The following post contains a few SPOILERS for “Django Unchained.”
HuffPost Entertainment’s Mike Ryan wasn’t originally scheduled to interview Quentin Tarantino at the “Django Unchained” junket. But then Tarantino read Ryan’s review of the movie, including the part where he described the two heroes’ plot to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda as a “harebrained scheme” and a “convoluted plan.” Naturally, he disagreed. Rather than complain about it to someone else, he decided to settle the matter in an informal debate with Ryan.
Their exchange is now published on Huffington Post, and it’s a really interesting interview — particularly because as the men discuss the matter, Tarantino eventually admits that Ryan kind of has a point about the whole thing. Specifically, they’re talking about how Django (Jamie Foxx) and his bounty hunter partner Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) disguise themselves as Mandingo trainers in order to infiltrate the plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and sneak off with Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Ryan argued that their plan is needlessly complex and way too risky; why set up such an elaborate cover story when there is a simpler one available? Here’s what went down (Ryan’s in bold, Tarantino in plain italics):
I think the plan sets up some interesting things that happen in the movie. But it seemed overly grandiose …
You don’t have to be defensive about it; I just want to talk about that issue. And where I’m coming from is, actually, I see where you guys are coming from — but, ultimately, I think you’re wrong. And here’s the thing about that: it’s kind of a two-pronged thing. One thing is, Schultz can’t afford to be wrong. He just can’t afford to be wrong. They have to get Broomhilda. Now, frankly, if he was straight-up with him, how exactly would they get to Candyland and get invited to Candyland? To do everything they do would be kind of dubious.
Schultz is German. He heard on the street that there’s a German-speaking woman being prostituted and now he’s interested. Something like that?
No, no, no … that, you know, I mean … that … could work. That could work. Here’s the thing: you’ve got to think of who Schultz is. I see where you’re coming from. But it does sound like you’re thinking what you would do. You have to think about how Schultz would respond.
Tarantino goes on to explain that we’ve already seen Schultz to be a lover of enormously complicated plans. Earlier in the film, we watch him find and kill a bounty in the least pragmatic way possible. He could have gone to the local authorities, told them the situation, and had the man brought to him. Instead, he kills the bounty first, unnecessarily putting his life in danger and then talking his way out of it. So Schultz is clearly established as an eccentric showman — and the Broomhilda situation allows him to play that role once again.
Ryan’s point is that despite his love of risks, Schultz also comes off as a brilliant tactician who knows what will happen in every situation before it does. And for someone with such predictive abilities, the plan to save Broomhilda is a little short-sighted, especially when there is this other more reasonable plan sitting out there waiting for him.
Ryan and I talked about his problems with the “harebrained” scheme after the movie. I didn’t love “Django” (you can read my own review here) but I didn’t have much of a problem with Django and Schultz’s plan for one simple reason: it doesn’t work. It’s not as if Schultz eschews a perfect scheme for a flawed one and still gets away with it all. He makes a mistake, and he pays for it. I found something appealing about watching this seemingly invincible guy laid low by his vanity. That’s a common Tarantino theme — recall Marcellus in “Pulp Fiction” telling Bruce Willis’ Butch to ignore the sting he feels deep inside when he throws a fight. “That’s pride fucking with you,” he says. “Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”
To Tarantino’s credit, he practiced what his character preached. Despite his pride in his work, he was big enough to talk about this stuff with a writer — and also big enough to admit that the writer wasn’t entirely off-base.