Original 'Django' Franco Nero on His Iconic Character and the Film's Legacy (Q&A)
Original 'Django' Franco Nero Working on New Film for Iconic Character
CAPRI, Italy – Franco Nero had no inkling that when he started filming the original Django movie nearly 50 years ago that he’d be making history. There was no real script, the budget was at first big enough to finance only a single scene. “When we started, I really wasn’t sure if we’d ever even finish the film,” Nero says.
Instead, Nero’s interpretation of a brooding, mostly silent and unflappable cowboy drifer made Sergio Corbucci’s ultra-violent film a Spaghetti Western classic that spawned at least 30 sequels -- Nero reprised Django in only one of them, 1987’s Django Strikes Again, directed by Nello Rossati -- and inspired minions of dedicated fans. One of them was director Quentin Tarantino.
In Tarantino’s film, Django Unchained, which opened Christmas day in the U.S. and Canada and will premiere in Europe Friday in Rome, Jamie Foxx plays the title role; Nero appears in a cameo.
Nero, 71, has acted in nearly 200 films including the role of Sir Lancelot in Joshua Logan’s Camelot, Horacio in Tristana from Luis Buñuel, Gianni Versace in Menahem Golan’s The Versace Murder, and even provided the voice for Uncle Topolino in Pixar’s Cars 2. But he remains best known as Django.
Nero was at the Capri, Hollywood Film Festival as part of a special tribute to Django, featuring a screening of Corbucci’s 1966 classic, an extended trailer of Django Unchained and the Capri Legends Award, the festival’s top honor. He spoke to The Hollywood Reporter on the sidelines of the festival.
The Hollywood Reporter: After you finished making Django, what was the first sign you had that it was something more extraordinary than you might have guessed?
Franco Nero: I think it was a few months later, when I was in the U.S. to make Camelot, the Warner Bros film. I had a print of Django with me, and one day I decided to do a screening for the crew and some people there. They all said it was such an original movie, that it was not at all like an American western. They loved it so much I had to do three more screenings, and I remember actors like Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, who were shooting their own films in that area, they all came. And Terence Young, the film director, saw it three times. That’s when it started to strike me that the film was something special.
THR: What do you attribute this to, that almost 50 years later the film is still resonating with people, many of whom are far, far too young to have been alive when the film came out?
Nero: It’s a good question. I have done many, many interviews, especially in the last year, with Quentin’s movie. I almost always get asked that question, and I really don’t know the answer. It’s one of the things that cannot be explained.
THR: Quentin Tarantino is among those too young to have seen Django when it first came out [Tarantino was aged 3 when the original Django was released]. But it obviously made an impression on him.
Nero: That’s right. During the shooting, he wanted everyone to see the original Django film.
THR: At what point did you first hear about Tarantino’s fascination with the film?
Nero: It’s a long story that goes back almost 15 years. I was doing a movie in Spain, called Talk of Angels, for Miramax [in 1998]. It’s a story set during the Spanish Civil War, in 1934, and the actress Penelope Cruz played my daughter. One day, she had to leave the set to fly to San Sebastian, for the film festival, and when she came back she said, “You know, Franco, I met this young director named Quentin Tarantino and when I told him I was doing this movie with you, he was crazy about it. He said, ‘Oh! Bring him here, bring him here. I have to meet him!’” That was the first time I heard of Tarantino. After that, I saw interviews with Tarantino where he talked about me.