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For Tarantino, whose own personal film school was famously had as a video store clerk in Los Angeles, inspiration always starts with other films. “Django Unchained” was motivated by Spaghetti Westerns, particularly those of the Italian director Sergio Corbucci, whose 1966 film “Django” is a godfather to “Django Unchained.”

Samuel Jackson, who describes his conniving house servant character as the future “most hated black person in the history of cinema,” has worked on nearly all of Tarantino’s films. He says Tarantino’s interest in race comes less from life than from the movies.

“It’s not like Quentin grew up in the hood,” says Jackson. “He went to a lot of Blaxsploitation films and his computer-like knowledge of cinema allows him to go to that space.”

Still, actually reenacting life on a pre-Civil War Mississippi plantation was jarring for some of the cast. Foxx says wallowing in that world was sometimes painful.

“You stop and think, `Wow, that’s what they did to us. They made us animals,’” says Foxx. “So what am I? They’re giving me Evian water and heated tents. It’s like: OK, I’m tripping a little bit.”

After the first screening of “Django” drew a positive reaction, Foxx breathed a sigh of relief. The film has since been nominated for five Golden Globe awards including best dramatic picture.

It has also driven some black viewers to tears. Though producer Harvey Weinstein had suggested breaking the lengthy film into two parts like “Kill Bill,” Tarantino wanted to preserve it as one experience, to hopefully have the same stricken moviegoers cheering by the end.

“What I tell people, I say: You’re not going to have the same reaction to this movie as a white person would because they don’t have that struggle,” Foxx says.

Tarantino, 49, has always been particularly aware of his filmmaking legacy, as if imagining his shelf in a video store. He says that he expects to stop making movies by the time he’s about 60, not wanting to dilute his filmography with lesser films of old age. He takes the long view on “Django,” too, knowing it won’t seem contentious when, in a year, it’s on cable TV in the afternoon: “It becomes less controversial by being made. It already exists.”

History, in the end, has nothing on movie history.

“I’m always aware I’m watching a movie when I’m watching a movie,” Tarantino says. “As great as the movie is, I’ve never forgotten I was watching a movie. It’s not the windshield of your car.”


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