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Samuel L. Jackson Critiques Backlash Against Quentin Tarantino’s Use of N-Word

In the new documentary "QT8," Jackson why a movie like "12 Years a Slave" can get away with using the racial slur but not "Django Unchained."

Quentin Tarantino, left, and Samuel L. Jackson attend a ceremony honoring Tarantino with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in Los AngelesQuentin Tarantino Honored With a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles, USA - 21 Dec 2015

Quentin Tarantino

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

The new Quentin Tarantino documentary “QT8: The First Eight” covers many of the biggest talking points that have emerged out of the writer-director’s feature films, so it’s inevitable the doc briefly lands on Tarantino’s controversial use of the N-word. The director has long been criticized for overusing the racial slur in his scripts, most aggressively in “Django Unchained.” Tarantino’s slavery drama featured nearly 110 uses of the N-word. Samuel L. Jackson has already defended Tarantino’s use of the slur, but in “QT8” he goes a step further and calls out the industry for accepting the language in a film like “12 Years a Slave” and not in a film like “Django.”

“You take ’12 Years a Slave,’ which is supposedly made by an auteur. Steve McQueen is very different than Quentin,” Jackson says on camera. “When you have a song that says n-gger in it 300 times nobody says shit. So it’s ok for Steve McQueen to use [the N-word] because he’s artistically attacking the system and the way people think and feel, but Quentin is just doing it to just strike the blackboard with his nails. That’s not true. There’s no dishonesty in anything that [Quentin] writes or how people talk, feel, or speak [in his movies].”

Jackson is referring to a moment in McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” where Paul Dano’s character repeatedly uses the N-word while singing a racist song to a group of slaves. The actor previously reacted to the backlash against Tarantino’s dialogue in an interview with Esquire, saying, “It’s some bullshit…You can’t just tell a writer he can’t talk, write the words, put the words in the mouths of the people from their ethnicities, the way that they use their words. You cannot do that, because then it becomes an untruth; it’s not honest. It’s just not honest.”

Jackson’s “Django Unchained” co-star Jamie Foxx also appears in “QT8” and defends Tarantino’s dialogue. Foxx has long supported Tarantino’s language, telling Yahoo Entertainment in July 2018, “I understood the text. The N-word was said 100 times, but I understood the text — that’s the way it was back in that time.”

Foxx reveals in the documentary that his comfortability with Tarantino’s use of the N-word put him in the position of reassuring co-star Leonardo DiCaprio that it was ok to say the word on set. DiCaprio stars as a racist plantation owner in “Django” and contributed heavily to the movie’s racial slurs.

“Leonardo Dicaprio had a problem saying the word n-gger,” Foxx says. “He said, ‘It’s tough for me to say this.’ I remember Samuel L. Jackson going, ‘Get over it motherfucker. It’s just another Tuesday mothefucker.’ I said, Leo we are not friends. This is your property, these aren’t humans. This is your proprety. When Leo came in the next day, he didn’t speak [to me].”

“QT8: The First Eight,” directed by Tara Wood, made its debut in theaters October 21 for one night only through Fathom Events. The documentary will be available to stream on VOD platforms beginning December 4.

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