Quentin Tarantino acknowledged today during the Django Unchained panel that he definitely saw Kerry Washington's character—slave Broomhilda von Shaft—as an ancestor of supercool investigator John Shaft, of '70s blaxploitation fame.
The director even offered a few bars of the the Isaac Hayes theme song, in case anyone didn't believe him.
But why not? He is the filmmaker who never met a homage he didn't like.
In case the previously released trailer for Tarantino's latest—set in the antebellum South and starring Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave who's promised freedom by Christoph Waltz's charming-but-will-stop-at-nothing bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz—didn't drive home the bad-assery of Foxx and Waltz as a take-no-prisoners team, the eight minutes of footage Tarantino brought with him (all from the first half of the film, he noted) certainly did.
Washington (Ms. von Shaft) plays Foxx's wife, who's still enslaved to Leonardo DiCaprio's plantation owner, Calvin Candie. (DiCaprio didn't make the panel, but Foxx, Washington, Waltz, Walter Goggins and Don Johnson sat in.)
While Kill Bill certainly had spaghetti-western qualities, Tarantino talked about how he had always wanted to make an actual period piece from that time, and that he first devised the concept for Django Unchained ("a slave who becomes a bounty hunter who hunts white men") about 13 years ago.
"The surreal, horrible, historical reality of slavery in the U.S. is a perfect fit for the spaghetti-western genre," Tarantino said.
In addition to blood spatter galore, the movie is rumored to use the N-word more than a 100 times—the eight minutes of footage sure didn't skimp on it.
"In Texas, being a kid, it was racially charged to be honest with you," Foxx said. "Being called ni---r as young kid growing up, by grown people, it's something I had to deal with, coming from the South. Having that done to me, I was able to grasp that in the script."
Unlike Waltz, who admitted to having no knowledge of such things.
"I had no experience with this whatsoever," he said of his dentist turned bounty hunter. " I grew up in Vienna, Austria."
As for Ms. von Shaft, Washington said her character may have less screen time than the men, but that she still had plenty of layers to explore playing Broomhilda von Shaft.
"It's in the humanity, when at that time [according to the Constitution] they were only three-fifths of a human being," she said. "What makes her strong is her belief in love and that she is deserving of that love in a time where black women weren't even afforded the luxury of that fantasy."
Django Unchained is due in theaters on Christmas Day, but it turns out Tarantino isn't quite done yet—he's still got about a week of shooting left. (And it turns out Jonah Hill stayed in the picture—they just shot his humor-tinged scenes!)
So, it turns out we're all wondering how it ends!
Postscript: Tarantino later crashed the Before Watchmen panel to announce that a five-issue Django Unchained comic-book series was in the works for next year. "The comic will literally be the first draft of the script," he said.