How Samuel L. Jackson Told Leo DiCaprio to Handle the N-Word on ‘Django Unchained’
From the time his career kicked off with Reservoir Dogs (1992) through more recent films like The Hateful Eight (2015), writer-director Quentin Tarantino has never been afraid of using the n-word in his movies. And that decision has caused as much controversy as you’d expect.
But you won’t hear negative feedback coming from longtime Tarantino collaborator Samuel L. Jackson. To date, Jackson has appeared in five Tarantino films (starting with 1994’s Pulp Fiction) and narrated a sixth (Inglourious Basterds).
If Tarantino were to embark on a new project today, there’s an excellent chance Jackson would be in it. On the controversy surrounding Tarantino’s use of the n-word, Jackson put it this way in an Esquire interview: “It’s some bulls–t.”
In a new documentary about Tarantino’s work, Jamie Foxx revealed how he and Jackson once told a reluctant Leonardo DiCaprio to handle lines containing the slur on the set of Django Unchained (2012).
Jackson told DiCaprio to ‘get over it,’ saying it was ‘just another Tuesday’
QT8: The First Eight is a new Tarantino doc from director Tara Wood screening in theaters October 21. In the film, the audience hears directly from cast and crew members who’ve worked with Tarantino over the years.
Regarding the Django Unchained shoot, Foxx recalled DiCaprio fretting about saying the n-word over and over in character. “It’s tough for me to say this,” Foxx said DiCaprio told him on the set. But Samuel Jackson encouraged DiCaprio to set his concerns aside.
“Get over it, motherf—-r,” Foxx recalled Jackson saying. “It’s just another Tuesday, motherf—-r. I don’t give a f— about these motherf—-rs. Look who I am.” Foxx seconded that motion, telling DiCaprio to think from the point-of-view of slave-owner.
“I said, ‘Leo, we’re not friends … this is your property,'” Foxx said. “‘These aren’t humans [to the character]. These are your property.'” And from there on, DiCaprio could handle his lines without issue.
Jackson has said he typically adds ‘at least 5 n—as’ to what Tarantino has written
When asked if “all of” the controversy about Tarantino and the n-word was “bulls–t,” Jackson held firm. “Of course it is,” he told Esquire in 2016. However, he noted that he warned Tarantino about using it when they were making Pulp Fiction.
Tarantino insisted on keeping it in because he saw the character (Jimmie, whom he portrayed) saying “dead n—er storage” that way. Eventually, Jackson agreed with his decision.
“You can’t just tell a writer he can’t … write the words, put the words in the mouths of the people from their ethnicities, the way that they use their words.”
As for keeping the n-word count low in Tarantino films, Jackson said he personally has inflated the numbers in many cases. “I generally add like at least five n—as to what Quentin has already written, just because I’m talking.”