The cast of Django Unchained talked about the new Quentin Tarantino film during a Comic-Con International panel on Saturday afternoon.
The film – which opens in theaters on Christmas Day 2012 – stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave in the Deep South who teams up with a German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz), to save his wife Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington), from plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
In a discussion moderated by Entertainment Weekly film writer Anthony Breznican, Tarantino said that his goal for the film was to put a new twist on the classic Spaghetti Western genre.
"To me, one of the fun things about telling the story was to take the Western genre we know so well and place it in the Antebellum South and place a black character in it," he said, according to Sports Mole.
Tarantino, who was joined on the panel by five cast members, has long been attracted to the intense violence, cool music and surreal elements of the Italian-made Spaghetti Westerns, which emerged in the mid-Sixties. He’d been thinking about doing a Western for 13 years, and said the scenes in Django Unchained aren’t nearly as bad as what life was actually like during America’s pre-Civil War years.
"You can’t be more surrealistic than it was in real life," he said. "It's unimaginable to think of the pain and the suffering that went on in this country."
When Django is introduced in the film, he’s on a chain gang being led from Mississippi to Texas. To get into character, Foxx said he drew on his experiences growing up in racially charged Texas.
"Being called a n***er as a kid by grown people was something I had to deal with," he said. "By having that done to me, I was able to grasp what was being said in the script."
As the Huffington Post reports, Waltz's Dr. King Schultz plays a Yoda-like role for Django, teaching him to be a fighter. But Waltz noted that the relationship is more reciprocal. "Dr. Schultz needs Django," he said. "This is a different relationship than someone picking up a slave and rescuing him."
The film has one week left of shooting. Last week, they finished a scene with actor Jonah Hill, who plays a member of the Regulators, a pre-KKK posse that terrorizes slaves. Tarantino said it’s one of the funniest scenes he’s ever written, comparing it to the color-coded nicknames the bandits use in Reservoir Dogs.
He also said that Django and Broomhilda are related to a well-known character in blaxploitation film: John Shaft. "[They] will have a baby, then that baby will have a baby and so on and so on," he said, "and then John Shaft will be born."
Before the panel, fans had lined up outside for hours, and one had come all the way from Malaysia, Entertainment Weekly reports.
Tarantino did not disappoint, screening an eight-minute sizzle reel that included a clip of Django getting in a shootout with a snowman, among other tidbits. Tarantino originally made the reel for industry professionals.
@Stephanietely tweeted the director's pronouncement on the selection: "If it’s good enough for the industry, it’s good enough for the fans!"