Kerry Washington interview – Django Unchained

Kerry Washington can’t tell us anything about Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s dusty, now-shooting slave thriller. “I’m not actually at liberty to talk about that yet,” the actress says when TF calls her up for a natter. Really? Has she signed a blood oath that means she’ll answer to The Bride if she lets anything slip? “No, no, I just can’t,” Washington artfully dodges. “But I will. I will soon.”

Damn. Despite TF’s best efforts, the Bronx-hailing actress is remaining tight-lipped about Tarantino’s much-hyped latest. To be fair, it’s no surprise security’s this tight. Tarantino’s first film since 2007 Grindhouse revival Death Proof, Django could be the director’s most daring project yet. What we do know sounds massive: a fist-shaking response to America’s slave trade past, Jamie Foxx is the titular Django, enslaved to Leo DiCaprio’s evil plantation owner, and desperate to be reunited with his wife, played by Washington.

Alright, so Django’s off the menu, but what can Washington talk about? Well, new film Mother And Child, in which she plays a young woman desperate for a child but unable to conceive. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, Washington shares the screen with Annette Bening and Naomi Watts in a movie that she’s clearly passionate about. “I love this movie,” the actress enthuses at the mere mention of its title. “In a world where women are so often the accessory to the story, to have three really fully developed, three dimensional women on such different journeys… I think it’s a special film.” And Bening? “I love her, she’s been a hero of mine for many years.”

Seeing as we’re talking Hollywood big wigs, how is it working with Leonardo DiCaprio on Django Unchained? “What is your next question?” Washington laughs. Clearly nothing’s getting past this smart cookie. And she is a smart cookie. Having grown up in the Bronx, raised by a professor mother and a real estate broker father, Washington studied at The George Washington University before heading to India to study art and culture (“I really wanted to ground myself before selling my soul to do adverts for Burger King!”).

Did she ever imagine she’d end up working with someone like, say, Tarantino? “No, I mean, I didn’t imagine that I would,” the actress says. “When I was growing up I loved acting and theatre, but I didn’t know anybody who did this for a living. Then I realised people could make a living being an actor, and that was the goal for me. And it continues to be; to be able to do what I love to do.”

For the past decade, Washington has done just that. She played Idi Amin’s doomed wife in The Last King Of Scotland, a spy in Mr & Mrs Smith, and The Thing’s squeeze in both Fantastic Four films. Though she admits that she still has “a comforting level of anonymity”, that’s set to change with upcoming Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words, not to mention Django Unchained, her most high profile gig to date.

OK, TF’s grovelling now. Is there anything Washington can tell us about Django? Is she Tarantino’s new muse? What’s Leo like as a baddie? Her favourite line from the script? “I can’t, but I will,” the actress says, sounding genuinely remorseful. “When I can, I’m sure I will.” We’ll be listening Kerry, we’ll be listening…

The A-Z Of Quentin Tarantino

A is for American Idol

While Quentin Tarantino is beyond any reasonable doubt an American idol, we’re actually talking about the TV show. Yes, the colourful karaoke headache that is the search for America’s next best singer.

Tarantino made a guest appearance on the show to ‘direct’ the final seven competitors. His encouragement that contestant Anoop Desai “kill” Bryan Adams’ ‘Everything I Do’ was a particular highlight.

Like Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen dabblings in pop culture, Tarantino’s appearance on Idol wasn’t just a nod-wink joke – it was a sign of his love for all kinds of culture. No matter how glitzy.

The Story Behind Hobo With A Shotgun

Most movie trailers are created to advertise an amazing new film that’s about to hit cinemas. Not so Hobo With A Shotgun. One of the now infamous five ‘fake trailers’ crafted in honour of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 Grindhouse double bill, Hobo was a total fake-out.

“We were hanging out at a pizza joint where me and John [Davies, writer] would pitch movie ideas back and forth,” recalls director Jason Eisener. “We were there with my friend Joe who was wearing a scruffy shirt and he had just bought this Airsoft Shotgun that shoots plastic pellets.

“We were pitching ideas and he spoke up and said, ‘Why don’t you make a movie about me?’ John just looked him up and down and said, ‘What, a hobo with a shotgun?’ It was like a light bulb went off.”

The year was 2007. In a case of perfect timing, cult director Rodriguez had just launched a contest (co-sponsored by the SXSW Film Festival) that called upon film fans to make a Grindhouse-style movie trailer in the vein of his Planet Terror shlock-and-shock revival.

Eisener didn’t skip a heartbeat. He had an idea. He had a director (uh, himself). And he had a competition to win. The very same day that the contest was announced, he started shooting Hobo…

We Love… The Bride vs The Crazy 88s in Kill Bill

Wreaking bloody vengeance Tarantino style…

So uproariously claret-soaked that the MPAA demanded a (thematically appropriate) black and white blood blinker, so gloriously funny-yet-poetic-yet-daft-yet-genius that it veers dangerously close to pantomime, so everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink that it risks entirely unhinging the rest of the film, Tarantino’s homage to just about everything burned onto celluloid since the beginning of time is a whirling dervish of a skirmish. “I want it to be to kung fu fights what the Apocalypse Now ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ scene was to battle scenes,” the man himself enthused to Time magazine during shooting. Could we ever doubt him?

The House of Blue Leaves. Bloodied yellow tracksuit stark against the wood furnishings of the restaurant, The Bride stands at the dance floor centre. Her steel blue eyes, caught in claustrophobic close up, appraise O-Ren Ishii’s army – the Crazy 88s, headed by Johnny Mo, all equipped with Kato mask and katana. They encircle her; black sharks sniffing at a single golden prey. Jaw set, The Bride twitches her blade into position. Then lunges. They fly at her. She flips, she leaps, she spins. She dances to a melody of screams and groans, sashaying with all the grace of a ballerina – a ballerina with a nice shiny katana that flashes and gleams as it does its dirty work. Then SQUELCH, she plucks out the right eye of one unlucky assailant, and suddenly everything’s monochrome. Filtered through black and white, The Bride savages and slices as she continues her roaring rampage of revenge. Limbs fly. Blades bite. Blood spews into the air in volcanic eruptions. One fallen fighter picks up his own freshly severed foot and screams – and well he should.

Shot at the Beijing Film Studio, China, the same hallowed building that once housed the very productions it so reveres, Kill Bill Vol. 1’s pivotal scene pitted Uma Thurman against legendary Yuen Woo-Ping’s stunt team for eight mighty weeks – six days a week, 14 hours a day. “That was probably the hardest,” the actress notes, perhaps a little modestly. Dosed up on action flicks, femme fatales and Westerns (Tarantino requested she watch John Woo’s The Killer, Coffy and Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars), Thurman brings an unyielding gravitas to her double-crossed assassin. As she acrobats lethally through the House of Blue Leaves there’s never any doubt that she’s capable of taking on 88 of China’s finest killers. Watching her acquire bloody satisfaction, you can’t help but cheer.

And what blood there is – 450 gallons of the stuff in Kill Bill unified. “I’m really particular about the blood,” muses QT, “you can’t pour this raspberry pancake syrup on a sword and have it look good. You have to have this special kind of blood that you only see in Samurai movies.”

Enriching The Bride’s all-out assault are filmic references galore. This is film geek opium of the purest grade. Notice something familiar about the ‘one versus all’ conceit? Meet Year of the Dragon’s China Palace shootout. Seen those Crazy 88s before? They’re based on the yakuza gang of Black Lizard, their Kato masks last modelled by Bruce Lee in TV show The Green Hornet. Then there’s The Bride’s tracksuit (a direct tribute to Bruce Lee’s final, unfinished film Game of Death), the Crazy 88 who is hacked in half (hello, Ichi the Killer), The Bride fighting in silhouette against a blue-lit backdrop (thanks, Samurai Fiction), the use of the Ironside soundtrack… Like Tarantino’s ambition, the list is limitless. “I set up the sequence so that either it would be the greatest thing anyone’s ever seen as far as this shit’s concerned, or I would hit my head on the ceiling of my talent,” he said. At scene’s end, The Bride surveys the bloody quagmire that once was the House of Blue Leaves. “Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you,” she condemns. “However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.” Tarantino, Thurman, we salute you.


… Milla Jovovich’s pouty viper in Ultraviolet (2006)
Swapping class for arse, this shameless Matrix/Kill Bill rip-off succeeds only in (somehow) making Ms Jovovich sporting skin-tight leather bum-clenchingly dull. A hollow copycat with dud effects and sub-par sword play, The Bride would make short work of this tosh.