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Will Smith comments on turning down Django Unchained: "I needed to be the lead"

Mar. 25, 2013by: Paul Shirey

Both Will Smith and Quentin Tarantino have spoken publicly about the casting for DJANGO UNCHAINED, neither ever expressing bad blood about the process, which eventually led to Jamie Foxx taking on the role of Django.  Smith was in the middle of MEN IN BLACK III when approached by Tarantino for the role and has been quoted as saying:

"I came really close, it was one of the most amazing screenplays I had ever ever seen. I was in the middle of 'Men In Black 3' and [Tarantino] was ready to go, and I just couldn't sit with him and get through the issues, so I didn't want to hold him up. That thing's going to be ridiculous. It is a genius screenplay."

Tarantino confirmed as much, saying:

We spent quite a few hours together over a weekend when he was in New York doing MEN IN BLACK III... I think half the process was an excuse for us to hang out and spend time with one anothe.  It just wasn’t 100 percent right, and we didn’t have time to try to make it that way.”

Now, Will Smith has dropped a little more information about why he was apprehensive to take on the role of Django, which ultimately seemed to come down to the size of the part and who got to kill "the" bad guy:

“Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!

Apparently, Smith even pleaded with Tarantino to make Django more central to the story, which would have cut back on Christoph Waltz's Dutch Schultz, who actually took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role. But, in the end, Smith was more concerned with Django having very specific revenge, rather than what played out:

“I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’”

There's still no bad blood or ill will it seems, as neither Smith or Tarantino have devolved to trash talk over it.  Although Smith is adament about his non-involvement, I'm willing to bet he kicks himself a little for not taking the part. However, that's a common thing, as we all know that actors turn down roles frequently, that end up becoming major hits.  In the end, you can't win 'em all. Smith has seen the film, though, and had this to say:

“I thought it was brilliant. Just not for me.”

You can preorder DJANGO UNCHAINED on blu-ray/DVD/digital download here, which is out on April 16, 2013.  Will Smith will next be seen in M. Night Shyamalan's AFTER EARTH on June 7, 2013.

Extra Tidbit: Do you think Smith could've pulled off Django as good, better, or worse than Jamie Foxx?

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12:01AM on 03/27/2013

The Hell?

I just lost all of my respect for Will Smith. But anyway, Foxx is a better actor, so in the everything worked out just fine.
I just lost all of my respect for Will Smith. But anyway, Foxx is a better actor, so in the everything worked out just fine.
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11:59AM on 03/26/2013
Fox is ten times the actor Smith is. You watch a will smith flic your totally aware your watching will smith, you see a Fox flick you see the character Fox has become( Fox also has no problem taking second or third billing behind story and plot). Men in black 3 is an excellent example of Smith only being able to be Smith the center of attention(and lets face it, it had one hell of a contrived story line. You possibly expect me to or anyone to buy J was linch pin to everything in MIB,) Brolin
Fox is ten times the actor Smith is. You watch a will smith flic your totally aware your watching will smith, you see a Fox flick you see the character Fox has become( Fox also has no problem taking second or third billing behind story and plot). Men in black 3 is an excellent example of Smith only being able to be Smith the center of attention(and lets face it, it had one hell of a contrived story line. You possibly expect me to or anyone to buy J was linch pin to everything in MIB,) Brolin totally owned his role.
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11:21PM on 03/25/2013
im fed up of will smith im really glad it was jamie fxxx
im fed up of will smith im really glad it was jamie fxxx
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9:05PM on 03/25/2013

I hate to break it to you Mr Smith, but...

...Django IS the lead. See, his name's in the title and everything. I'm glad to see that there's no bad blood and all. Still, your loss. I'm glad that Jamie Foxx chose to work in service of the story instead of potentially catering to any egotistical concerns with regard to who gets to kill the bad guy. Me, I thought Django killed a bunch of bad guys and came out smiling at the end.
...Django IS the lead. See, his name's in the title and everything. I'm glad to see that there's no bad blood and all. Still, your loss. I'm glad that Jamie Foxx chose to work in service of the story instead of potentially catering to any egotistical concerns with regard to who gets to kill the bad guy. Me, I thought Django killed a bunch of bad guys and came out smiling at the end.
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9:07PM on 03/25/2013
By the way, before you all bitch me out, I am aware that having your name in the title of a story doesn't make you the star (eg Waiting For Godot) but upon seeing the movie it's pretty plain that it's Django's story. Schultz was along for the ride for sure, but he's not the lead.
By the way, before you all bitch me out, I am aware that having your name in the title of a story doesn't make you the star (eg Waiting For Godot) but upon seeing the movie it's pretty plain that it's Django's story. Schultz was along for the ride for sure, but he's not the lead.
7:35PM on 03/25/2013

If Only He'd...

thought a little more before taking the role of Jim West in "Wild, Wild, West". My God was that ever a groaner and incredibly miscast.

Hollywood will do anything for a buck.
thought a little more before taking the role of Jim West in "Wild, Wild, West". My God was that ever a groaner and incredibly miscast.

Hollywood will do anything for a buck.
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+6
7:24PM on 03/25/2013

Wow

Wow... Smith must be fucked in the head for not taking this role. This would have brought his career to the next level. And he turned it down for the stupidest reason ever... The movies called "Django Unchained" how is Django not the star. Brad Pitt just as big of a star as smith, and he only had 30 minutes if screen time for inglorious basterds and that didn't stop him .
Wow... Smith must be fucked in the head for not taking this role. This would have brought his career to the next level. And he turned it down for the stupidest reason ever... The movies called "Django Unchained" how is Django not the star. Brad Pitt just as big of a star as smith, and he only had 30 minutes if screen time for inglorious basterds and that didn't stop him .
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5:55PM on 03/25/2013

Its for good.really thank will smith for passing it

I think Jamie foxx is the perfect choice for Django,since the character evolves from supporting role to hero.will smith's big blockbuster movie star image doesn't fit for this kind of character,even though casting him would have helped boxoffice collections
I think Jamie foxx is the perfect choice for Django,since the character evolves from supporting role to hero.will smith's big blockbuster movie star image doesn't fit for this kind of character,even though casting him would have helped boxoffice collections
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5:15PM on 03/25/2013
Not saying hat Jamie Foxx is star power worthy but Will Smith would have looked so out of place. Almost like holy shit what's Will Smith doing in a Tarantino movie? AT the same time his last big hit was I Am Legend so it's not like he still is A list. Clearly the other actors got it & Smith didn't.
Not saying hat Jamie Foxx is star power worthy but Will Smith would have looked so out of place. Almost like holy shit what's Will Smith doing in a Tarantino movie? AT the same time his last big hit was I Am Legend so it's not like he still is A list. Clearly the other actors got it & Smith didn't.
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2:43AM on 03/26/2013
not understanding how my post was worthy of a thumbs down?
not understanding how my post was worthy of a thumbs down?
+5
4:10PM on 03/25/2013

Smith couldn't have been in this movie

There were no sci-fi elements and he doesn't get to save the world....
There were no sci-fi elements and he doesn't get to save the world....
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3:51PM on 03/25/2013

Diva much?

wow! so he wanted to be the lead huh? the way the film came off was well made,gave both actors enough screen time and the story was solid.the fact that he wanted to be the lead shows he has changed as an actor ,hopefully his son wont get as big a headas his dad. oh,and Jamie Fox was awesome.take that diva!
wow! so he wanted to be the lead huh? the way the film came off was well made,gave both actors enough screen time and the story was solid.the fact that he wanted to be the lead shows he has changed as an actor ,hopefully his son wont get as big a headas his dad. oh,and Jamie Fox was awesome.take that diva!
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3:51PM on 03/25/2013

Diva much?

wow! so he wanted to be the lead huh? the way the film came off was well made,gave both actors enough screen time and the story was solid.the fact that he wanted to be the lead shows he has changed as an actor ,hopefully his son wont get as big a headas his dad.
wow! so he wanted to be the lead huh? the way the film came off was well made,gave both actors enough screen time and the story was solid.the fact that he wanted to be the lead shows he has changed as an actor ,hopefully his son wont get as big a headas his dad.
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3:35PM on 03/25/2013
Hmmm, and I thought Smith was going to say he turned down the role because the material didn't suit him (e.g. either the violence, playing a slave, or using/hearing the n-word) but he just wanted to be the lead? I haven't seen the film, but you pretty much know that "Django" is the focus of the film...and the film is marketed as "Django" getting his revenge.

I don't know about Will...he's coming off a bit diva-ish....(and as someone mentioned, he seems to want to be a movie-star rather than
Hmmm, and I thought Smith was going to say he turned down the role because the material didn't suit him (e.g. either the violence, playing a slave, or using/hearing the n-word) but he just wanted to be the lead? I haven't seen the film, but you pretty much know that "Django" is the focus of the film...and the film is marketed as "Django" getting his revenge.

I don't know about Will...he's coming off a bit diva-ish....(and as someone mentioned, he seems to want to be a movie-star rather than an actor).
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-5
2:12PM on 03/25/2013

This might be the elephant in the room--

--but Im sure part of the conversation had to go like this--" hmmm, this scene with the balls...I dont wanna do that scene...you know--cause of the balls...and the grabbing and stuff..." --and honestly, I could have don without that scene myself, BUT that still doesn't make me think that anybody but Foxx should have gotten this role.
--but Im sure part of the conversation had to go like this--" hmmm, this scene with the balls...I dont wanna do that scene...you know--cause of the balls...and the grabbing and stuff..." --and honestly, I could have don without that scene myself, BUT that still doesn't make me think that anybody but Foxx should have gotten this role.
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+13
2:08PM on 03/25/2013

will smith was wrong.

***SPOILER***

Schultz HAD to kill Candie.

it makes more sense as candie was the embodiment of slavery and schultz was the embodiment of justice. if you think about it, candie himself does nothing personal against django (outside of the normal slavery stuff). django's personal beef was with the brittle brothers and candie's henchmen.
***SPOILER***

Schultz HAD to kill Candie.

it makes more sense as candie was the embodiment of slavery and schultz was the embodiment of justice. if you think about it, candie himself does nothing personal against django (outside of the normal slavery stuff). django's personal beef was with the brittle brothers and candie's henchmen.
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2:03PM on 03/25/2013
Wow, thank the heavens you weren't cast Will. You certainly didn't "get" this film at all.
Wow, thank the heavens you weren't cast Will. You certainly didn't "get" this film at all.
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1:39PM on 03/25/2013
Well, before I saw the trailer I thought Smith might've been good for the part. After seeing it I can't quite see it. Jamie Foxx has rarely been overly concerned with his image, whereas just a few short years ago Smith was box-office draw #1. I think he's still got a little of that mentality going on. And I must admit, with the emphasis on slavery, and Django in the title, one could be forigiven fro thinking he's the lead, instead of part of a team. I think one of my biggest beefs with the
Well, before I saw the trailer I thought Smith might've been good for the part. After seeing it I can't quite see it. Jamie Foxx has rarely been overly concerned with his image, whereas just a few short years ago Smith was box-office draw #1. I think he's still got a little of that mentality going on. And I must admit, with the emphasis on slavery, and Django in the title, one could be forigiven fro thinking he's the lead, instead of part of a team. I think one of my biggest beefs with the movie (which I loved) was that I always thought Django was supposed to be the hero. But no, it's a buddy movie. Which works a lot better in my mind as well. But then that's what I love about Tarantino, is he subverts expectations, and as a result I need to go back and rewatch his stuff just to catch what he's trying to do with it.
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+12
12:44PM on 03/25/2013
I'm glad that the role went to Jamie Foxx. Imagine if the role actually belong to Will Smith, at one point we'd see Jaden Smith in the "Django Unchained" and possibly his wife.
I'm glad that the role went to Jamie Foxx. Imagine if the role actually belong to Will Smith, at one point we'd see Jaden Smith in the "Django Unchained" and possibly his wife.
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12:50PM on 03/25/2013
His wife is awesome, IMO, and his son isn't half bad either. Hasn't Jaden only been in two of his movies, one of which he was like 4 years old? How many movies has he been in with his wife, none? He's made at least 25 movies. I think it's pretty cool of him to throw his son a bone now and again.
His wife is awesome, IMO, and his son isn't half bad either. Hasn't Jaden only been in two of his movies, one of which he was like 4 years old? How many movies has he been in with his wife, none? He's made at least 25 movies. I think it's pretty cool of him to throw his son a bone now and again.
1:26PM on 03/25/2013
He's been in I think two movies with Jada. And yes, she is awesome.
He's been in I think two movies with Jada. And yes, she is awesome.
7:43PM on 03/25/2013
Err have you seen the trailer for After Earth Preston? Have you seen the Karate Kid remake? Jaden is not a good actor...and I personally really like Will Smith, have no problems with his wife either. Would also like to say I'm happy Foxx got this part, it worked out much better.
Err have you seen the trailer for After Earth Preston? Have you seen the Karate Kid remake? Jaden is not a good actor...and I personally really like Will Smith, have no problems with his wife either. Would also like to say I'm happy Foxx got this part, it worked out much better.
12:42PM on 03/25/2013
Wow, Will Smith has quite the ego to tell Tarantino to rewrite the script.
Wow, Will Smith has quite the ego to tell Tarantino to rewrite the script.
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1:27PM on 03/25/2013
Tell, ask, but either way, it does seem a bit ballsy, considering Tarantino's own ego.
Tell, ask, but either way, it does seem a bit ballsy, considering Tarantino's own ego.
9:56PM on 03/25/2013
Well, yeah, because it's Tarantino. Otherwise, Smith can go ahead and say what he wants. He should have spoken up more about Wild Wild West. I know he had problems with the script for Men In Black III for years and that paid off in the end.
Well, yeah, because it's Tarantino. Otherwise, Smith can go ahead and say what he wants. He should have spoken up more about Wild Wild West. I know he had problems with the script for Men In Black III for years and that paid off in the end.
12:35PM on 03/25/2013
I'm still wondering where Idris Elba was during casting, he would have been great. But I guess the studio probably wanted a big named actor to help persuade african americans to see a slave-era film
I'm still wondering where Idris Elba was during casting, he would have been great. But I guess the studio probably wanted a big named actor to help persuade african americans to see a slave-era film
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12:57PM on 03/25/2013
I believe it was Tarantino who said he had to be played by an American...
I believe it was Tarantino who said he had to be played by an American...
2:00PM on 03/25/2013
idris elba isn't right. he's too imposing to play Django during the more vulnerable scenes (e.g. when he's a slave, when he's training, when he's learning the German folk tale). Jamie Foxx was the way to go.
idris elba isn't right. he's too imposing to play Django during the more vulnerable scenes (e.g. when he's a slave, when he's training, when he's learning the German folk tale). Jamie Foxx was the way to go.
12:27PM on 03/25/2013
After seeing Foxx as Django, I can't picture anyone else in the role. That's how much Foxx owned the role of Django.
After seeing Foxx as Django, I can't picture anyone else in the role. That's how much Foxx owned the role of Django.
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12:18PM on 03/25/2013
The only question that I have about this article is.... who the Hell is "Dutch Schultz"?
The only question that I have about this article is.... who the Hell is "Dutch Schultz"?
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1:29PM on 03/25/2013
He was a gangster who ran the numbers game in New York in the 1930s who was known for his psychotic temper. Although that wasn't his real name, either.
He was a gangster who ran the numbers game in New York in the 1930s who was known for his psychotic temper. Although that wasn't his real name, either.
4:08PM on 03/25/2013
Well played...
Well played...
12:09PM on 03/25/2013

Jaime Foxx > WIll Smith

Even with Will Smith in a serious role, I can never take him seriously. He's too goofy, though he can definitely get a tear out of me with an emotional scene. Honestly, I think Jaime was the perfect choice for Django: He's proven that he can hold the weight of a serious role and still get laughs out of the audience without it having to be too comical.
Even with Will Smith in a serious role, I can never take him seriously. He's too goofy, though he can definitely get a tear out of me with an emotional scene. Honestly, I think Jaime was the perfect choice for Django: He's proven that he can hold the weight of a serious role and still get laughs out of the audience without it having to be too comical.
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12:08PM on 03/25/2013
what the hell was smith talking about..django is the centerpoint of everything in the movie..also, you don't tell quentin to rewrite shit..no wonder he went with foxx
what the hell was smith talking about..django is the centerpoint of everything in the movie..also, you don't tell quentin to rewrite shit..no wonder he went with foxx
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+3
12:06PM on 03/25/2013
I don't know whether Smith would have been better or worse than Foxx, but I will play the black sheep and say I understand his point. I don't know if it's necessarily Smith's ego speaking, but he does make a point about Django's character. The man is essentially relegated to a buddy part instead of completely carrying the film. Yes, he IS the central character, but for the most part, Schultz is the man who leads the charge. A lot of people are seeing this simply as Will's ego speaking, and
I don't know whether Smith would have been better or worse than Foxx, but I will play the black sheep and say I understand his point. I don't know if it's necessarily Smith's ego speaking, but he does make a point about Django's character. The man is essentially relegated to a buddy part instead of completely carrying the film. Yes, he IS the central character, but for the most part, Schultz is the man who leads the charge. A lot of people are seeing this simply as Will's ego speaking, and seeing as Will has only made one film so far since 2008, I can't really argue that he is trying to advance his career or something like that. I'll give the benefit of the doubt and just say that this is a creative difference. I don't doubt he actually thinks the script is brilliant, but probably just thinks the character should have gone in a different direction.
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12:48PM on 03/25/2013
Nah, Will is just an asshat.
Nah, Will is just an asshat.
2:48PM on 03/26/2013
That's kind of a good point that you made about Schultz leading the charge and Django playing the sidekick or as you state buddy part. I thought the movie was very vulger, degrating, rude, offensive, both of those cats did a good job acting. I could've done without all the N words, people will say oh its art and a movie and blah and whatevs, its offensive, move on. I especially thought that the actor playing Schultz did a very good job. Foxx can act, no doubt. Will Smith hate on him all you
That's kind of a good point that you made about Schultz leading the charge and Django playing the sidekick or as you state buddy part. I thought the movie was very vulger, degrating, rude, offensive, both of those cats did a good job acting. I could've done without all the N words, people will say oh its art and a movie and blah and whatevs, its offensive, move on. I especially thought that the actor playing Schultz did a very good job. Foxx can act, no doubt. Will Smith hate on him all you want, but that cat can act too. Serious roles, action, comedy, he has it, oh and he raps pretty good too. The article makes him sound like a diva as some has stated but we were not there, we don't know the whole truth. We don't really know if he has a massive ego or what. The guy can act, and someone even said he can get a tear out of him with an emotional scene, I agree, he is good. I personally thought that I am Legend was an ok movie, it was not the best ever or nothing but Will carried that movie on his own for most of the movie, I hated the CGI though. Anyway, hey this could be a good Face-Off. Peace
12:04PM on 03/25/2013

It wasn't Django's kill

Django was all about his wife. He had no feelings for any of other slaves. Schultz, on the other hand, hated the way slaves were treated.

Will Smith was not the right choice. He'll always be seen as the wisecracking good guy. Jaime Foxx has more experience with serious dramas.
Django was all about his wife. He had no feelings for any of other slaves. Schultz, on the other hand, hated the way slaves were treated.

Will Smith was not the right choice. He'll always be seen as the wisecracking good guy. Jaime Foxx has more experience with serious dramas.
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12:09PM on 03/25/2013
You mean like Ali, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Six Degrees of Separation, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Enemy of the State?
You mean like Ali, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Six Degrees of Separation, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Enemy of the State?
12:49PM on 03/25/2013
Maybe he was referencing The Men in Black trilogy, Wild Wild West, Independence Day, Bad Boys 1 & 2, Hitch, Hancock and an honorable mention of the Fresh Prince.
Maybe he was referencing The Men in Black trilogy, Wild Wild West, Independence Day, Bad Boys 1 & 2, Hitch, Hancock and an honorable mention of the Fresh Prince.
12:00PM on 03/25/2013
Reminds me of when Stallone tried to coax Van Dam into the first Expendables by telling him they would share a fight scene and he would let Van Dam win, as if that sweetens the deal. Van Dam laughed that shit off, because it wasn't a concern of his to begin with. Apperently that trivial shit means something to Smith who would fuck with a "brilliant" script just so he could kill the bad guy. Kind of lame.
Reminds me of when Stallone tried to coax Van Dam into the first Expendables by telling him they would share a fight scene and he would let Van Dam win, as if that sweetens the deal. Van Dam laughed that shit off, because it wasn't a concern of his to begin with. Apperently that trivial shit means something to Smith who would fuck with a "brilliant" script just so he could kill the bad guy. Kind of lame.
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11:49AM on 03/25/2013
Not sure about downvotes, but fuck it. I don't like Will Smith and his Kanye ego. I'm glad Jamie Foxx got the role, he's a brilliant and respected actor.
Not sure about downvotes, but fuck it. I don't like Will Smith and his Kanye ego. I'm glad Jamie Foxx got the role, he's a brilliant and respected actor.
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11:48AM on 03/25/2013

This is why Smith is a great movie star, but will never be a great actor.

He's too concerned with furthering his career in terms of fame and monetary possessions, extending his 'brand image,' rather than joining an ensemble piece like this that could have changed the way people look at him as an actor. He doesn't seem to be the central character in After Earth either, but I guess it's OK in that case since he's helping to further push his annoying brat of a son down America's collective throat.
He's too concerned with furthering his career in terms of fame and monetary possessions, extending his 'brand image,' rather than joining an ensemble piece like this that could have changed the way people look at him as an actor. He doesn't seem to be the central character in After Earth either, but I guess it's OK in that case since he's helping to further push his annoying brat of a son down America's collective throat.
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12:02PM on 03/25/2013
I could see this argument if he were in more movies like Tom Cruise, but Men in Black III was the last movie he had starred in since 2008. He seems more concerned with trying to get his son into movies than himself. I don't really buy that, at this point, he's so concerned with furthering his own career and getting more stuff. As to his point, it's somewhat understandable. He wanted Django to lead the film rather than be relegated to a buddy type role, which is essentially came down to.
I could see this argument if he were in more movies like Tom Cruise, but Men in Black III was the last movie he had starred in since 2008. He seems more concerned with trying to get his son into movies than himself. I don't really buy that, at this point, he's so concerned with furthering his own career and getting more stuff. As to his point, it's somewhat understandable. He wanted Django to lead the film rather than be relegated to a buddy type role, which is essentially came down to.
12:26PM on 03/25/2013
I agree
I agree
11:45AM on 03/25/2013

tidbit

Foxx did a way better job than Smith would have ever done.
Foxx did a way better job than Smith would have ever done.
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12:54PM on 03/25/2013
I disagree, but am still very glad spineless Smith wasn't in it...
I disagree, but am still very glad spineless Smith wasn't in it...
11:44AM on 03/25/2013

better or worse

its hard to say, but it still would have been a great film, even in his worse movies Will is entertaining and a great screen presence
its hard to say, but it still would have been a great film, even in his worse movies Will is entertaining and a great screen presence
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