cut from the final film. What made you, director Quentin Tarantino, and everyone else behind the decision come to the conclusion that a comic adaptation was the right way to tell this story in full?

Reginald Hudlin: Well, it always seemed a little odd to me that Quentin had never done anything in the comic book medium, you know? He’s such a fan, and we spend a lot of time talking about comic books. He likes to publish his screenplays as written, with no photographs, no images, so they kind of stand alone as a piece of literature. But given how many changes we were making to the screenplay while we were making the movie, because we’d say "Oh, this actor has a new idea," or "Quentin has a new idea," or something with the location, and we’d kind of change things around. And then of course with the movie we had to cut a lot of things just to get it to the 2 hours and 45 minutes that it was, so we had to cut a lot of scenes that were our favorite material. So the idea of doing a comic book that had all that original stuff just seemed like a good idea. It seemed like a good extra bonus for readers.

CA: Like you said, Tarantino hasn’t done comics before, and you were surprised by that, but you obviously have.

RH: Yeah, I mean, it’s cool. I’ve done them before, but he’s very comic book literate [laughs]. And the same way that we would spend hours discussing obscure movies and obscure TV shows, we would also discuss obscure comic books. Not just Marvel and DC, but Gold Key, Charlton, Dell, you know. We would go deep in the stacks as we talked about comics [laughs]. So it just seemed crazy to me that he had never done this. So I just said "Look, this is for you, this is your world. You need to be here." And when he was flipping through the pages of the first issue, he was just so happy, and he turned to me and said "I can’t believe we’ve never done this before." And I said "Yeah, can you imagine a Kill Bill comic! That’d be pretty cool."

CA: It’s not too late. I’m just putting that out there…

RH: No, no, it’s not too late! I promised him that going forward we would make sure that this oversight would never happen again. I’ll have to take a hard look at going back to some of those classics and maybe revisiting those as well.

CA: Again, you have experience writing comics, with your run on Marvel’s Black Panther and your work on the graphic novel Birth of a Nation. But this was adapting a screenplay into comic form. How has this experience been different from your previous comic work?

RH: The trick is, you know, when you read a Quentin Tarantino screenplay, you see the movie in your head. That’s one of the reasons why he’s not just a great screenwriter. The prose really sings on the page. So the trick is, he’s writing something incredibly cinematic, and so you’re taking something that’s very cinematic, and you have to translate it into another medium, this comic book medium. And there are certain things you can’t do. When he invokes that camera move in your head, well, you know we don’t quite have camera moves in comics. A character can’t nod his head, so he has to verbalize what he’s saying. You don’t have music and sound effects as tools in your toolbox. But that said, sometimes removing tools from your toolbox can increase your storytelling strength, because you have to say "Okay, well, how do I convey this idea?" So the challenge is exciting.

CA: You’re working with R.M. Guera, a very accomplished artist who previously worked on Scalped, a comic that, like Django Unchained, is partially inspired by Spaghetti Westerns. What’s it been like working with him? Were you familiar with his work before this collaboration?

RH: Oh, absolutely! I’m a huge, huge fan of Scalped. It’s a brilliant comic, brilliantly written and brilliantly drawn. We had a number of artists who were interested in the job, and when [Tarantino] picked Guera I was very excited. I think that having the right artist is a huge part of the job. You can just go "Okay, well, if I’ve got a script by Quentin Tarantino and art by R.M. Guera, there’s very little I can do wrong!" [Laughs].

CA: There’s been a lot of critical and commercial success with the film, but there’s been some controversy behind it as well, due to the violence, the language and the subject matter. Has that in any way shaped how you’ve gone forward in working on the comic?

RH: No. Well, first of all, I was working on the comic while we were still shooting the movie. And secondly, we made the decision really early on to make the comic book be the comic book, which is different from the movie. If anything the idea is that people can read the comic, they can see the movie, they can see what we changed, what we left out, what we kept in, and they can decide for themselves if those choices were good or not. We want people to look at the text and really think about those choices and go "Wow I’m glad they took that out, they didn’t need that," or "Man, I wish they had put that thing in!" That part of the discussion is great.

CA: Your name isn’t in the first issue, and the fact that you’re the one writing the adaption is just coming out now. Was there anything specific behind that decision? Was it just a timing issue?

RH: It was just a crazy time. We were finishing the movie and trying to get the book out, you know, so the last thing I was thinking about was credit! For me, it’s Quentin’s story and it’s Guera’s art, and that’s kind of what was important to me. And the folks at DC said "You know, could we tell people that you’re writing this thing?" [Laughs] And I just said "Okay, if you really want." That really wasn’t what was important to me, but our partners asked and I just said "Sure!"

CA: Have there been scenes you find are easier or more difficult to translate into a comic?

RH: Again, it’s pretty easy. I mean, the thing about this kind of adaptation work is really that you learn a script in an incredibly intimate way. It’s kind of like doing a cover version of someone’s song. You really go "Oh, I see how well this is constructed." And that’s the fun of working on it, particularly after being deep in shooting and revisiting some of those dialogue changes and scenes that were left out. We knew why we had to make cuts – the movie is pretty long even in this version. But it’s great to revisit some of those little scenes and go "Man, this is good stuff. This is really, really good stuff." [Laughs]

CA: Any hints as to what we can expect to see that isn’t in the film?

RH: Well, you know, every actor kind of has some of their favorite moments that have to go away for the greater good of the film. But I know Sam Jackson and Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washingtong and Christoph Waltz all had some of their favorite moments not make it. It’s a shame we don’t get to see all of their magnificent performances because they were great every day all day. But at least you get to see a hint of some of the great work they delivered throughout the filming in some medium. I know Sam is a big comic fan himself. We run into each other at Golden Apple on occasion. And he was one to say "Hurry up and get to my scene!" [Laughs]

CA: I’ve heard Samuel L. Jackson is a comic fan, so did he – or anyone else in the cast – come up to you at any point and say "Hey, I know this got cut, so you better put it in the comic!"

RH: [Laughs] No pressure! But I’m always proud that I’m the guy who told Sam "Go to the store and grab The Ultimates because you’re in it!"

CA: Ha! You were the one who first told him that?

RH: Oh yeah. So, you know, we have a great comic book relationship!

Django Unchained #1 is on sale now in your local comic shop and is available digitally from Comixology. Issue #2 will be available February 13th.

To order a signed copy of the DJANGO UNCHAINED comic book go to www.reggiesworld.com!

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Django Unchained New York Premiere Party!

Dancing With Jamie Foxx and Quentin Tarantino

By Melena Ryzik

Even before the strong showing for “Django Unchained” at the Golden Globe nominations on Thursday, Harvey Weinstein was in a good mood. At the film’s premiere, hosted by the Cinema Society on Wednesday night, he stood at the front of the Ziegfeld Theater and crowed about the honors that this Weinstein Company release had already garnered: a host of nominations from the NAACP Image Awards.

His enthusiasm was doubled by Quentin Tarantino, the film’s director, who started singing in front of photographers and introduced his cast as though he were Don King on speed. “First name Jamie, last name Foxx,” he said, calling out the star. “Middle name — – ”

Well, let’s say it was a Tarantino-ism and, not a gentle one.

“Django Unchained,” a western-turned-slave revenge epic – which somehow also incorporates a German bounty hunter, an anachronistic Ku Klux Klan comedy bit courtesy of Jonah Hill, and countless references to Italian cinema – received glowing reviews from the opening-night crowd, even as they were sometimes fazed by the body count.

The afterparty, at the Biergarten at the Standard Hotel, was jammed with a who’s who of Mr. Tarantino’s friends and former stars, like Uma Thurman, Cameron Diaz, Sam Rockwell, Liv Tyler and Jeremy Piven. Diddy turned up, hugging Mr. Weinstein, slimmed down in a black T-shirt, and partying with Mr. Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson, another cast member. Sitting with his family was Christoph Waltz, his head shaved from a recent role in a Terry Gilliam film. An Oscar winner for Mr. Tarantino’s last film, “Inglourious Basterds,” he plays the scene-stealing German in this one.

At 1 a.m., when the party was due to wind down, Mr. Foxx got in the DJ booth and began a stream of thank-yous and shout-outs. (Why wait for an awards show stage?) The shout-outs included most of the horoscope (“My birthday is in two days,” he noted) and then called for someone to fetch Mr. Tarantino to join him. “Tell him to cut the story short – I know he’s telling a story right now,” Mr. Foxx said.

“A whole year of shooting the movie, 30 minutes to cut it,” Mr. Foxx said, when director turned up, trailing Ms. Thurman. “With everybody calling saying, What’s up? What’s up? What’s up?”

Of course, Mr. Foxx praised the final product, trimmed to two hours and 44 minutes. “With the subject matter and everything, the way it plays, I thought it was fantastic,” he said. “So kudos to everybody that had anything to do with this movie.” As his friend DJ Irie blasted hip-hop, the entire geometry of the room shifted toward the DJ booth, when Mr. Foxx, Mr. Tarantino and Ms. Thurman began dancing behind it.

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Quentin Tarantino on Django Unchained and the Problem with Roots

How he’s shattering a genre with ‘Django Unchained’.

by Allison Samuels

Good friends can talk about anything, and for director Quentin Tarantino and producer/director Reginald Hudlin, anything usually included long, good-natured chats about the mechanics of the African-American slave trade.

Quentin Tarantino

“The dynamics of the country are changing and people are talking about that,” says Tarantino… "I may take flak but I always do on some level with my work. Wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without some flak and criticism. I bet anyone who sees the film won’t be able to forget it—and that’s the point.” (Photograph by Jeff Minton for Newsweek)

The lack of a respectable film detailing the impact of slavery on this country fascinated both die-hard film buffs. Eventually both men—who met on the set of Jackie Brown in 1997—became obsessed with the idea of crafting a no-nonsense, somewhat entertaining film detailing the lesser known aspects of slavery. After one conversation with Hudlin stuck in his mind, Tarantino went to work on an all-or-nothing script. Six months later, Django Unchained was born.

Set in the South just two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained (in theaters Dec. 25) somehow masterfully manages to present the haunting brutality of slavery while also infusing an outlandish humor only Tarantino could bring to the big screen. Moviegoers will be treated to the often controversial director’s deep love for the spaghetti western genre along with a blazing narrative of one man’s desire for vengeance and love. After being freed by a German bounty hunter, Django (Jamie Foxx) helps him track down a few bad guys for profit and then goes on a mission to find and free his enslaved wife (Kerry Washington).

“I was always amazed so many Western films could get away with not dealing with slavery at all,” says Tarantino, sitting in Todd-AO studios in Los Angeles where he was attempting to whittle the film to under three hours just after Thanksgiving. “Hollywood didn’t want to deal with it because it was too ugly and too messy. But how can you ignore such a huge part of American history when telling a story in that time period? It made no sense.”

It didn’t make much sense to Hudlin either. The director of the popular ’90s films House Party and Boomerang says he was baffled by the sugarcoated and abbreviated tales. “I hated all those films about slavery over the years. Any time Hollywood did deem it OK to talk about slavery, they were not worth watching,” says Hudlin, who is Django Unchained’s executive producer. “My idea of a great slave movie was Spartacus. Until African-American slavery was treated in that same manner, I had no interest in hearing what Hollywood had to say about the issue.”

With only two years of age separating Tarantino and Hudlin, they watched the same slavery-themed films as young kids—and then grew to hate them as adults. Titles such as Mandingo and Uncle Tom’s Cabin roll off their tongues with joint eye rolls and audible sighs. The notable period film Glory, starring Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman as freed slaves serving in the U.S. Army, gets an honorable mention nod from Hudlin.

“I liked the black characters in Glory,” says Hudlin, whose great-grandfather was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. “Didn’t see the point of the white ones. The true story was the slaves in the film. They should have been the main focal point of the entire plot. But somehow no one figured that out.”

The faults of Glory aside, not much compares to the anger both men harbor toward the landmark television miniseries Roots. Written by Alex Haley and hailed in 1977 for telling the “complete” story of slavery, Roots remains the third most-watched miniseries of all time. It is also still considered the definitive mainstream portrait of slavery in the U.S.

“When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either,” says Tarantino. “I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”

While many white directors might shy away from criticizing such an iconic symbol of African-American culture, Tarantino doesn’t hold back. He’s confident in his knowledge of a time and subject most people know little about and would rather forget. He was also savvy enough to bring Hudlin on board. “There were times when I’d be filming a scene and really getting into it and Reg would just say, ‘Hey is this the story you wanted to tell?’ He’d bring the focus back if I got too carried away.”

One thing both men agreed on was a scene in Roots that served as an example of what not to do in Django Unchained. The last act of the final episode features the character Chicken George being given the opportunity to beat his slave master and owner in much the same way he’d been punished and tormented. In the end the character chooses not to so he can be “the bigger man.”

Reginald Hudlin and Quentin Tarantino

With only two years of age separating Tarantino and Hudlin (left), they watched the same slavery-themed films as young kids—and then grew to hate them as adults.

“Bulls–t,” exclaim both Tarantino and Hudlin in unison as they discuss the absurdity of the scene. “No way he becomes the bigger man at that moment,” says Tarantino.

“The powers that be during the ’70s didn’t want to send the message of revenge to African-Americans. They didn’t want to give black people any ideas. But anyone knows that would never happen in that situation. And in Django Unchained we make that clear.”

Tarantino recalls a memorable scene where Jamie Foxx’s character is also given the opportunity to beat his former owner after he becomes a free man. “It was an emotional day on set and everyone was talking about how brutal it was because he beats the white off of his captor,” says Tarantino unapologetically. “There was no way that wasn’t going to be a part of the movie.”

Foxx shines as a man driven to punish those who tortured him, while also yearning for his wife, who was sold to another plantation years before. “It’s really important that this story is also a love story about a black man and a black woman,” says Hudlin. “In the midst of all the horrible things going on during that time, this man was in love and wanted his wife back. You don’t see black men in love too much on the big screen in slavery days, or modern times either.”

In a film already full of twists (not to mention costars Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz), Leonardo DiCaprio throws the ultimate punch portraying the young, handsome, rich plantation owner Calvin Candie. He owns Candyland plantation, where Django’s wife is being held, and thrives on the suffering he causes. The role is a marked departure for DiCaprio, who has spoken about how difficult the subject matter was to read, act, and convey on the big screen.

“He really embodied that entitled young male character perfectly,” says Tarantino. “His grandfather owned and made the plantation successful and his father kept it going in the movie. But DiCaprio’s character is just this kid who’s done nothing for the life he’s living. He’s living it up all the way with his decadence and greed, with no concern for how he got it.”

But neither an A-list cast nor Tarantino’s past box office hits will be enough to save Django Unchained if moviegoers decide not to support a film that focuses so intensely on one of America’s darkest hours. Slavery is a subject both black and white audiences tend to avoid in theaters. Yet Tarantino and Hudlin say the timing for Django Unchained couldn’t be better.

“The dynamics of the country are changing and people are talking about that,” says Tarantino. “This time in history is a part of that conversation, and I love that we’re out there talking about it in the middle of the other films about Lincoln and whoever. I may take flak but I always do on some level with my work. Wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without some flak and criticism. I bet anyone who sees the film won’t be able to forget it—and that’s the point.”

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