NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 16: (L-R) Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz attend "Django Unchained" Press Conference in NY with Director/Screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, And Jonah Hill at Ritz Carlton Hotel on December 16, 2012 in New York City. (Photo : Donald Bowers/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
Quentin Taratino's newest film, 'Django Unchained,' a spaghetti Western about the pre-Civil War south, forced its cast to address racial issues in America's past and come to terms with the brutality of the era. During a press conference for the film in New York City's Ritz Carlton on Sunday, Taratino and his cast discussed the difficulties in filming such a racially-sensitive film.
"Most countries have been forced to face the atrocities that they have committed and actually the world has made them deal with it," Taratino said of his reason for making the film. "Nobody wants to deal with it. Nobody wants to stare at it."
Lead actor Jamie Foxx, who plays the slave-turned hero Django, said, "When we see movies about slavery, we never get to see the slave fight back. He added that his motivation was "just about the work."
Taratino, who wrote and directed 'Django Unchained,' and his award-winning cast acknowledged the importance behind playing both slave and slave-owner characters. Kerry Washington, who plays Broomhilda, said, "I think a lot of times, people in the past may have felt nervous about playing a slave because so many of the narratives that we told about slavery were about powerlessness and this is not a film about that."
"This is a film about a black man, who finds his freedom and rescues his wife," she added. "He is an agent of his own power. He's a liberator. He's a hero and so there's nothing shameful about that. It's really exciting and hopeful."
Fellow cast member Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Stephen, said that playing his character was a "great artistic opportunity." Jackson's character, Calvin Candie's (Leonardo DiCaprio) trusted house slave, is described by the Academy Award-nominee as "the most despicable negro in history." He added that arriving on set and seeing Black extras out on the cotton field set dressed as slaves, made filming the racially-charged movie somewhat surreal.
Washington added, "We were shooting on an actual slave plantation called Evergreen Plantation and so that lent itself to all of us disappearing into the story. You felt like you were making the film on sacred ground. You felt like you were re-enacting this behavior where these crimes against humanity were actually committed. So, it started to infiltrate everybody's acting."
DiCaprio, who played among the worst villians in the film, said that he believed that the story was difficult to tell for all the actors involved. "I think it was disturbing for actors on both sides of the spectrum," the Academy Award-nominee said. "It was an uncomfortable situation." However, he said that he acknowledged that he could not hold his plantation-owning character back, for fear of doing an "injustice" to the film.
Tarantino, on the other hand, spoke on his issues of transforming his writing into reality. Calling one of his sets a "black Auschwitz," he admitted to considering filming certain parts of the film in the West Indies or in Brazil. "They have their own issues of slavery, [but] since this is an American story, there would be a once-removed quality," Tarantino said. "Frankly, my problem was having Americans do that s-t. That was my problem, and so I was almost trying to escape it. I'll do it, but get around it someway so I don't have to deal with the pain."
The Academy Award-winning director said that ultimately he received advice that convinced him to film the movie in the United States.
Most of the cast agreed that the racial component of 'Django Unchained' forced them to rely on each other during difficult scenes. Washington added that an extra on set, who happened to be a pastor, helped further motivate her during a difficult scene involving picking cotton.
"He said, 'We have to remember that we are the answer to these people's prayers. That the people who did this work, dreamt of a day where you could not be property but own property. Where you could read, you could vote, you could get married. Where you could have a job and be compensated."
'Django Unchained' will hit theaters in the United States on December 25, 2012.