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How Michael K. Williams almost became 'Django Unchained'


Evidenced throughout his filmography, Quentin Tarantino’s love of the western genre is no secret, even creating a list of his favourite 20 spaghetti western films, alongside his own films of the kind, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. Involving the likes of the great Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, Duccio Tessar and Giulio Petroni, the western genre had a pertinent effect on the influential director, with Tarantino even noting The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as his all-time favourite. 

Whilst evidence for his love for the genre has been sprinkled throughout his early filmography, in the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill, it wasn’t until 2012s Django Unchained that the director would properly dive into the age-old genre. Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained became an instant critical and commercial sensation, winning two Oscars whilst becoming one of the director’s finest ever feature films. 

Samuel L. Jackson takes on the role of Stephen, a loyal and manipulated house slave in Tarantino’s film that follows a freed slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), on a pursuit for revenge across Mississippi. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about his past role, Jackson commented, “I had no trepidation. I liked the fact that Stephen calculates, and he’s interesting. And Quentin put a lot of great things in his mouth to say. He’s the dialogue king. So I loved doing it. Inhabiting that space is kinda cool”. 

Whilst Jamie Foxx’s performance in the titular role would be recognised as one of the films strongest aspects, the actor had to work considerably hard to earn the leading part. Among the other actors considered for the role, Will Smith was listed as a favourite though he bizarrely turned down the role as it “wasn’t the lead”. The role was also offered to the late Michael K. Williams, who was the actor of choice for Quentin Tarantino before he turned his attention to Jamie Foxx. 

A cherished actor in the entertainment world, Michael K. Williams flourished in The WireBoardwalk Empire and Lovecraft Country, as well as in feature film roles Inherent Vice, Assassin’s Creed and 12 Years a Slave. The actor was narrowly pipped to the post by Jamie Foxx for the role in Django Unchained due to scheduling clashes with Boardwalk Empire, as well as Foxx’s preexisting talents in horse riding, even using his own horse in the Quentin Tarantino film. 

Spike Lee was one of many individuals quick to share his tributes to the late actor Michael K. Williams on Tuesday, commenting, “I’m shook. Drinking a bottle of Italian red wine-Brunello Di Montalcino by myself. Our greats are leaving us left and right. GOD BLESS” on Instagram

Whilst Jamie Foxx’s performance in Django Unchained is certainly great, we would’ve loved to have seen what Michael K. Williams could have achieved.