Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Leonardo DiCaprio on “Django” Character: “I Hated Him”


Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” has a perfect score of 100 this morning on rottentomatoes.com. All 29 reviews posted so far are positive. That will change, of course. But it’s a pretty good start. At a press conference yesterday, the entire cast showed up, even Jonah Hill who worked two days and is on screen for about 1 minute. Multiple Oscar nominee Leonard DiCaprio came, and spoke at length to the crowd. Usually I don’t re-print public offerings like this, but it was pretty interesting per our PAULA SCHWARTZ. She noted that DiCaprio told the crowd: “…there was absolutely nothing about this man that I could identify with. I hated him and it was one of the most narcissistic, self-indulgent racist horrible characters I’ve ever read in my entire life, and I had to do it. It was too good not to do.”

Here’s her report, in note form:

The moderator told Leonardo DiCaprio, this is the first film you’ve been in in quite a long time where you’re not the only name above the title and where…

Leonardo: “and it sucks…it’s very uncomfortable,” DiCaprio quipped (Everyone laughed)

Moderator: And where you are one, if perhaps not the biggest villain of the piece as Sam (Jackson) was just saying. What made you want to take on this role?

Leo: Well, I mean, obviously Mr. Tarantino here is a major factor but, you know, we all read this script. There was a sort of buzz about this script which was around for a while and people were talking about the next Tarantino movie that was about to come out and the fact that he tackled this subject like he did, sort of Inglorious Basterds, and recreated his own history and tackled something as hardcore as slavery and combined it with the genre of having it be this crazy spaghetti western feel to it with this lead character that sort of obliterates the cankerous rotting South was completely exciting.

And he wrote this incredible character, and as soon as I read it I was incredibly excited. I mean this man was, as Quentin put, he was a character that represented everything that was wrong with the South at the time. He was like the young Louis XIV, the young sort of prince that wanted to hold on to his position of privilege at all costs…Even though he was integrated his whole life with black people, brought up by a black man, lived with him his entire life, he had to find a moral justification to treat people this way and continue his business. He had a plantation to run, so he became this …the fact that he’s a Francophile but he doesn’t speak French…he’s a walking contradiction…he’s brought up with black people yet he as to regard them as not human…

…there was this incredibly interesting horrifically I mean, there was absolutely nothing about this man that I could identify with. I hated him and it was one of the most narcissistic, self-indulgent racist horrible characters I’ve ever read in my entire life, and I had to do it. It was too good not to do. It was too good of a character in that sense,” he said. “I don’t know. This man just writes incredibly characters and it was also an opportunity to work with all these great people too.”

Question from the audience: What did you learn about playing Calvin Candie? And being an actor become all you wanted it all you want to be?

Leo: Forgive me I’m incredibly tired right now…I love acting. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do my entire life, and I hope to continue doing this for a long time to come. It’s the greatest job in the world. It truly is. We’re all lucky bastards up here. The fact that we get to do what we love for a living every single day…what was great about doing this role honestly was the sense of community and support mechanism that I had every single day….this was really my first attempt in playing a character that I had this much disdain and this much hatred for and it was an incredibly uncomfortable environment to walk into.

I dealt with and have seen racism in my surroundings and my life growing up but not to the degree that I had to treat other people in this film was incredibly disturbing…it wa disturbing of actors on both sides of the spectrum. It was a very uncomfortable situation…one of the pivotal moments for me in this character as far as the treatment of other people…sam and Jamie told me..do I need to go this far…does it need to be this violent. (I would ask), Do I need to be this atrocious to other people? (they said yes that) if you sugarcoast this peole are going to resent the hell out of you…this is not only historically accurate but it went even farther than that…the worst atrocities…

…by holding the character back you’re going to do an injustice to the film and people are going to feel like you’re not telling the truth and honestly that’s what ignited me into going the way I do with the character and once I did even more research into the character and once I started to watch the documentaries, read about the sugar plantations.(I saw) we’re just scratching the surface of what happened in our country…

…and it’s a sore subject matter that should be looked at more often and not shied about from and I commend Quentin for making a film that combines so many different genres and as daring as it is, to actually make the subject matter entertaining for an audience. It’s a daring concept…I’ll stop rambling…what was great at the core of it was to have a group of actors that were all mutually there for one another…a subject matter that was difficult for all of us…”


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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