Sunday, May 08, 2011

Tarantino Wants Will Smith For "Django" - Would He Do It?

People "in the business" tend to say, only half-jokingly, that Will Smith's career path is pretty-much set right now: Coast comfortably in blockbuster-territory until "The Barack Obama Story" has an ending, star in Obama biopic, win Academy Award. It's a cynical, borderline-"race-ish" view (i.e. "of course the #1 black star wants to play Obama!")... but let's face it, it's a sort of plausible track for the industry's premiere "business-first" movie star; a guy who's famous for avoiding risky roles (even his biggest disaster, the surreally-awful "Seven Pounds," probably worked on paper.)

But if there's one name in Hollywood who can summon almost any star to lay down their guard for a risky, offbeat part just for the chance to work with them, that name is Quentin Tarantino. And now Variety says QT wants Smith for the lead in his next project, an ultraviolent "Western" (though set in the 19th Century American South) called "Django Unchained."

For those who've not been keeping track, the project ("top-secret" but with the usual widely-leaked handwritten QT script already in circulation) is a "spiritual successor" to the infamous Italian western "Django," with original star Franco Nero supposedly appearing in a wholly different capacity. The lead part of the "new" Django is (reportedly, I've not read the script myself and don't plan to) written for a black actor, and if your mind is putting that together with the 1800s Southern setting... yes, the "Unchained" part of the title (supposedly) means exactly what you think it does: Django is an escaped slave turned bounty-hunter, and the early buzz is already touting that it's a "slavery-revenge" sibling to the "holocaust revenge" setup of "Inglorious Basterds." Holy shit.

This would, without question, be the edgiest role Smith has ever taken - much of his early fame came from much-vaunted "crossover appeal" (a rapper who got play in "white" pop circles when that was still unusual, the star of one of the few post-Cosby black sitcoms that became mainstream hits), and "ex-slave exacting brutal vengeance on white bad guys" is as incendiary and far-removed from that as you can get. Nevermind the visceral backlash that could be provoked from audiences by the sight of a symbol of 21st Century black achievement (which Smith is, in-and-of himself) being the victim of slavery-era lashings both verbal and literal. I mean, good God... a Quentin Tarantino movie about slavery? Somebody check on Spike Lee, make sure he's breathing okay.

Thing is... I can totally see Smith pulling it off. He doesn't get enough credit for it, but he's a terrific "dialogue actor" (watch his interplay with Martin Lawrence in the terribly-scripted "Bad Boys" and observe how much he elevates that material) and would be well-matched with Tarantino's signature rapid-fire joke-serious-joke-dead-serious patter. Executed properly, this could change the trajectory of Smith's career and persona (for the better) overnight.

But do I think he'd do it? I'd be surprised, honestly. The thing of it is, Smith is notorious for demanding rewrites and script-supervision on any project he signs for (he's supposed to be a devotee of the screenwriting book "The Moral Premise," and is said to employ writers to bring scripts in line with it's precepts) and that's just not going to fly on a QT project. I believe he wants him, as Tarantino famously starts out looking at the biggest possible actors (at one point "Basterds" was framed as an "Expendables"-style aging-action-guy team-up movie, with Leonardo DiCaprio offered Hans Landa); and I'm sure the Weinsteins have made the offer - but I'll be BLOWN AWAY if it happens.

13 comments:

Andrew said...

Seven Pounds wasn't even close to being his biggest disaster; it was actually a hit. Have you forgotten Wild Wild West? Not only was that movie less than worthless, but Will turned down The Matrix in order to do it. Even Ali was a bigger failure than Seven Pounds.

But hey, who doesn't want to see the Fresh Prince go all "White Hating Coon" on a bunch of rednecks? :p I don't think this would go against his crossover appeal either. White guys'll be lining up to see this too. After all, he's not going after white people, he's going after slavers.

Robert said...

The day Will Smith decides to do something as controversial as work with Tarantino will be the same day that Bob admits that he is a nintendo fanboy.

Never going to happen.
Ever.

Why the hell would I want the goofy frat boy fresh prince who can cry on cue in a Tarantino film anyways?
Only reason Tarantino wants him is because of his star power.

Popcorn Dave said...

I like the idea, but yeah, I reckon he'll turn it down. Too bad...

Reverend Allan Ironside said...

Isn't Tyler Perry already making us fonky white honkies pay enough is it is? Hell, I'll pay slavery reparations just if Michael Bay will stop putting his ridiculous black caricatures in his movies.

Blue Highwind said...

I forget Will Smith is Black half the time. So every time people are like "Black actor" I do a double-take. Even as the Fresh Prince of Bel-air the guy was Whiter than a can of primer paint.

James said...

It sounds like a blaxploitation dream come true, but does seem like it won't happen in a cotton-picking minute.

Credit where it's due to Mr. Smith, however, as he was the planned lead in Spielberg's Oldboy remake, before DreamWorks walked away amid negotiations on the rights to the material. And his breakout film performance was in Six Degrees of Separation, and he's garnered two Oscar nominations to boot.

Wild Wild West is absolute bollocks, though.

motyr said...

Oh God, the premise of this movie is absolutely horrible. It will serve no other purpose than to half-justify the pseudo-racist tendencies of a certain portion of the African-American population, particularly celebrities, ranging from Kanye West to Oprah Winfrey. This is just Tarantino causing controversy for the sake of controversy, proving that when any filmmaker has a definable "aesthetic", it is easily exploited.

Aiddon said...

Interestingly my brother and I said Tarantino needs to tackle a Western at some point. Apparently Idris Elba is also being considered for the lead. QT, once again proving that will do whatever the fuck he wants. He's about as unsafe as you can get and people LOVE him for that.

There was also a weird Japanese remake of Django (directed by Takashi Miike) with Tarantino having a cameo in it.

Popcorn Dave said...

Oh man, Idris Elba in a Tarantino film, how fucking badass would THAT be!

Ezenwa said...

@Popcorn Dave

That would be epic win. However, I'm leaning toward Michael Jai White on this one, too, after hearing about Black Dynamite.

Knight The Arsonist said...

Okay, yeah, they would both be awesome, but that doesn't have the impact of Will Smith. Seeing him in a role which is all about his race, by a writer/director who's willing to work that for all it's worth? Seeing Will Smith in a "black" role will be much more interesting than seeing actors who have already done typically "black" roles before.

Sarge said...

Samuel L. Jackson. Dressed as Nick Fury. With the beard from Pulp Fiction. I dunno why I'm the first to say this.

Sophie said...

I know Smith might / will turn it down... but I just really like the idea. It´s juicy.