- Associated Press - Saturday, July 14, 2012

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Quentin Tarantino is redefining race relations in the pre-Civil War South with “Django Unchained,” his Western-style saga that he previewed at the Comic-Con fan convention.

Tarantino said Saturday that he has been wanting to do a Western for ages and that the idea for “Django Unchained” first came to him 13 years ago.

“That first initial thing 13 years ago was a slave who becomes a bounty hunter and hunts white men before the Civil War,” Tarantino said during a panel alongside much of his cast, including Jamie Foxx in the title role, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson and Christoph Waltz, who won the supporting-actor Academy Award for the filmmaker’s World War II reimagining, “Inglourious Basterds.”

“Django Unchained” stars Foxx as a man on a mission of vengeance as he tries to rescue his wife (Washington). Waltz plays a dentist-turned-gunslinger who takes Django under his wing as they take on the owner of a plantation (Leonardo DiCaprio) where slaves are trained for bloody sport. Samuel L. Jackson, a standout in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” co-stars as DiCaprio’s trusted house slave.

Tarantino showed about eight minutes of footage, featuring scenes of Foxx being freed by Waltz from a chain gang and the two partnering up to hunt down nasty Southern overseers.

It promises to be a typically bloody Tarantino action tale, with Foxx and Waltz raining bullets on bad guys. Tarantino imagined that Foxx and Washington’s characters were the forebears of a 20th century bad-ass, saying he thought of them as the great-great-great-great grandparents of John Shaft, Richard Roundtree’s hip, take-no-prisoners private eye in 1971’s “Shaft.”

Foxx, an Oscar winner for the Ray Charles biography “Ray,” said he drew on his own experiences growing up in Texas, where he had to deal with prejudice and racial epithets. But he had to dig much deeper to get into the head space of Django.

“QT at the beginning of this process, he pulls me to the side, and he said to me, `I’m worried that you can’t get to that slave,’” Foxx said. “What he was saying was, you live your life as Jamie Foxx. You live your life as this celebrity. How do you now strip that away and how do you now get to that slave? He said, `Throw that out of the door right now. Strip yourself all the way down and start all over again.’”

“Django Unchained” debuts in theaters this December.

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