Django Unchained, the sixth film from famed director-by-numbers with an original twist of classic cinema wunderkind Quentin Tarantino, opened the Saturday festivities in Hall H today at San Diego Comic-Con. Highly anticipated, the film, which is Tarantino’s nod to the seminal spaghetti western genre which found its peak in the 1960s but containing the urban spice and flavor he’s most known for injecting into his productions, opens in theaters nationwide this Christmas.
A restless crowd awaited the panel, some of whom had waited outside since the wee hours of the morning. Finally at about 11:30AM, the lights went down to thunderous and ear splitting applause. There is no question that this production, not only among the large contingent of the proudly geeked out, comic booked, graphic novel ink running through their veins crowd, but also among millions of movie goers as well, is one of the most anticipated releases of the 2012 movie year.
Moderated by Anthony Breznikin, writer for Entertainment Weekly, who called the film “a brutal, bloody fairy tale,” the panel members came out in alphabetical order, first Jamie Foxx, then Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, and finally Tarantino himself who thanked everybody for waiting in line for him. Decked out sharply in sunglasses, an oversized leather jacket, a T-shirt decked with illustrations of all of his film characters playing in a sandbox, and a dark green and brown fedora, the filmmaker spoke of the genesis of the idea for the film and his love for the Westerns from the oldest cinematic school. He mentioned that this wasn’t even really a Western or even a slave film, and that he took the elements of those clichés and put them in the Antebellum South with an African-American as a lead character. Tarantino was unapologetic, informative, confident, outspoken, brash, funny, colorful, and all the other typical machismo superlatives that is well associated with him; he was everything the crowd expected of him.
Foxx spoke about working with Tarantino and how amazing it was to work with everyone, liking it akin to “waking up every morning and going to an all-star game.” Foxx also talked about cultivating his protagonist character, in essence a lowly slave who thirsts for revenge, and how Quentin helped him flesh it out. Waltz was asked about being in Quentin’s words “Yoda” to Foxx’s character and how the characters needed each other and worked in tandem for the film. Waltz long haired and heavily bearded, was charming and positively effused with all the viper charm and quiet demeanor which hides a viciousness that he’s well associated with in his film career. Johnson spoke about his character being a “kinder, gentler slave owner” and utilizing the strains of classic cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn for the impetus of his character, exclaiming in inimitable Foghorn fashion, “That’s a joke son!” Showcasing Foxx and Johnson, Quentin mentioned that there was a reunion of sorts of “Crockett and Tubbs,” the main characters from the 1980s sun-drenched pastel-colored crime show Miami Vice. Foxx of course played Tubbs in the Michael Mann film production and Johnson played Crockett in the TV version.
It was mentioned that Jonah Hill, who was not present on the panel (neither was Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio), will play scenes with Johnson in the film as a slave regulator, but details regarding this were rather hush hush, as Tarantino didn’t want to talk too much about it. Washington and Goggins also discussed character motivations and working with the cast and the revered filmmaker. Quentin mentioned that Foxx and Washington’s characters could have a child someday and maybe it will spawn John Shaft, the original badass character made famous by Richard Roundtree in the 1971 production of the same name. Tarantino then sang a bit of Issac Hayes’ number one smash funky track, “Shaft.”
A clip from the film followed, which was an 8-minute (in Tarantino’s words) industry “sizzle reel” which included a little more footage than has been rotating in the trailers that have been seen all over the internet. It was originally put together before the second half of the film was even shot. The director stressed to the crowd’s absolute delight, that they should see this, that “if it was good enough for the industry, it would be good enough for the fans.”
The footage was absolutely spectacular, full of wonderful vistas, mountain ranges, chilly bare winter settings, dusty Western towns, fields filled with sunlight and white poppies, just amazing cinematography, richly done in sepia tones and with deep browns and blacks and wild, sharp color. Each scene had its own identity, mostly showcased in them was Waltz’s character Dr. King Shultz rescuing Django from the slave owners with breathless action and editing, and following their trek to find Django’s wife, who has been enslaved herself. A stop at Don Johnson’s character Big Daddy’s Southern homeland was shown in a brief sequence as was a stop at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Candieland, a stable for slaves named after his character, the ultra wealthy and egotistical Calvin Candie. All the violence and confetti style balletic bloody over the top brilliance that accompanies it, the rich sharp dialogue and the burning sounds of Johnny Cash doing Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” and James Brown’s “The Big Payback” visually and aurally illustrated the footage. From what was seen here at Comic-Con, Django Unchained might stand as the summit of Tarantino’s productions, his highest achievement to date, a mofo of a “sizzle reel” indeed.
Funny Q&A highlights started with a cute blonde girl deck out in Uma Thurman’s yellow suit from Kill Bill who was in awe of Tarantino, who then exclaimed how hot she was, making her become all red faced and so delighted, even mentioning that that sound bite of QT’s will certainly end up on her blog later, a question about what films Tarantino gave to the cast for studying from his cinephile on overdrive brain, which were (to Kerry Washington) The Flame of New Orleans and The Spoilers, both with Marlena Dietrich and both from the 1930s, and (to Don Johnson) some spaghetti westerns.
Finally the answer to if Kill Bill 3 was going happen, Tarantino answered that maybe ten years down the line. It ended what was a panel that was going to be really hard to top in a day full great ones to come throughout this third day in Hall H.
All Photos by Dave3 for Geeks Of Doom.