‘Django Unchained’: Leonardo DiCaprio Sliced Open His Hand to a Round of Applause

Few filmmakers know how to push actors to the edge more than Quentin Tarantino does. On top of that, few actors push themselves to the edge like Leonardo DiCaprio. As such, when the two crossed paths for the first time in 2012’s Django Unchained, it was sure to be a memorable event. However, during one of the film’s most memorable moments, DiCaprio shocked everyone by turning a bloody mistake into a memorable moment that fans still speak about today. 

‘Django Unchained’ is a masterpiece

Leonardo DiCaprio attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California.
Leonardo DiCaprio | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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Like most of Tarantino’s work, Django Unchained is a love letter to the films and filmmakers of yesteryear. With the mood of a spaghetti western combined with a slave narrative, the film offered a gritty, over the top look at a slave named Django who went out on a path of revenge against the men who bought and sold people like him in slavery. 

Django, who is played by Jamie Foxx, is joined by a cast of characters along the journey, often reaching bloody ends to reclaim his wife, Broomhilda. For the first half of the film, he faces several slave owners, slave drivers, and other ruffians in his journey to reunite with his wife. Eventually, this leads to a bloody finale at the plantation owned by Calvin Candie, 

While the whole movie is memorable, it is during DiCaprio’s latter-half entrance that the film takes a darker, more intense turn than the grindhouse fare before it. In many ways, it was the perfect role for an actor of his stature to conquer. Once on set. However, there was no denying his devotion to the part. 

The film is polarizing

Tarantino is always a controversial filmmaker, but Django may have been his most polarizing yet. While the film was critically acclaimed and awarded several honors after its release, it came with a hefty dose of controversy, too. From the use of the n-word throughout the movie to its no-holds-barred portrayal against slaves and slavers alike, the film kicked up a buzz that only Tarantino could muster. 

While the film portrays itself as a slave drama, its Tarantino-branded tonal shifts and the fact that a white filmmaker was conquering a subject on black history did not sit well with any people. However, in the case of many, including Foxx and Jackson, the grit and uneasiness were all part of the movie, which covered a subject that nobody should enjoy watching on its own. 

While the film is filled with lots of fictional violence, however, the most violent scene did not require any special effects because the blood in it was unscripted. 

Leo gets in character

Candie is one of the evilest characters to ever appear on the screen. DiCaprio was lauded for his portrayal as a well-spoken aristocrat with a bloodlust for his slaves. According to Jackson, who steals the show as DiCaprio’s head slave, and producer Stacy Sher, DiCaprio gave every ounce of energy that he could give to the role. They spoke about this with The Hollywood Reporter

“Leo lost his voice a couple times, and we had to wait for him,” says Jackson. On about the sixth take, he adds, “Leo slammed his hand on the table and hit a glass.” Adds co-producer Stacey Sher: “It disintegrated into his hand, and he never flinched.”

DiCaprio spoke about the scene, claiming that the real-life injury, which was immediately noticeable by everyone on set, helped give his angry rant an extra sense of anger and pain.

“My hand started really pouring blood all over the table,” says DiCaprio. “Maybe they thought it was done with special effects. I wanted to keep going. It was more interesting to watch Quentin’s and Jamie’s reaction off-camera than to look at my hand.” After the take, the room erupted in a standing ovation. “We did it bloodied and bandaged for the rest of the movie,” says DiCaprio, to give Tarantino the option of using or omitting the gory take. “I’m glad Quentin kept it in.”

This story helps confirm why DiCaprio remains one of the most heavily-sought-after names in Hollywood. He always gives 100% in everything he does. Combine that with a filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino, and it’s hard to see this going any other way.