When Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning 2012 film Django Unchained kicked off its casting process, Will Smith was an early frontrunner for the starring role. After some prolonged speculation, he ultimately backed away from the project for reasons not immediately clear. However, Smith has now revealed that he turned down the role, which ultimately went to Jamie Foxx, after deciding he and Tarantino simply had contradictory intuitions when it came to how to bring the story to the screen.
"It was about the creative direction of the story," Smith told the Hollywood Reporter during their recent Actor Roundtable. "To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin and I couldn’t see eye to eye."
Smith "wanted to make that movie so badly," but was adamant on something that Tarantino apparently rebuked: "It had to be a love story, not a vengeance story." Bringing the conversation into the present, Smith also referenced the recent attacks in Paris as an example of violence’s tendency to sadly inspire more violence in response: "We can’t look at what happens in Paris and want to fuck somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer."
Will Smith will next be seen in Concussion later this year, the cinematic adaptation of a 2009 GQ piece on forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu.