Walton Goggins talks "Django Unchained"
Walton Goggins has made a nice career for himself playing a good guy with a bad side on "The Shield" and a bad guy with a fascinating side on "Justified." He's pretty much all bad in Quentin Tarantino's new film "Django Unchained," playing Billy Crash, the enforcer for Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio), a plantation owner who forces slaves to fight to the death. Jamie Foxx stars as the titular Django, a former slave whose freedom was purchased by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a onetime dentist turned bounty hunter. Together, the two of them pay Candy a visit, in the hopes of rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Fox), Django's wife, and in the process, allow Tarantino to take on the Western, a genre he has not yet visited. The movie is due to be released on Christmas Day, and Goggins spoke to journalists about it at this year's Comic-Con.
Upcoming-Movies.com: How are you?
Walton Goggins: I'm great. Good. I'm really good. We're here for "Django Unchained." How much better can you be? It's pretty great.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Walton Goggins: Yeah, I play Billy Crash, and he is kind of the man fight trainer extraordinaire for Calvin Candy and responsible for all of the slaves on the property. The fighting slaves. Calvin's entertainment. He is a ball buster. He is a ruthless, ruthless guy. And he's part of the system that supports this way of life. He's not just a cog in the wheel, he's one of the spokes, you know? Myself and Stephen, who is played by Sam Jackson, are really kind of the CEOs of this slave corporation.
So how do you come to terms as a person with your character doing these things that you as an individual might just consider to be horrible?
Walton Goggins: You can't come to terms with it. You know? I'm a white liberal dude, who lives on the West Coast, but I come from Georgia and there is no way I can reconcile my world view with this character. They don't exist in the same reality. But we're also not in 1840, you know? In the retelling of any country's history there are victims and there are people that perpetuated the balance against those people and the subjugation of those people and, I'm one of the guys, one of the main guys that Quentin needed in order to tell that story, you know? At the end of the day, you just feel like this is so much bigger than me, you know, and so much bigger than all of us here. It's the retelling of a story that needs to be retold over and over again for each generation.
Do you play him broad?
Walton Goggins: Do I play him broad? You know, I did not set out to, I didn't think about it in those terms, you know, playing him broad. I think there is a certain amount of realism and then to use your term like broad when it comes to the absurdity in all of Quentin's characters. Billy Crash is a cool fucking guy. He's a really cool guy. And in some ways I can't wait to see how people are kind of able to reconcile appreciating the way he walks maybe or the way he touches his gun, or the funny fucking things that come out of his mouth with the violent acts that kind of follow. That's what Quentin is able to do, better than anybody, kind of walk that line.
So, how does Billy Crash reconcile that stuff?
Walton Goggins: Billy Crash doesn't have to make that decision, you know? Again, he's not living life by 21st century morality. And for him, he is a working man. He didn't come from privilege. He doesn't own slaves personally and he has scratched and clawed his way up the economic ladder in order to get a seat next to the King, and his agenda is to keep his butt in that seat, the same way it is for Steven and Sam Jackson. That's really interesting. That's another part of the story. The economic kind of strata of it all. The white strata, right? To kind of play it in that way just seemed very real to me.
How important was rehearsal of your process? Because I've been told in the past that sometimes on some of his films, Tarantino likes to go into in depth rehearsals before getting on the set. What was it like on this?
Walton Goggins: In depth rehearsals.
Walton Goggins: You know it depended on the scenes.
Was it weeks, or -- ?
Walton Goggins: It depended on the scenes. Sometimes it would be like, you know – no, no, it wasn't weeks for me. It wasn't weeks for me. I was working at the time. So it wasn't weeks for me. It was weeks for these guys, for some of them, for Christoph [Waltz] and Leo [Leonardo DiCaprio] I think, and Sam and Jamie [Foxx] I'm sure. But we would kind of get there and then we would talk for three or four or five hours and Quentin would just kind of work with it, in the room. I'm a guy who reads a script 250 times. I read it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until it has no meaning and then by virtue of approaching it that way whenever you speak, it has real meaning. And it can kind of come out a million different ways and be believable.
So you rehearsed a couple days before you started shooting?
Walton: No, no, no, no man. He was rehearsing as the shooting was going on.
Oh, so you would spend three hours on set, not shooting, just kind of rehearsing?
Walton: Well, we would rehearse on Sundays, you know? And yeah, at the beginning of the scene, thing that they had already kind of rehearsed before, we'd kind of go into it. Yeah, there was a lot of rehearsal going on. And I love that! In the land of television and the land of cable where I come from, you know, you don't get to do that. We do our shows in seven days. And I think that they're some of the best boards on television, both "The Shield" and "Justified." Thank you. But, I wish that we had more time to do that, you know? And in hindsight, if I spent any time looking over my shoulder anymore, which I don't, I would have liked to have done things a little differently. That's what you get when you're working with an auteur like Quentin Tarantino. You get the opportunity to really fucking spend some time and talk about it and think about it. What does this mean? Really, what does this mean? And it's like making movies like they made them in the 70s man. I'm telling you, I feel like out of this entire cast I'm the guy who ate the canary because I have the biggest fucking grin on my face. I felt sitting in front of that panel like I was one of the 6,500 people in that auditorium who got an opportunity to sit in that seat. I've been doing this a long time, man, but I know – I feel like, whether anybody likes the movie or whether they don't like the movie, it doesn't matter, for me personally I feel like I'm living my own version of film history and I have not closed my eyes once. I'm exhausted because they've been open so Goddamned long. But I'm having a good time.
Did Quentin give you any films to watch before you started shooting?
Walton Goggins: You know, not me specifically you know? I mean he showed movies every Sunday at the Sergio Corbucci Theater that he kind of established there on stage. He loves it so much that you can get a film history class through his retelling of the story behind one movie. And he'll retell it, he'll break down 100 of these in a day if you let him, you know. For me, it was interesting, after I started working and this one shot in particular, it was so fucking, unfucking, unfucking believable, this one shot, which was one of the introductions of my character, I couldn't believe that I was in the middle of this shot. [Director of Photography] Bob Richardson, he set all of this up, man, you know, and it's this, I can't even go into it too much for fear of getting in trouble, but it is so specific and you feel like you're a part of every shot in every Western that precipitated because Quentin knows all of them, you know? And that's what I mean about living kind of film history.