Jamie Foxx Tried Talking Idris Elba Out of ‘Django’ Role, Calls Tarantino the ‘Best Director Out There’

Speaking at TIFF, Foxx relived the "Django Unchained" casting process.
Us Actor Jamie Foxx (l) and Us Director Quentin Tarantino (r) Pose at a Photocall For Their New Movie 'Django Unchained' in Berlin Germany 08 January 2013 the Movie Will Be Released in German Cinemas on 17 January Germany BerlinGermany Cinema - Jan 2013
Jamie Foxx and Quentin Tarantino
Jens Kalaene/EPA/Shutterstock

In the midst of Oscar hopefuls “Joker,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “Judy,” “Waves,” and more stirring up major awards buzz, the Toronto International Film Festival found time to also champion Quentin Tarantino. The writer-director’s ninth feature “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” opened in theaters this summer and remains a top Oscar contender in numerous categories. During Jamie Foxx’s TIFF conversation with “Just Mercy” co-star Michael B. Jordan and festival co-head Cameron Bailey, the actor championed Tarantino as “incredible and probably the best director out there because of what he does and how he does it.”

Foxx played the title role in Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” which remains the director’s highest grossing movie domestically ($162 million) and worldwide ($425 million). The Oscar winner told Jordan and Bailey that he wanted the “Django” role badly and got upset with his management team when he was not included on the shortlist of actors. Will Smith was first offered the “Django” role but passed because he wanted the movie to focus more on a love story than vengeance. Idris Elba then became a contender.

The way Foxx tells it, Elba brought “Django” up in the conversation when they ran into each other and asked his thoughts on Tarantino. Foxx low-key tried talking Elba out of the role by saying his looks would be a distraction. “You’re beautiful black ass riding up on a horse, there’s going to be some problems for everyone,” Foxx quipped. Tarantino ultimately pulled the plug on Idris, telling The Sun in 2013 somewhat controversially that Elba’s British roots just weren’t right for the part.

“Yeah, Idris is British and this is an American story,” Tarantino said. “I think a problem with a lot of movies that deal with this issue is they cast British actors to play the Southerners and it goes a long way to distancing the movie. They put on their gargoyle masks and they do their accents and you are not telling an American story any more.”

Tarantino also met with Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard, Michael K. Williams, and Tyrese and was planning to have them all compete against each other for the role until he met Foxx. “He was the cowboy,” Tarantino told Playboy in 2013. “Forget the fact that he has his own horse — and that is actually his horse in the movie. He’s from Texas; he understands. He understood what it’s like to be thought of as an ‘other.’”

Speaking at TIFF, Foxx stressed that his Texas roots got him the part. Foxx remembered Tarantino being excited by the actor already owning a horse, which would end up being used in the movie as Django’s horse. Watch Foxx relive his “Django” days in the TIFF video below.

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