Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained: 50 Things You Probably Missed In The Western
It's the story of a freed slave, a German bounty hunter, and the worst Southern plantation in Hollywood history.
When Quentin Tarantino did interviews to promote Django Unchained in 2012, he hyped it as his self-conceived spaghetti "Southern"--a movie that would apply Western film tropes to tell a story about the antebellum South.
The resulting movie, about a former slave who braves the worst plantation in Mississippi to rescue his enslaved wife, is critically acclaimed, controversial, and commercially successful--an unbelievable hat trick for a movie that deliberately provoked discomfort. And it features some career-defining performances by its main players.
As Django Freeman, Jaime Foxx gave his best performance since playing Ray Charles in Ray. Christoph Waltz won his second Academy Award for playing Dr. King Schultz, the German bounty hunter who frees and mentors Django. Leonardo DiCaprio got in the gutter to play Calvin Candie, an evil slave owner who relies on black bodies as much as he abuses them. And Samuel L. Jackson played Stephen, Candie's self-hating house slave who is Django's worst, most twisted adversary.
Here are 50 fascinating facts and Easter Eggs about Quentin Tarantino's seventh film, Django Unchained. It is streaming on Netflix as of April 25. And if you liked this gallery, check out our deep dives into Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Face/Off, Mortal Kombat and Tremors.
1. Just Another Slave
Jaime Foxx is naturally magnetic and charismatic, which is why he had trouble getting into the role of a slave at first. He was acting too self-assured in his opening scenes, and Tarantino had to pull him aside and explain that he wasn't a hero yet; he was going to develop into one. Foxx had to think of himself as a single slave in an anonymous chain of them.
2. Paula Schultz Connection?
Dr. King Schultz, the dentist turned bounty hunter, shares a family name with Paula Schultz, an incidental character in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Budd digs up Paula Schultz's grave and buries the Bride in the empty pit. The dates on the grave, 1823-1898, match up to Django's timeline. The location is also correct; Django Unchained starts in Texas, and Paula Schultz is buried in Texas too. Perhaps she is King's estranged wife?
It seems like a stretch, but Tarantino is somewhat notorious for connecting his different movies in a loose "universe." For example: Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs is Vic Vega, the brother of Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega.
3. "Two" Choices
Schultz gives the other slaves a choice of whether to help the injured slave trader, or kill him and set themselves free. He holds up two fingers--his thumb and index finger--as a way of listing their options.
This is the German way of counting on one's fingers, and it's a subtle callback to Tarantino's sixth film Inglourious Basterds. In that movie, an American spy gives himself away to the Nazis by holding up three fingers the American way--with his index finger, middle finger, and ring finger.
4. Cheetah The Horse
Jamie Foxx rides his own horse during the film; he received it as a birthday gift five to six years prior to being cast in the film. Its name is Cheetah.
5. Framed By A Noose
When Schultz and Django ride into Daughtry, Texas, the white inhabitants stare at Django, who is breaking all sorts of precedents by riding on a horse. Tarantino makes a subtle nod to Django not being "in his place" by framing his head with a hangman's noose. Public lynchings are a form of psychological control and intimidation to keep oppressed groups in line.
6. Old Man Carrucan
Django's first owner, Old Man Carrucan, is played by Bruce Dern. He has since appeared in supporting roles in Tarantino's following two films: The Hateful Eight and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
7. The Whipping Tree
Much of the film, particularly the outdoors scenes, were filmed on location at former Southern plantations. The crew even filmed around the slave quarters, most notably during the scene where Broomhilda is whipped.
“The scene where Kerry gets whipped (was filmed) in the part of a plantation that was the slave quarters,” Tarantino said in an interview with Variety. “We know that real slaves had been whipped there. There was blood on the ground, blood in the trees. We felt their spirits watching over the movie.”
Tarantino noted in the same article that his discomfort with his material caused him to seek out the counsel of legendary African American actor Sidney Poitier. Poitier reassured him, and encouraged Tarantino to not be afraid of his own movie.
8. Art Imitating Life
Tarantino cast many actors and extras to fill out his crowd scenes on the plantations, which made for some interesting sociological observations, reminiscent of those in the Stanford Prison Experiment.
"[There] was a social-dividing issue between the extras that mirrored the ones between their slave characters in the movie," said Tarantino in an interview with Playboy. "The ponies [slave call girls] were pretty, and they looked down on the extras playing cotton-picker slaves. They thought they were better than them. And the people playing the house servants looked down on the people playing the cotton pickers. And the cotton pickers thought the people playing the house servants and the ponies were stuck-up b****es. Then there was a fourth breakdown, between the darker skinned and the lighter skinned. Obviously not for everybody, and it wasn't a gigantic problem, but it was something you noticed. They started mirroring the social situations of their characters, being on this plantation for a few weeks."
9. Meet Big Daddy
The owner of the Bennett Manor plantation, "Big Daddy" Spencer Bennett, is played by Don Johnson. Johnson is best known as a television actor, for playing the role of Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice and Inspector Nash in Nash Bridges.
10. In The Mirror
Django saves little Jody from getting whipped by "Big" John Brittle. She sees her rescuer in a nearby mirror while she's tied to the tree. In the mirror's reflection, Django is posed exactly like "The Blue Boy" painting by Thomas Gainsborough. Costume designer Sharen Davis used this painting as a primary source of inspiration. She was nominated that year at the Oscars for Best Costume Design.
11. Trunk Shot
Tarantino has a signature low angle "trunk shot" that he uses in all his films. But Django Unchained takes place in 1858, before cars were invented. Instead, Tarantino uses the same low angle when Django executes Roger Brittle with Brittle's own gun.
12. Blood On The Cotton
Cotton was a primary cash crop in the pre-Civil War south, and slavery was how it was grown and picked. Django and Schultz are upsetting that traditional order of things with violence and bloodshed.
13. Whistling "Django"
While packing his carriage with dynamite, Schultz whistles the theme of the 1966 Italian film Django, directed by Sergio Corbucci. This is also the same theme that plays over the movie's opening credits.
14. Bag Masks
There's an extended comedic dialogue among the Regulators, the proto-Klan group that wears bags over their heads, about how they can't see what they're doing while they're riding. It's one of the most popular, well-known sequences of the film, but it almost didn't make the final cut. It was one of the last scenes that Tarantino shot, on a soundstage after he got back to LA. Tarantino was nervous that he didn't nail the comedy properly, but the Sony chairperson at the time, Amy Pascal, insisted it be included in the movie, since it was one of the main reasons she greenlit the film in the first place.
15. Jonah Hill Cameo
Jonah Hill has a cameo as one of the Regulators who is fussing with his bag. He was originally cast in a larger role, but he had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts. More on that role later.
16. Shaft Relation
Kerry Washington's character's full name is Broomhilda Von Shaft. She is the ancestor of blaxploitation action hero Shaft, who debuted in the 1971 film of the same name. Tarantino confirmed this in a panel discussion at Comic-Con 2012--although the filmmaker has never had anything to do with the Shaft series.
17. The Great Silence
The massive, snow-covered landscapes are a hallmark of the 1968 spaghetti Western film The Great Silence, directed by Sergio Corbucci. Corbucci also directed the film Django (1966), which gave Jaime Foxx's character his name.
18. The Nash and Koons Families
The Smitty Bacall Gang bulletin has two names on it that should be familiar to Tarantino fans. Perhaps they are distant ancestors? The first is "Gerald Nash"; Martin Nash is the police officer who got his ear cut off by Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs. The other name is "Crazy" Craig Koons; Captain Koons is the Vietnam veteran (played by Christopher Walken) who gave Butch his father's gold watch in Pulp Fiction.
19. Treated As Equal
One striking thing about these scenes in the mountains is that for the first time in the movie, Django is treated as an equal. The man at the cabin addresses Django and Schultz directly, and invites them both inside for some leftover birthday cake. It's a subtle narrative shift that shows that Django is beginning to establish himself as a complete individual, who feels he is entitled to as much respect as any man.
20. Welcome To MISSISSIPPI
The scrolling "MISSISSIPPI" credit when Django and Schultz arrive in Greenville is a reference to Gone with the Wind (1939). It's a deliberate act of subversion on Tarantino's part, since Greenville is a warts-and-all depiction of chattel slavery, and critics deride Gone with the Wind for romanticizing the old South.
21. The Cleopatra Club
Tarantino's original screenplay goes into a little more detail about the Cleopatra Club that is owned by Calvin Candie (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). It is a private club for interracial sexual relations between rich white masters and their young black slave girls (referred to in the film as "ponies"). Cleopatra was an Egyptian queen who had a romantic interracial relationship with Roman general Mark Antony. In his script, Tarantino makes sure to point out that the Cleopatra Club has a Nefertiti bust on its logo. Perhaps this is evidence (later supported) that Calvin Candie wants to appear cultured despite his overriding ignorance.
22. The Tale of Scotty Harmony
Tarantino's original screenplay goes further into the backstory of Broomhilda, who was originally bought from the Carrucan Plantation by the Harmony family as a present for their son, Scotty Harmony. Naive, awkward, and sexually inexperienced, Scotty treats Broomhilda like a lover, and she eventually is treated as part of the family. However, one night at the Cleopatra Club, Scotty loses Broomhilda in a game of poker against Candie. And when Scotty accuses Candie of cheating, Candie challenges Scotty to a duel and shoots him dead.
Scotty was originally to be played by Jonah Hill. Then Hill dropped out, and the role went to Sacha Baron Cohen. Eventually, the role and the related scenes were cut altogether.
23. Did Slave Fighting Actually Happen?
The main conceit of the film's second half--slaves fighting each other in gladiatorial combat to the death--does not exist in the historical record. This is not because it was too cruel or depraved--rather, it's because it would not have made economic sense to use an able-bodied slave for such an endeavor.
24. Meet Sheba
Sheba is one of Candie's slaves at the Cleopatra Club, played by Nichole Galicia. She was part of the nixed Scotty Harmony storyline; Calvin Candie bet Sheba during his poker game against Scotty, which caused Scotty to match Candie's bet by wagering Broomhilda.
25. Django Meets Django
At the bar in the Cleopatra Club, Django briefly converses with an Italian man about the spelling of his name. This is Frances Nero, who played Django in the 1966 spaghetti Western film of the same name.
26. Consolidating Billy Crash
Slave overseer Billy Crash is played by Walton Goggins, who later played Chris Mannix in Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. Crash had a smaller part in the original script; there was a separate abusive fight trainer named Ace Woody. Woody was originally to be played by Kevin Costner. When Costner dropped out, Kurt Russell took the role. And when Russell dropped out, Tarantino consolidated the character into Crash's.
27. Zoe Bell Cameo
The slave tracker woman with the red bandana mask is played by Zoe Bell, who was Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill and played a fictionalized version of herself in Tarantino's Death Proof. According to a cut storyline, her jaw is missing underneath her mask.
28. Tom Savini Cameo
Special effects maestro Tom Savini, who worked on makeup and visual effects for Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), cameos as one of the slave trackers. He's also starred in several Robert Rodriguez-directed projects, including the Machete films and From Dusk 'til Dawn (which Tarantino wrote and starred in).
29. Writing Checks
We see Stephen writing out a check in Calvin Candie's name during the scene where Django and Schultz arrive in Candyland. It's one of our first hints that Stephen has clout on this plantation and is in many ways the real power behind the throne.
30. Ennio Morricone Song
During the scene where Calvin Candie's house slaves are setting the table, you can hear a mournful song play on the soundtrack. Legendary film composer Ennio Morricone wrote this song, called "Ancora Qui." Morricone is most famous for composing the soundtrack for Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. He also composed the score for The Hateful Eight.
31: Framed In A Doorway
The framed-in-a-door shot is key in Western films, highlighting a characters' disconnect from his family or friends. One of its most famous usages is in John Ford's The Searchers. In Django Unchained, the expectation is inverted; rather than showing a character's emotional distance, this scene is where Django and Broomhilda are finally reunited.
There are several additional moments during dinner when Calvin Candie shows that he is posing as a cultured individual rather than being a cultural individual. He is a Francophile, but he needs Schultz to define the word "panache" to him, despite it being a French-rooted word. He sees that Schultz does not pour gravy on his steak, and so he insists on declining the gravy as well.
33. Pouring Himself A Drink
When Stephen meets Calvin in the library, we see that his deferential slave persona is an act. He's already poured himself a drink by the time Calvin walks in, and he speaks to Calvin as an equal rather than a subordinate. This is a subtle callback to earlier in the film, when Schultz pours Django a beer and Django tastes it for the first time.
34. The "Science" of Phrenology
Calvin Candie gives a protracted monologue on the dimples inside a black person's skull, which he uses to explain why the slaves do not revolt. This pseudo science of head-measuring is known as phrenology, which many racists used to rationalize slavery as a necessary, paternal insitution.
35. Money Conversion
Calvin Candie buys Broomhilda from the Carrucan Plantation for $300, and later sells her to Schultz for $12000. Adjusted for inflation (from 1858 to 2020), Calvin paid $9,443.23 to buy her, and made $377,729.27 to sell her.
36. N-Word Usages
The characters in Django Unchained utter the N-Word 114 times. This is by far Tarantino's highest N-word count out of any of his films. Second place goes to Jackie Brown (1997) where the word was used 38 times.
37. Accidental Blood
Leonardo DiCaprio hit his hand on the table so hard that he broke a glass and cut his hand open. DiCaprio finished the take without flinching, and Tarantino decided to incorporate the blood into the movie's remaining scenes. This is why you see his hand bandaged up later.
38. No Sweets for Dr. Schultz
Dr. Schultz does not partake in the white cake, which makes sense; he's a dentist. Throughout the film, sweets come to represent the institution of slavery; sugar was also a cash crop in the old South.
Schultz buys Django to track three slave overseers named the Brittle Brothers. Brittle is a type of candy made out of nuts and caramelized sugar. And of course, there's also Calvin Candie, whose estate is called Candyland.
39. Fur Elise
The song that the harpist plays is "Fur Elise," which was composed by Beethoven. By playing a song by a German composer, Candie is clearly trying to humiliate Schultz further.
Ashley Toman, the harpist in the movie, dropped some interesting tidbits about filming the scene. She did not know what song she would be playing until she arrived on set. In an earlier draft, Tarantino wanted to have the harp broken over her, so the crew built a replica stunt harp for this purpose. Unfortunately, Tarantino ran out of time, so the scene was never filmed. The crew also got blood all over the harp during the subsequent fight, so they sent it out to have it restrung before giving it back to its owner.
40. Schultz Shows Contempt
Schultz makes sure to disrespect Calvin in the final scene by calling him "Mister Candie" instead of his preferred "Monsieur Candie."
41. Seeing Double
The character who shoots Schultz is Butch Pooch, one of Candie's bodyguards. Pooch is played by James Remar. If he looks familiar, it's because Remar plays two different roles in the film. He also plays Ace Speck, one of the two Speck brothers who Schultz shoots at the beginning of the film.
42. Makaveli In This
The song that plays over the bloody manor fight scene mashes together Tupac Shakur's "Untouchable" with James Brown's "The Payback." Another anachronism takes place earlier in the film when Django is traveling to Candyland, and we hear "100 Black Coffins" by Rick Ross.
43. Burning Torture
Tarantino filmed but ultimately cut a scene of Stephen torturing Django by burning off his nipples with a hot poker. This would have been payback for an earlier scene (also cut) which showed Django degrading and humiliating Stephen for being a house slave.
44. Director Cameo
Tarantino cameos as an employee of the LeQuint Dickey Mining Company.
45. Michael Parks Cameo
Michael Parks cameos as another, unnamed LeQuint employee. Parks is a recurring actor in Tarantino's films; he played Sheriff McGraw in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Death Proof and From Dusk 'til Dawn (which Tarantino wrote). Parks also played pimp Esteban Vihaio in Kill Bill Vol.2.
The final LeQuint employee is Jano, played by John Jarrett. Jarrett is best known for playing a sadistic Australian serial killer in the Wolf Creek franchise.
46. Dollars Trilogy Tribute
The shot of Django walking through the dynamite smoke is an homage to Sergio Leone's A Fistful Of Dollars, in which the Man with No Name (played by Clint Eastwood) does the same thing.
47. Painful Place To Get Shot
Django shoots Stephen in both of his kneecaps. In Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Mr. White explains to Mr. Orange that the stomach and the kneecap are the two most painful places to get shot.
48. Son Of A…
The last words of Stephen are to call Django an "uppity son of a…" Similarly in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, when Tuco calls out to Blondie at the end of the movie, he calls him a "dirty son of a…"
49. Same Clothes, Same Cigarette
At the end of the movie, Django puts on Candie's jacket and smokes from Candie's cigarette holder. It visually symbolizes his evolution from slave to self-assured man.
50. Post-Credits Scene
If you wait until after the end credits, you can see the LeQuint slaves staring into the distance, wondering what in the hell they just witnessed.