'Django Unchained' Star Leonardo DiCaprio Struggled to Identify With His 'Racist, Horrible Character'

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For the first time in his career, Leonardo DiCaprio takes a turn to the dark side next week playing a brutal plantation owner in Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s new revenge saga in which the oppressed finally turn the tables on their oppressors.

As if owning slaves isn’t bad enough, DiCaprio’s character, Calvin Candie’s favorite pastime is forcing his biggest and strongest to face off in bloody death matches.

“There was absolutely nothing about this man that I could identify with,” DiCaprio told reporters. “I hated him. And it was one of the most narcissistic, self indulgent, racist, horrible characters I had ever read in my entire life. And I had to do it.”

DiCaprio found the situation on set awkward, with his charater's casual use of the N-word around c0-stars Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington. At one point he felt himself pulling away from the role, rationalizing with Tarantino about his character’s excessive show of racism.

“I’d dealt with and seen racism in my surroundings growing up, but to the degree that I had to treat other people in this film was incredibly disturbing,” recalled DiCaprio.

In the movie, Django (Foxx), a liberated slave, and King Schultz, (Christoph Waltz) a bounty hunter, go in search of Django’s wife, Broomhilda, (Washington) a slave who works on Candie’s plantation. Along the way they witness outrageous acts of violence, including a particularly brutal scene in which a slave is ripped to pieces by dogs.

In order to get a better understanding of Candie, DiCaprio researched sugar plantations, slave narratives and watched numerous documentaries on the subject. What he discovered were abuses that made the atrocities in the movie seem tame by comparison.

When production began, he struggled to embody such cruelty but was willed on by his African-American cast mates.

“What was great was to have a group of actors that were all mutually there for one another to support and drive each other further,” recalled DiCaprio. “Sam and Jamie told me, ‘Look man, if you sugarcoat this, people are going to resent the hell out of you. By holding the character back you’re going to do an injustice to the film and people are going to feel like you’re not telling the truth.”

DiCaprio compares Django Unchained with Tarantino’s previous movie, Inglourious Basterds, in that both take a candid look at brutal passages in modern history, but imagine a reality where the good guys win.

While Basterds portrays a world whereby Jews exercise bloody revenge on Nazi persecutors, Django, for the first time in movies, puts a gun in the hand of a slave and offers scenes of rough retribution.

“As soon as I read it I was incredibly excited,” said DiCaprio. “This was a character that represented everything that was wrong with the south at the time. It’s a subject matter that should be looked at more often and not shied away from.”

Click through the gallery above to see the cast of Django Unchained at the NYC press conference.

What do you think of Django Unchained's depiction of slavery, DiCaprio's performance, and its portrayal of slaves? Watch co-star Sammi Rotibi's exclusive interview with Celebuzz about his supporting role in the film, and then let us know what you think of the film as a whole in the comments section below!

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  • Wil Brewster
    Wil Brewster

    debunked? It hasn’t even been discussed. Yeah, if by “debunked” you mean ignoring the entirety of the context by resorting to petty ad hominem attacks and character assassinations whilst cowering behind the holocaust card like a sheep in wolfs clothing. And when they do finally admit to it, they say, yeah, but that was a long time ago. LOL. Why are Jews so special so as to avoid simple historical inquiry? There are literally hundreds of sources by Jewish historians admitting/bragging about both involvement and the complete domination of the trans Atlantic slave trade along with many others dating back through time. If anyone wants to inquire for themselves, please, watch a video by Dr Tony Martin, he covers the facts well but more importantly explains how far Jewish-lobbying goes to silence and discredit him, preventing a discussion at all. He’s black, by the way, which makes it even more flagrantly outrageous.

  • Wil Brewster
    Wil Brewster

    debunked? It hasn't even been discussed. Yeah, if by "debunked" you mean ignoring the entirety of the context by resorting to petty ad hominem attacks and character assassinations whilst cowering behind the holocaust card like a sheep in wolfs clothing. And when they do finally admit to it, they say, yeah, but that was a long time ago. LOL. Why are Jews so special so as to avoid simple historical inquiry? There are literally hundreds of sources by Jewish historians admitting/bragging about both involvement and the complete domination of the trans Atlantic slave trade along with many others dating back through time. If anyone wants to inquire for themselves, please, watch a video by Dr Tony Martin, he covers the facts well but more importantly explains how far Jewish-lobbying goes to silence and discredit him, preventing a discussion at all. He's black, by the way, which makes it even more flagrantly outrageous.

  • juju
    juju

    the fact that you feel white ppl should be separated from the wonderful evolution of diversity and cohabitation makes me sad for you. R

  • juju
    juju

    whether or not they were abusive doesn't hide the fact that humans thought they were supperior and entitled enough to "own" another person they feel aren't up to par of their standards. you are both ignorant and probably a decendant of a slave owning moron. may god help you!

  • LaToya
    LaToya

    "Not all slaveowners were cruel and abusive, as Hollywood likes to portray." Maybe you should read that statement aloud to find the irony in it. Being able to identify yourself as a slaveowner, makes you cruel and abusive, no matter how "kind and genteel" you might be.

  • fa
    fa

    You, mam, are a moron. Republicans and Democrats in the 1800s were nothing like Republicans and Democrats today when it came to social policy. Read up on Nixon's Southern Strategy and Dixie Democrats and you'll begin to see the migration of the socially progressive to one party and the socially conservatives to the other.

  • Connie Chastain
    Connie Chastain

    Why the concerted effort in this country to portray the worst aspects of slavery as the whole of it? We don't portray anything else in our history that way -- and, in fact, the U.S. government imprisoned Indians on reservations in conditions worse than plantation slavery but you don't see the worst of that paraded around as the whole of it. If slavery was as bad as we're being told by Hollywood directors and actors (who are not historians, btw), why did 80% of the interviewees of the WPA slave narratives have positive memories of their masters and slavery? Not all slaveowners were cruel and abusive, as Hollywood likes to portray. While some were, it's very likely that a great many were, in fact, morally superior to a lot of folks populating Hollywood today....

  • yves
    yves

    thank you for this - reading the rest of the comments on this page up until yours has been disheartening and made me want to flush my head down the toilet.

  • amber
    amber

    oh my god, what in the fresh hell is wrong with all you people? this is a good opener for dialogue about what happened in this country, not a one-up for BUT MY PEOPLE WERE ENSLAVED MORE THAN YOUR PEOPLE AND THE ARABS ARE THE MEANEST. what?? slavery sucks. period. people of all ethnicities and backgrounds are still going through it in this world in one way or another. the middle school field trip to the plantation doesn't connect you with the horrors or realities of slavery the way something like this can. and regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's a dialogue opener. and it's a dialogue we need to be having.

  • Crispin Crisp
    Crispin Crisp

    The media is at the forefront of the greatest lie in history. We, as a people must step back and ask ourselves these questions: Why is it that the only people in society today that are targeted for "Racism" are White? Why is it encouraged for any race but the White race to have pride in their race? Why are we, as White people having "Diversity" forced upon us, in all White countries and only White countries? The "diversity" being forced on ALL White countries and ONLY White countries will result in the GENOCIDE of my race, the White race. What is happening is not by chance, it is by design. Anti-Racist is a codeword for Anti-White.

  • Sam
    Sam

    Most of the slaves in America were white but the American Indoctrination Centers (Public Schools) do not tell this story.

  • Sarah Davies
    Sarah Davies

    If there really was to be a revenge scenario about slavery it would feature an African guy killing Arabs. The Arab slave trade went on far longer and continued into far more recent history that the trans-Atlantic slave trade did. Saudi Arabia banned slavery in 1964, a hundred years after the American Civil war. That affected people who are still alive. But would Tarantino have the courage to make a movie about that? I doubt it.

  • Irvinegirl
    Irvinegirl

    I call bullshit on his ability to find his inner racist. Or is it that he's a Democrat so naturally he doesn't have a racist bone in his body, unlike those mean old Republicans? Don't forget folks, Democrats were the ones who wanted to keep black people on the plantation and it took a Republican to free them.

  • Thandrale
    Thandrale

    I believe that's been pretty thoroughly debunked. There were about 4 plantations owned by Jews and only about 1% dealt in the selling of slaves. Not out of any altruistic motives mind you. It was a chancy business. Disease could wipe out your stock quite quickly. Money, jewels and precious metals were much more durable.

  • Paul Pace
    Paul Pace

    If they really wanted to portray slavery correctly, most of the slavers would be Jewish! Jews were the biggest profiteers of slavery, something Sheenywood seems to forget!

  • Thandrale
    Thandrale

    This is a tough call. On the one hand it's a black exploitation homage but on the other hand they are trying to show just how horrific slavery and racism were in that time. It's Tarantino and some very respected actors though so I say okay. No offense intended.

  • Lance
    Lance

    DiCaprio has actually played the villain before in The Man in the Iron Mask. Looking forward to Django though.