Django Unchained Almost Lost Its Funniest Scene Because Test Audiences Didn’t Get It
Django Unchained is in many ways the most Tarantino-esque movie that Quentin Tarantino has made since Pulp Fiction. One of the most memorable scenes in Django Unchained is sometimes referred to as the “baghead” scene, where a bunch of KKK members complain about their poorly constructed face masks made out of burlap sacks. In a recent interview for Empire, Tarantino revealed even he was intimidated by the prospect of filming the scene to perfection.
“That has as much hysterical laughter as I’ve ever heard in any screening of any movie, and it happens all over the world. That was everyone’s favorite scene in the script. Amy Pascal, half the reason she wanted to make the movie at Columbia was because of that scene. But it was one of those scenes that it was such a hit on the page, I started getting intimidated about would it be that good in the movie? Does everyone love it so much on the page [that it’s] gonna lose something in the translation once I get a bunch of actors playing the roles? Because it’s not based on one performance, it’s a whole lot of people. And it happens at a weird part of the movie.”
Despite his doubts, Quentin Tarantino managed to shoot the scene to his satisfaction. That was when a new problem arose. The filmmaker and his team discovered that the scene on its own did not seem to strike test audiences as a hilarious bit, because they were mystified as to its purpose within the larger narrative of Django Unchained.
“We shoot the scene, and forget about the fact that it’s a long comedy sequence – it’s a five-minute non-sequitur in a movie that’s already really long. So me and my editor Fred [Raskin] we cut the movie together, we cut that sequence together, and we’re really happy with it… and so an interviewer would come and interview me and I would leave the editing room and have lunch with them and talk about something, and I’d go, ‘Hey do you wanna see a scene from the movie?'”
“‘Yeah sure, I’d be happy to!’ Or a director or somebody would visit. And so we had like four different times where somebody came by to visit for whatever reason and we were gonna show them something, so we would bring out that scene and show it to them. And it never got the response we thought it should get. They didn’t really know what the hell they were watching. It’s almost like in The Prestige when Christian Bale does the magic trick [Hugh Jackman is] like, ‘He doesn’t even do it right! The audience doesn’t even realize what a good trick it is!’ (laughs)”
Fortunately, despite the movie running overlong and test audiences not seeming too impressed, Tarantino kept the “baghead” scene in Django Unchained, and that resulted in one of the funniest sequences ever seen in cinema. This news comes from Celebration Cinema podcast.