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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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Reginald Hudlin on the Challenges and Rewards of Making ‘Django Unchained’

By DeBorah B. Pryor

Reginald Hudlin

Reginald Hudlin and Quentin Tarantino first spoke about making a movie together on the topic of slavery over a decade ago – 15 years to be exact.

Hudlin told him that until a movie with the impact of a “Spartacus” (the Stanley Kubric directed epic that starred Kirk Douglas as a rebellious Roman slave and won 4 Oscars) could be done, he wasn’t interested.

But when Tarantino came to him years later and handed him a large script (“Django Unchained”) saying, “You planted the seed, now here’s the tree,” he couldn’t resist.

“A week later we were on location in Louisiana,” Hudlin tells EURweb publisher, Lee Bailey. He and director Quentin Tarantino came together to scout locations for the film.

“It’s a Quentin Tarantino film through and through,” the producer tells Bailey, who knighted him as the “genesis” of the film. He continues, “…it’s his writing, it’s his ideas, his characters. I just found it very impressive, you know, that this guy would think, ‘you know, I’m gonna honor the fact that, that conversation put me on a road.’ That just said a lot to me about who he is as a person,” says Hudlin.

Although the film doesn’t open until Tuesday, Christmas Day, it has been a highly anticipated work in Hollywood for quite some time, and there has been a LOT of buzz from insiders who have already seen it. Bailey asks Hudlin to identify some of the challenges of doing a film about this highly sensitive topic.

“Because it’s a Quentin Tarantino film some of the biggest challenges, which was to get financing, were very easy…Because we had a fantastic script…[and] world-class actors who wanted to appear in the film. But now you have the challenge of recreating a world and doing it in a way that it had never been done before; and shooting it across multiple states and managing the time and the logistics of a bunch of people – each of whom are movie stars – and now they’re acting in the same film. [We also had to] make sure we’re historically accurate and…the actual logistics of making sure the horses are safe. It’s an endless list of challenges you have to produce.”

In expressing to Tarantino in those early talks everything he didn’t like [about slave movies], Hudlin laughs as he recalls the only example he could think of to describe what he did like: Fred Williamson in “The Legend of Nigger Charley,” (a 1972 blaxploitation western directed by Martin Goldman) a film Hudlin saw when he was roughly 8-years-old.

Jamie Foxx as Django in ‘Django Unchained’

“I remember leaving the theater feeling great! And I said, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t leave the theater feeling great. I want a catharsis!! And that’s what Django delivers,” Hudlin confirms.Bailey laughs out loud upon hearing this; and feeling the need to explain the outburst adds that Django is ”hilarious,” and he can’t understand why because it is about such a horrendous time. Hudlin breaks it down to him in an almost prophetic fashion.

“A lot of people don’t understand the difference between serious and solemn,” Hudlin explains. “You can be serious without being solemn and that’s what Quentin does beautifully in all his work. And it was an incredible total balancing act that he pulls off because he knows how to tell a story well.”

The producer says that Tarantino’s focus is always on telling a great story; not so much on the time or history that the story is drenched in.   He adds that telling a great story involves humor, which makes it a story you want to see, not one you feel obligated to see as some kind of cultural duty.

But even with good storytelling, bad timing is quite frankly, a bitch!

The reality of such an undeniably violent movie heading to theaters NOW, as the country remains shocked to its core over the horrific recent violence in Newtown; where families continue to bury the 20 children and 6 adults killed at the hands of a lone gunman only days ago can’t be shoved aside. In fact, due to the tragedy, Hollywood had the sensibility to cancel the premiers of two major movies – one being Django Unchained. Lest we forget the unfortunate timing that presented an opportunity to recall Jamie Foxx as host on SNL just one week prior where, in the context of his 3-minute-plus “How Black is That” opening  monologue, tells the audience, “No worries, I get to kill all the white people in the movie. How black is that?” Though no doubt an “in bad taste” remark, irregardless of the fact that it is what he gets to do, these same words would probably have stopped at the nervous laughter it generated from a few audience members; had it not been spoken just one week prior to such a devastating and violent act.

Bailey asks Hudlin what effect he thinks the Newtown shooting incident will have on the film, and if he thinks Hollywood filmmaking will change as a result of it.

“I can’t speak for Hollywood,” Hudlin responds, “but I’ll just say in relation to our film, I think movies that deliver an exploration of who we are as a people and as a culture ultimately decrease violence, not increase it. And this film takes a really hard look at who we are as Americans; black and white, and the social and economic forces that shaped us. And I feel that if we understand who we are better, we will have better mental health as a people. Slavery is America’s original sin and we avoid it, blacks and whites alike. We’re all ashamed of our heritage of slavery, but if you avoid the past then you can’t heal, you can’t transcend. And that’s what we’ve got to do.”Hudlin, who is justifiably credited with being a pioneer of the modern black film movement, reveals an unmistakeable pride in working on Django Unchained, and a real admiration for Quentin Tarantino and the cast. He had the opportunity to go into theaters across the country and witness the response of audiences of diverse cultures watching Django. He thought it was great that everyone cheered at the same time, cried at the same time, was terrified at the same time, and laughed at the same time. And to those responses he concludes,

“It speaks to how far we have come together. That we can watch a movie as sensitive as this, and everyone literally be on the same page.”

To this we say, indeed, Mr. Hudlin. Indeed.

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Hudlin: 'Django' Has Clear Morals

The film vet says his latest production is controversial but gives an honest vision of right and wrong.

By Helena Andrews

Django Unchained sounds like a pretty hard sell. Django (Jamie Foxx), a black slave-turned-superhero, slays every racist dragon in his gun-smoked path? But veteran writer-producer Reginald Hudlin (House Party, The Bernie Mac Show, Boomerang) didn’t so much as blink when his good friend, writer-director Quentin Tarantino, asked him to help bring Django’s story to the big screen. In a conversation with The Root, Hudlin explains why he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

The Root: How’d you get involved in Django Unchained?

Reginald Hudlin: Quentin and I’ve been friends for a long time. We met, actually, through Pam Grier when they were making Jackie Brown. We got into the conversation, maybe 15 years ago, about movies about slavery. I hated most of them because for the most part they’re about victimology. There’s only one great movie about slavery, Spartacus. Until someone made a movie like that about the American experience, I wasn’t interested. Quentin called me April of last year and reminded me of that conversation we’d had years ago: "Yeah, I’ve written a script. You planted the seed, this is the tree."

TR: So the obviously controversial subject matter, the backdrop of slavery, didn’t give you pause at all.

RH: No, because first of all, part of our problem as Americans — black and white — is that we don’t understand slavery. If you don’t have an understanding of America’s original sin, then we can’t move forward as a people. Jewish people have a saying about the Holocaust, "Never forget," and it serves them very well as a culture. It reminds them that they have to stay sharp so that something like that will never happen again, and it reminds the world of the kind of evil it’s capable of. We need to do the same thing. I’ve been trying to make a movie about the Middle Passage for 20 years and couldn’t get it done.

TR: What made Foxx such a perfect fit for the role?

RH: Jamie’s an incredible actor. He’s from the South. And the fact that Jamie really is a cowboy. When we cast Jamie, we didn’t just cast him; we cast his horse, Cheetah, too. You haven’t seen a combination actor-and-horse casting since Roy Rogers and Trigger. That level of authenticity makes all the difference in a film like this. I mean, he did two takes riding bareback. It was crazy.

His quick-draw skills? There’s no sped-up camera tricks. It’s all him. When you look at Jamie’s work in the movie, between the emotional range of the character from slave to superhero and the physical challenges of the movie, there’s never been a role for a black man as demanding as Django.

TR: According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film makes use of the n-word more than 100 times. Was there a conversation with Tarantino about that?

RH: We knew it was going to be an issue for folks. It was going to be one of many issues for people. But for me, it’s kind of a tempest in a teapot. I’ve yet to talk to anyone who’s seen the film who, after they saw the movie, that’s what they talked about. They talked about the movie. They’re caught up in much bigger issues. As much as the right wing tried to latch on to Jamie as racist because he talked about killing white people, I’ve seen hundreds of white people cheer as Django kills these slave owners, because they’re bad. In that same way, when people see the world of the antebellum South and slavery, "nigger" is the least of their concerns.

There’s every kind of violence in the film, and linguistic violence is the least of it. There’s really been no huge pop-culture event about this period until now. So if this leads to people taking another look at the word, then it’s good. But I hope that’s not the only thing they’re talking about.

TR: Speaking of the violence that far surpassed linguistic violence, there were scenes in the film that were almost impossible to watch. Were you concerned with how much audiences could handle?

RH: I always want to tell people, "Don’t close your eyes; it’s worse because the sound makes it insane." I was, for a short period of time, an African-American-studies major at Harvard, and I felt like a fairly educated person on the subject. I can tell you, whatever you see in the film, there are 10 examples that are 100 times worse.

The balancing act of the filmmaker is to make sure the audience understands slavery is an awful, evil institution, but balance that with how much the audience can take. We told a great story, and part of that was Quentin’s idea of making it a Western where there are clear moral boundaries. You know there’s going to be restitution, and there’s going to be payback. So audiences can engage and cheer in a way that other films on the topic did not allow them to.

TR: Django Unchained has already been nominated for four NAACP awards, including best picture, which was won last by The Help. Are you prepared for some of the same criticisms about black films only winning awards if they depict black actors and actresses as "the help"?

RH: As a people, right now we don’t agree on anything. There’s no consensus. Whether it’s by class, by gender, by region or educational background, black folks are in conflict. We don’t agree that Cosby is a good thing, that Tyler Perry’s a good thing or that Jay-Z’s a good thing. Are there going to be some people who are like, "Nah, I don’t like that"? Sure.

We can’t feel that way. Part of slavery’s history is that we always fought back, and we always stood up. The film is about celebrating the people who did. And hopefully that will make us as a people come to terms with that difficult part of our heritage.

TR: Do you think only certain people should be allowed to tell certain stories?

RH: The person who gets to tell it is the person who gets to tell it. There are no rules. I certainly don’t want to be restricted to only telling stories about black people. I don’t think race necessarily is an inherent advantage. It’s one of many factors that determine whether you’re the right person for the job. Almost no one could get a movie like this made — black, white or otherwise. Out of the five people who could have gotten this done, Quentin’s the only guy who wanted to do it.

TR: Is this a "message film" at all? Is there something you want people to take away from it?

RH: The movie is profound on a lot of levels. It hits on so many issues. There’s many a Ph.D. thesis on deconstructing the semiotics of Django, from class conflicts in the black community, our relationships with sports, white liberalism and black nationalism — the range of topics the film touched upon is extraordinary. People don’t always see all those things because it’s put in an entertainment context. How can it be profound if I’m entertained? I don’t buy in to that worldview.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays.

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