Director Quentin Tarantino says the inspiration for his new movie, Django Unchained, came from a growing frustration with Western films "ignoring" the issue of slavery.
"Hollywood didn't want to deal with it because it was too ugly and too messy," Tarantino recently told The Daily Beast. "But how can you ignore such a huge part of American history when telling a story in that time period? It made no sense."
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Django Unchained, which hits theaters on Christmas Day, stars Jamie Foxx as the title character, a slave in the pre-Civil War South who, upon being freed, embarks on a journey to find his wife who's been sold to another plantation and seeks revenge on his captors along the way. Tarantino and Django Unchained executive producer Reginald Hudlin, who is black, harbor equal resentment toward the miniseries Roots, which is considered by many to be a landmark film in its depiction of slavery.
"When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either," said Tarantino, never one to shy away from controversy. "I didn't see it when it first came on, but when I did, I couldn't get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn't move me because it claimed to be something it wasn't."
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In fact, Tarantino and Hudlin both go as far as to call the film "bulls---" for one of its final scenes, in which the character Chicken George is given the opportunity to beat his master and declines. Spoiler alert: a similar scenario is presented in Django Unchained and has a much different outcome. "No way he becomes the bigger man at that moment," Tarantino said. "Anyone knows that would never happen in that situation. And in Django Unchained we make that clear."
Tarantino is already prepared for potential backlash about the film, and says he welcomes it. "I may take flak but I always do on some level with my work," he said. "Wouldn't be a Tarantino film without some flak and criticism. I bet anyone who sees the film won't be able to forget it — and that's the point."
Django Unchained also stars Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio.