I still look back at Will Smith passing on Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” as a big misstep, especially at this point in his career. No real reason was given at the time and eventually Jamie Foxx took on the role (and nailed it), but in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Smith revealed that it was because the eponymous Django wasn’t central enough to the story.
“Django wasn”t the lead, so it was like, ‘I need to be the lead,'” the star said. “The other character was the lead! I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!””
It’s interesting because for a moment there, Christoph Waltz — the “other character” — was set to be campaigned for awards as a lead alongside Foxx. That would have been great news for Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, who were brilliant in the movie and deserved more awards love than they got.
Eventually, though, Waltz’s co-lead status was perceived as strong enough to make him pop out from the rest of the cast along the circuit. And in a contentious Best Supporting Actor category that was up for grabs all the way up until the first envelope of Oscar night was opened, Waltz won the prize, his second in four years.
Smith’s is the reasoning of a movie star, obviously. “I need to kill the bad guy” couldn’t be more revealing a thing to say. It’s the kind of logic that leads to him headlining a summer M. Night Shyamalan release rather than an art film that netted two Oscars. But it’s his career, his decision, whether there are those of us who would have liked to see him take a chance on a film like “Django Unchained” or not.