It's only been in theaters for two days, but Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" has already racked up $15 million in box-office receipts. By the weekend, this controversial slave drama/Spaghetti Western should be sitting very pretty for what we presume will be a long and healthy theatrical run. Starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and more, the almost three-hour picture centers on a bounty hunter (Waltz) who mentors a freed slave (Foxx) and then takes him on a journey to save his wife from a evil slave plantation owner (DiCaprio). Suffice to say it's a revenge picture with buckets of blood, rascism to spare, n-bombs flying left, right and center, Jackson playing what he describes as the "most hated negro in cinematic history" and let's just say there are lots of controversial moments in it (Spike Lee is already turned off, having not even seen it).
We recently sat down with the film's lead Jamie Foxx to discuss nabbing the role, working with Quentin Tarantino and his upcoming roles as Electro in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" and as the president in the Channing Tatum-starring actioner "White House Down."
We first have to talk about that "Maine Justice" sketch on "Saturday Night Live." Where did that come from?
Hanging out in New Orleans shooting 'Django.' Jason Sudeikis had been trying to get it on the air for the longest time and I said, 'Let's go baby!' I think the fact that we just let go is what made it so funny. Everytime he said "your butt" I just cracked up.
You went after the "Django Unchained" script yourself when you read about it online, right? What was that like?
I'm a different kind of artist. I don't get sent all the big scripts. I heard about it and thought, 'Oh that sounds great. Oh well.' But then I got a management change and things started changing and they recognized that I needed the opportunity. They said if you get the opportunity to talk to Quentin Tarantino, that's on you. So I got the chance to talk to him and things worked out because I felt like it wasn't just being in the movie but the articulation and defense of the movie after it's over, since there were going to be some tough questions we were going to have to answer. And I felt like I could do that. At the same time, I'm a cowboy. I'm from Texas. I've got my own horse. I spin guns. That takes the pressure off of him as a director – like 'I don't have to worry about you being on the horse and looking like a cowboy.' So it all worked out.
What made that connection with the script so strong?
I'm a grown man with everything I do. When you see Quentin, he's a grown man. There's a certain comfort level when you've worked with big directors. So I understand what he wants. If you work with Oliver Stone, I learned as a young guy – get your ass together or you fail. That's great training ground to have – Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, Sam Mendes, Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, all these people prepare you to work with someone like Tarantino. So it's a different conversation. And I can't speak for anybody else – whoever he would have picked would have been fantastic. I'm a big fan of Idris Elba, Will Smith, Chris Tucker, Anthony Mackie and Larenz Tate, all those guys. But to me it was not a competition. I just knew what I thought I could bring to it.
What did you take way from working with Tarantino?
Just amazing. And to take this on. I look at it and imagine a cartoon – there's this guy doing this movie and the whole world, people and reporters and agents. And then he lands the movie. That's a tough thing. I said, "Your balls are huge." He's courageous. Look at it like this – when was the last time you talked about a film? It seems like cinema is so boring now. You just watch a movie and that's that. How much did it make? $600 million. You haven't seen a movie in the past, I don’t know how many years, that makes you say, "Man that film whooped my ass." And this does that.
There's a scene that was cut from the film between you and Samuel L. Jackson. Can you talk about that?
"Man, I've seen niggers like you my whole life…" [we explain how Jamie acted this all out for us here]. I still look at Quentin and go like, 'You should have kept it in the movie.' Because me and Sam have this moment of black men – the house servant, the field servant. And how are they going to get along? The house servant who is a manipulative person, and me, the field servant, who just wants to kick ass and kill everybody. That was the thing that happened first before I was flipped upside down. There was this connective tissue that makes me being flipped upside down even sweeter. Whether he puts it on the DVD or whatever – the performance Samuel L. Jackson gives in that? Shit. I'll just take it a step further. There was another scene cut out where Sam approaches Broomhilda [Kerry Washington]. Broomhilda is singing after she's gotten out of the hot box and he appears out of the darkness. [doing a spot-on Samuel L. Jackson impression] "What you singin' about? Naw. You just got out the hot box. You've been in the hot box all these hours."
It was amazing! But when I tell you. Push him [Quentin] on that. It's a whole 'nother performance in there.
What's so interesting about your character is the turn he takes in the second half, where he essentially has to play an entirely different character. It's an act.
In order for us to make it real, I had to be real. The thing is that the stakes, at that time, there was no playing like that. You'd get killed. You'd get killed for reading, for eyeballing. Stakes was real. So when I'm telling Schultz, "What the fuck is your problem? You can't do that. They gonna kill you cuz you're a nigger-lover and they gonna kill me cuz I'm a nigger." So when I'm telling that dude, and this was great – Sam Jackson, who plays the guy I'm talking to, was fantastic. I'm coming up and I hear "Motherfucker." I thinking, Who is he talking to? The cameras weren't even rolling. He's saying this to me. I said, "Oh okay.' I try and wore his ass out." Because Django had to be tough at that time. To make the moment when Sam is looking at Django riding off really real, for him to understand. Put it to you this way – Django is the first undercover cop or whatever he is. He's in deep cover.
So you're the bad guy in the new 'Spider-Man.' What is that like?
It's incredible. Especially for my little daughter, who is there for the make-up tests and everything. That's another testament to Quentin Tarantino because without 'Django,' I wouldn't be doing 'Spider-Man.'
What's your take on the character?
I'm going to keep it close to the chest but I followed the 'Spider-Man' comic books. And I would watch the television show growing up. It's a blessing.
How was playing the president in 'White House Down?'
It's a little bit of a cheeky riff on Obama. It was great. Channing Tatum is a great guy, just a lot of fun.
"Django Unchained" is in theaters now.