Way back in July of 2011, I reviewed Quentin Tarantino’s recently leaked script for Django Unchained. You can read my review here. First of all, I’d like to apologize for reading the script even though it wasn’t officially released. 2011 was a weird time. Was the world really going to end in 2012? Would Obama get re-elected? Would I finally realize my dream of becoming a blogging superstar? But most importantly, everyone was wondering if Tarantino’s new film would deliver as much tension, excitement, and straight up film-making glee as his previous movies. Luckily, everything turned out for the best. 2013 has just rolled around and the world hasn’t ended, Obama is our president, I am the world’s most popular and successful blogger, and Django Unchained turned out to more than live up to the Tarantino name both in thrills and in depth. For more on the “depth” part of that, check out my other article about Django Unchained. Yeah I’m on a Tarantino writing kick. So what? Wanna fight? Go ahead. Click that X in the corner. See if I care. Go on do it. I dare you…
NO WAIT COME BACK. I was just kidding. Please stay a while on my blog.
But anyway, sometimes it’s fun to look back. Django Unchained turned out to be pretty damn good, but how does it compare to the script completed over a year ago? The differences provide an interesting look into Tarantino’s writing and editing process, as well as explain a confusing choice included in the final film. So let’s take a look.
What Was Cut From the Script?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty here, I should explain a few things. First, Tarantino has clearly said several times that when he’s writing, he is writing for the page. He isn’t necessarily planning on including every single scene and bit of dialogue in the completed movie, and a lot of the time he will add things to the script in order to make it read more like a novel. So some of the stuff that didn’t make it to the screen may have never been intended to be filmed anyway. Though, many of these scenes were probably filmed. Up until a couple of weeks before Django’s premiere, Tarantino was sitting on a 3+ hour cut. Which would have been fine by me.
Regardless of Tarantino’s intentions with these scenes, anyone interested in writing films, or anyone interested in how a film is made can get some insight through these examples. Great writing doesn’t just happen on the page or on the screen. A lot of great writing happens through editing and character work, and the stuff we see in Tarantino’s earlier script draft show just how much of a master he is at that kind of stuff.
Also, I just want to make it clear I’m not going line-by-line here. I don’t have all damn day, OK? Actually I do, but I’m going to be talking about main plot points and things like that anyway. So if you don’t like it, feel free to kiss my butt. Just kidding. Stay.
One of the main things cut out from the film is much of Broomhilda and Django’s backstory, which was to be told in a flashback. In the completed film, we only learn about the past from what Django reveals when talking to Dr. Schultz, or through extremely brief flashback sequences, where we see all the horror, but none of the story of their shared past.
The script, on the other hand, diverged for a bit about Django and Broomhilda’s past under the Brittle Brothers. We saw more of the torture they endured, and what would have been possibly the most disturbing scene in the film: where the Brittle brothers rape Broomhilda and force Django to watch.
Tarantino mentioned in an interview that due to his encyclopedic knowledge of film, he has become a bit desensitized to movie violence, and has no problem separating it from reality. But when he put some of the more extreme scenes of violence in front of an audience, it became clear which scenes went to far. I’d assume these scenes ended up being cut for time as well as content.
Additionally, the script took a pretty large detour when describing Broomhilda’s situation after being separated from Django at the Greenville Slave Auction. She ended up being sold to a family where she served as a non-consenting girlfriend for the meek son of the family. The son eventually lost her to Calvin Candie. I’ve heard rumors that this role of the son was supposed to be played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then Sacha Baron Cohen, and then Jonah Hill, who all eventually dropped out. Jonah Hill then supposedly came back when he had an opening to play a smaller part. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard.
BUT, to be honest, this portion of script seems like one of those instances where Tarantino was writing for the page, and not for the screen. It was interesting getting more of an idea of Broomhilda’s past and the journey she took to end up being in the clutches of Calvin Candie, but on film, it may have been too much time to spend on something that wasn’t related to the film’s main revenge storyline.
Writers, take note. Even though it didn’t make it to the screen, this is how in-depth Tarantino gets on all of his characters. He’s mentioned before that for films like Inglourious Basterds, he told every actor that played a member of the Basterds what they were doing before the war, and what they were going to do afterwards. When you know your characters this well, then you have the ability to let what you know about their personality to dictate where a scene is going to go rather than you forcing them into actions that may not fit who they are. Just some tips from a guy that sucks at writing. Feel free to ignore.
Dr. Schultz and Django
More of Dr. Schultz and Django’s general palling around was included in the script. Instead of Django being a naturally good marksman, we instead got several training sequences where Dr. Schultz teaches Django how to quick draw and how to shoot and also how to read, which we saw a bit of in the final movie. There definitely is more of their buddy-cop kind of camaraderie somewhere out there on some Hollywood cutting room floor and gosh darnit, I’d like to see it. Luckily, I’m sure a lot of this will be on a DVD or “Blu Ray” for you all you fancy people out there with your your HD’s and 1080p’s and your Netscapes and stuff. Good for you. Yeah. Enjoy it. See if I care.
Stephen and Django
More of Stephen and Django’s interactions were included. There was a scene in which Django calls Stephen up to his room, and then discreetly beats him up, knowing that Stephen can’t complain to Candie, who has taken a liking to Django. This is further cause for Stephen to suspect that something is up with Schultz and his partner, which ultimately leads to Stephen figuring out their ruse.
Additionally, in the scene where Django is hanging naked upside-down, Stephen takes the time to not only fondle Django’s genitals a little bit, he also cuts him and burns his nipples. Again, this is probably due to the film being too violent for general audiences in its uncut form.
More about Mandingos
While Calvin Candie’s interest in Mandingo fighting is still very present in the final film, there is more of a subplot involving the buying and selling of Mandingo fighters. This includes the character of Ace Woody, who was supposed to be Candie’s slave trainer. The character was supposed to be played by either Kevin Costner or Kurt Russel, both of whom ended up dropping out.
Ace Woody was eventually dropped along with a good portion of the Mandingo subplot, and some of his more important actions like almost cutting off Django’s balls were given to the character of Billy Crash instead–who played a much smaller role in the original script. It’s interesting to think that in some alternate universe, there is footage of Kevin Costner grabbing Jamie Foxx’s genitals, but alas, it was not to be.
Some were pretty confused (and rightfully so) at Tarantino’s inclusion of Australians at the end of the film. And were even more confused at Tarantino’s decision to play one of these Australian fellows. I’ve heard an explanation that it was a nod to a film where an actor had such a terrible Southern accent, that people claimed it sounded Australian. While this might also be true, we can chalk this choice up to another detail left out in editing.
In the script, when traveling Django to the LeQuint Dickey Mining Company, Django was able to convince the Australian guys to let him go by relating to them. One of the Australians explained that the mining company paid for their passage to America, and that they were working off their debt over the course of several years. Django was able to gain their trust by explaining that they were slaves as well in a manner of speaking, being taken advantage of and being forced to do work for free.
He then used this trust to convince them of the bounty waiting for them back at Candyland, and then he totally explodes them with dynamite.
Speaking of dynamite, this movie was an explosive thrill ride! Sorry I just thought I’d add that in case someone wanted to but my stupid dumbass blog on a DVD cover or something.
The original script played pretty much the same as what we saw on the screen, other than the minor cuts explained above. However, Tarantino changed the ending quite a bit.
Instead of a final massacre of the rest of the film’s villains in the Candie household, Django intercepted the wrongdoers on their way back from Calvin’s funeral. He then gives all six of them guns and holsters. When they reach for their guns, Django uses his quickdraw skills to kill all 6 of them before they can get a shot off. He then throws a bundle of dynamite among the wounded and blows them the heck up. Then he and Broomhilda ride off and probably make a bunch of babies with weird names and live happily ever after.
So as you can see, a pretty good amount was cut from the film. Not too surprising, considering that Tarantino had a 3 hour+ film on his hands less than a month before it was released. And while what he cut it down to was quite cohesive and entertaining as hell, the world of Django Unchained is one I’d like to spend as much time in as possible, so I am anxious to see some deleted scenes.
Also, there were some loose ends that weren’t in the script, and were never explained, such as Zoe Bell’s red scarfed tracker that had her own introducing shot, but was quickly gunned down once Django made his violent entrance on the trackers’ cabin. While he was brief, Walter Goggins (Billy Crash in the film) said this about the character: “Yeah, you don’t really get anything from her character but she’s lethal.” So yeah. Color me intrigued.
Tarantino has even said he will most likely do a director’s cut some time down the road. Hopefully this will happen, I’d like to see what is included, how that affects the overall pacing, and hopefully more Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz being rootin tootin cowboy buddies.
This is the first time I’ve read a script before seeing a film, and it was a really enlightening experience. Tarantino has said that he considers the film’s final edit to be his final draft of the script, and I see exactly what he means now. While a lot of interesting and compelling content was cut, it ultimately led to a film that is engaging, entertaining, and leaves the audience wanting more.
Alright. That’s about all I have to say about Django Unchained for right now. Feel free to tell me I stink in the comments or just post your thoughts or whatever. Also feel free to click around on my blog anywhere you like. You have my permission. OK. I’m done. Play me out, Frank Ocean.