Movie Talk

‘Django Unchained’: Jamie Foxx took lead intended for another star

(Photo: The Weinstein Company)Now that the first trailer for Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is out (see below), we'll get you up-to-date on the facts.

Some have dubbed the film Tarantino's "Southern" -- a play on the fact the film's title borrows from 1966 Italian spaghetti Western "Django," includes Western film elements, but is set in the South. In the revenge-themed "Unchained," Jamie Foxx plays Django --a freed slave who becomes a bounty hunter and faces off with an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio), all the while seeking the whereabouts of his slave wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).

Foxx, however, was not the first actor envisioned for the role. Tarantino originally wrote "Unchained" with Will Smith in mind. (One can imagine why Smith -- a major box office draw who attracts audiences of all backgrounds -- turned down the opportunity to play a character who expresses pleasure in getting paid to "kill white folks.")

[Photos: 'Django Unchained' movie stills]

Talks devolved and Foxx was eventually cast in the leading role. He recently said what drew him to the role:  "This is a love story. He's not trying to stop slavery. He's not trying to do anything but find the love of his life — which is like trying to find a needle in a world of haystacks."

Foxx and Smith are friends in real life and both appeared in 2001's "Ali," for which Smith was nominated for an Oscar. The two were later said to be vying for the role of President Barack Obama in a biopic -- but that never happened.

Foxx went on to win an Oscar for 2004's "Ray," in which Washington also plays his wife.

Here are more interesting details around "Django Unchained":

  • Tarantino has been courting DiCaprio for a while: He had written the role of one of the villains in 2009's "Inglorious Basterds" for him. It was the role of Hans Landa played by Christoph Waltz -- who is also in "Unchained" -- that eventually won him a best supporting actor Oscar. Perhaps DiCaprio is avoiding making the same mistake twice.
  • This is the first time DiCaprio has played a villain in a major motion picture. And in this one, he is said to be evil.
  • Brad Pitt, who too appeared in "Basterds," is said to have turned down many "juicy" roles in "Unchained." But don't count him out yet -- Harvey Weinstein says surprise actors are in store.
  • The film also stars Don Johnson (you heard correctly) and Samuel L. Jackson and opens on Christmas Day -- pitting DiCaprio against himself as he also stars in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," out the same day.

Watch 'Django Unchained' Teaser Trailer: