Tarantino ‘Unchained,’ Part 1: ‘Django’ Trilogy?

In the first of a Q&A series, the director tells our editor-in-chief about his next black film.

Scene from Inglourious Basterds (Weinstein Co.); Quentin Tarantino (Getty); Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained (Weinstein Co.)
Scene from Inglourious Basterds (Weinstein Co.); Quentin Tarantino (Getty); Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained (Weinstein Co.)

(The Root) — If you thought Quentin Tarantino was done with historical revenge fantasies after Inglourious Basterds and his latest, Django Unchained — a “postmodern, slave-narrative Western,” in the words of The Root’s editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr. — you’d be wrong.

The spaghetti Western-inspired Django Unchained, in theaters Dec. 25, depicts the horrors of slavery — with graphic violence and racial slurs aplenty — in the antebellum South with the irreverence we’ve come to expect from a Tarantino film. Of course, the epic tale, about a slave-turned-bounty hunter (Jamie Foxx) on a mission to free his wife (Kerry Washington) from a brutal Mississippi cotton plantation with the help of his mentor (Christoph Waltz), has generated praise from black critics and intellectuals, as well as criticism. In part 1 of a three-part, sweeping interview with The Root’s resident scholar of the slave narrative, Tarantino details his idea for a Django-Inglourious Basterds trilogy, Foxx’s initial disconnect with his title character and the scene that The Birth of a Nation indirectly inspired.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.: You’ve targeted Nazis in Inglourious Basterds and slave owners in Django Unchained. What’s next on the list of oppressors to off?

Quentin Tarantino: I don’t know exactly when I’m going to do it, but there’s something about this that would suggest a trilogy. My original idea for Inglourious Basterds way back when was that this [would be] a huge story that included the [smaller] story that you saw in the film, but also followed a bunch of black troops, and they had been f–ked over by the American military and kind of go apes–t. They basically — the way Lt. Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt) and the Basterds are having an “Apache resistance” — [the] black troops go on an Apache warpath and kill a bunch of white soldiers and white officers on a military base and are just making a warpath to Switzerland.

So that was always going to be part of it. And I was going to do it as a miniseries, and that was going to be one of the big storylines. When I decided to try to turn it into a movie, that was a section I had to take out to help tame my material. I have most of that written. It’s ready to go; I just have to write the second half of it.

HLG: That might very well be the third of the trilogy.

QT: That would be the third of the trilogy. It would be [connected to] Inglourious Basterds, too, because Inglourious Basterds are in it, but it is about the soldiers. It would be called Killer Crow or something like that.

HLG: When would it be set?

QT: In ’44. It would be after Normandy.

HLG: I watched Jamie Foxx recently on Leno. He said that he was playing Django with too much self-confidence and bravado at a time when Django had not evolved, and that you sat everyone down and said we have to go back in a time machine and be slaves and imagine what that’s like. And he said it was a profound moment for him. Were there any awkward moments with the cast about what you were doing? Did they ever say, “This is too much”?

QT: Nothing during the making of the movie at all — and only when it came to just Jamie’s arc, at the first day of rehearsal, just when it was him and Christoph Waltz [who plays King Schultz].