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Race relations and slavery were handled in a surprisingly delicate way at the Django Unchained panel in Hall H Saturday at Comic-Con.
Django, the latest movie from Quentin Tarantino, is set in the Antebellum South and centers on an ex-slave who trains to be a killer in order to find the woman he loves. Even for a director predisposed to use the N-word in his movies, the script is rumored to have the word 150 times. And Django is sure to be controversial when it opens in December.
Tarantino, who got a hearty welcome from the crowd (and the Django reel got an even heartier response, coming close to receiving a standing ovation) said he came up with the concept (“a slave who becomes a bounty hunter who hunts white men”) 13 years ago.
Tarantino downplayed Django as a slave movie, saying he set out to make a spaghetti Western; as the panel evolved, the director and others talked of the story as a fairy tale with an evil king having taken over a kingdom, a princess in exile and princes who are coming to save her.
But Django star Jamie Foxx took on the race aspect full on, talking of how he used his childhood to inform his character — and dropping the N-word in the process.
“In Texas, being a kid, it was racially charged to be honest with you,” he said. “Being called ni—- as young kid growing up, by grown people, it’s something I had to deal with, coming from the south. Having that done to me, I was able to grasp that in the script.”
Christoph Waltz, meanwhile, said his experiences — or lack thereof — mirrored his character. “It corresponded exactly to what I was going through. I had no experience with this whatsoever. I grew up in Vienna, Austria,” he said.
During the Q&A portion of the presentation, the film’s lack of strong female characters, a Tarantino trademark, came up during questioning.
Kerry Washington, who co-stars in Django with Foxx, Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio, jumped in to defend her character as tough.
“It’s in the humanity, when at that time in (the) eyes of the Constitution, they were only three-fifths of a human being,” she said. “What makes her strong is her belief in love and that she is deserving of that love in a time where black women weren’t even afforded the luxury of that fantasy.”
Tarantino also displayed his trademark knowledge of cinema, explaining characters’ backstory and the importance of their names (Washington’s character is Broomhilda von Shaft and Tarantino said he likes to think that her character’s descendant is the iconic blacksploitation character Shaft).
One memorable moment occurred during the Q&A when a young woman stepped up in a yellow jumpsuit a la the Bride in Kill Bill. “You look damn hot in that outfit,” noted Tarantino, and the woman melted, becoming flustered. “This … is going to be in the blog later,” she managed.
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