When the trailer was released earlier this month for Django: Unchained, Black folks didn’t quite know what to make of it. It’s clear it’s a Quentin Tarantino film—the blood shed, the fast-moving dialogue and the James Brown soundtrack are the Tarantino-esque trimmings we’ve all come to love. But it’s wrapped around—and set in—pre-Civil War America.
But a movie set during slavery? Turns out, this isn’t just another slave movie. The film is still shooting right now, but the hero—played by Academy Award winning actor and comedian Jamie Foxx— is a slave who gets his get back.
Foxx plays who we imagined we’d all be should we have lived through such a horrific time. And that’s exactly the kind of film Reginald Hudlin—Tarantino’s producer on this project—has been longing to see. It doesn’t release until Christmas (they’re still filming in New Orleans right now), but six months out, it’s got the kind of buzz that makes Hollywood studio execs ridiculously happy.
Hudlin who along with actress Kerry Washington previewed an extended seven-minute clip of the film at the National Association of Black Journalists convention on Thursday evening in New Orleans—talks with EBONY.com about the movie, slavery and why Tarantino loves telling our stories.
EBONY: What made you want to be apart of Django: Unchained?
Reginald Hudin: Quentin and I have been friends for, I don’t know, easily 15 years now, and maybe longer. Whenever we see each other we debate movies, because we’re both super passionate about the cinema. So we got into this whole debate about movies on this topic of slavery, and I was very frank about how I hated 90 percent of them. I thought they were cod liver oil movies that were -- and when I say cod liver oil, I mean movies that taste bad -- but you’re supposed to swallow it anyways, because it’s supposed to be good for you. I don’t understand how that works because if it’s not entertaining, if it’s not something you want to go see, why bother, because no one’s going to see it. And I just felt like these movies should be exciting, they should be action-packed and most of all, I felt like they should have plenty of kicking ass because at the end of the day, the world needs black people who fought back. I mean, the famous slave revolts like Nat Turner and Denmark Veesey and for every one that we know about, God knows how many that we don’t know about because people wanted to suppress that information.
EBONY: And let’s be honest: a lot of black folks, when we see movies like Django we think, ‘that’s who I would’ve been. I would’ve been the guy raising hell …’
RH: Exactly! And that’s what I want to see. I was just really blunt. For me, I said, ‘Look, there’s only one great movie about slavery and it was called Spartacus, and until there’s a movie like that about the American experience, I’m not that interested. He came back 13 years later and said, ‘hey man, I’ve finished my new script.’ And usually if you’ve got a new script or a rough cut of a new movie I go by and I see the rough cut in the editing room and I flip at the script early. I just thought it was another one of those. And he handed me a script and said, ‘you planted the seed; this is the tree.’ And then I read it, and then he was very excited, he wanted to know what I thought and I said I loved it. He said, ‘do you have notes?’ And then I gave him a ton of notes, and he was like, ‘those are good notes … basically I really want to do this together with you.’ And when someone is trying to do the right thing and asks for some help, the only responsible thing to do is roll up your sleeves and get to work.
EBONY: When I first saw the trailer, my first thoughts were, ‘Oh wow. Tarantino and Hudlin are ballsy. What they’re effectively doing is giving the Inglorious Basterds treatment to pre-civil war.’ That’s what you’re doing, right?
RH: Yes! It’s like when he first started talking about Inglorious Basterds to me, years before the movie got made, Quentin said, ‘World War II was the war about racism, right?’ Because the Nazis said, ‘we’re the master race.’ So, you know, these are the things that he cares about and he thinks about … these are the things that he knows and are passionate about, and certainly the kind of movies that I always wanted to make, being a person who grew up on Blaxploitation, which was all about black folk kicking ass and taking names. I’m like, Yes, I’m down with that program. Let’s do