‘Django Unchained’s’ Jamie Foxx Talks About Racism, Horse Training and Working With Leonardo DiCaprio

By: Jordan Riefe / December 22, 2012

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In Quentin Tarantino’s new western Django Unchained, Jamie Foxx plays an ex-slave determined to free his wife from the the plantation of ruthless slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

For Foxx, the movie presented a number of firsts, including a wild ride on horseback, a vengeful slave and an onset accident that left DiCaprio with a blood-drenched hand.

Calvin Candie manages a 60-square-mile spread called Candie Land, a sugar plantation populated by hundreds of slaves, including Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).

When King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and Django ride in with their hidden agenda, Candie, a man who is not used to being contradicted, loses patience with the pair, smashing a shot glass on the table before him.

Word on set was that during rehearsals, DiCaprio delivered a tour de force performance. Subsequently, staffers were stopping by the set to watch the scene as it was being filmed.

“What happened was the shot glass somehow slid over underneath where he was slamming his hand,” Foxx told reporters. “In one take, he slams his hand there and the shot glass goes through his hand. Now blood is shooting out of his hand and I’m thinking, ‘does everybody else see this, cause this is crazy!’ And he keeps going and I almost turned into a girl.”

DiCaprio had a lot of trouble embodying his character, a vile racist given to casual violence and liberal use of the N-word.

“We were in rehearsals and Leo’s saying his line, ‘n***er this, n***er that,” said Foxx, who remembers his co-star straining at the use of the word in the presence of his African-American castmates including Samuel L. Jackson. “Then Samuel pulls him aside and says, ‘Hey motherf***er, this is just another Tuesday for us, let’s go.”

Growing up in Texas, Foxx is no stranger to casual racism. “There are racial components in the south, me being called n***er growing up as a kid,” he revealed. “So when I read the script, I didn’t knee jerk to the word ‘n***er’ like somebody from New York or L.A. would knee jerk because that was something I experienced.”

If the movie’s casual racism wasn’t a challenge for Foxx, riding bareback was, even though he’s a rider in his free time and actually rode his own horse, Cheetah, in the film.

“What’s interesting about my horse and Django is that they sort of learn together,” said Foxx. “While my horse is learning tricks, Django is sort of evolving as a person, as a superhero, all the way to the end of the movie, where you see my horse do the same thing at the end.”

In the movie, Foxx, atop Cheetah, spins out at 28 miles per hour. “There were people ready to catch me just in case something happens,” recalled Foxx. “On the outside I looked like Django, but on the inside I was Little Richard. I was there, ‘Oh Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus, please stop this horse! Lord Jesus stop this horse!”

On the next take, a stunt man told him, “If you feel like you’re about to come off the horse just let go of the son of a bitch,” said Foxx. “And I’m thinking, ‘He’s a damn fool if he thinks I can get off this horse!”

But after several takes, Cheetah became winded, slowing down enough for Foxx to complete the take to Tarantino’s satisfaction.

Foxx, who won the role of Django after Will Smith dropped out due to a scheduling conflict, relished portraying a badass in a time where most African-Americans were subservient.

“We never get a chance to see the slave fight back,” he observed, noting that usually when a slave has a chance to exact revenge, he shows mercy instead. But not here.

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“In this movie there’s a lot of firsts and we knew that coming into it there’s gonna be all the other things said and everything about it, but it’s been a fantastic ride.”