Sidney Poitier to Quentin Tarantino: “Man up”
Quentin Tarantino’s media conferences are every bit as diarrhetic as his movies, it seems. Much of what was said at the New York junket for Django Unchained last week didn’t make it into Patty Jones' cover feature for the Straight, but some of it is worth posting all on its own. Here, for example, is the tale of how and why Sidney Poitier told Quentin Tarantino to get his motherfuckin’ shit together—straight from the filmmaker’s mouth. Tarantino is responding to the question: "Were there any uncomfortable moments that made you just have to change something while filming?”
"There was only one thing that I felt uncomfortable about—not shooting—but at the very, very beginning stages upon finishing the script was; it's one thing to write 'Exterior Greenville', where the slave auction town was. 'One hundred slaves walk through this deep-shit mud, in chains, being moved along, wearing masks and metal collars.' This whole town that's built over this, almost like a black Auschwitz—it's one thing to write that. It's another thing to get a hundred black folks, put them in chains, and march them through the mud. And same thing about planting the cotton and putting, you know, an army of black folks dressed as slaves in the hot sun picking cotton in the background. And I started to question: could I do it? ...And I'd actually came up with an idea possibly of maybe shooting just those sequences alone in the West Indies, or shooting them in Brazil, where they have their own issue of slavery.
"But since this is an American story, there would be a once-removed quality. Frankly, my problem was having Americans do that. That was my problem. And so I was almost trying to escape it. How can I do it but get around it in some way, so I don't have to deal with the pain? And I went out to dinner with Sidney Poitier, and I'd just finished writing the script. And he's kind of like a father figure to me, and I was explaining my little harebrained scheme of escaping, and maybe doing this and maybe doing that. And he listened to me, and he basically told me I had to man up. You know, he goes, "Quentin, for whatever reason, I think you were born to tell this story. And you need to not be afraid of your own movie. You can't tell this story if you're afraid of your own movie. You just need to do it. Everybody knows what time it is. We're all professionals. Everybody gets it. Just treat them with love and respect. Treat them like actors, not atmosphere. Let them know why they're there, and what we're doing, and what we're trying to get across, and it'll all be good. By the way, you're gonna be doing this in the South. Those people need money, they need jobs. You gotta do it!"