When it was confirmed that Will Smith had passed on starring in Django Unchained—officially due to scheduling conflicts—most assumed that the real reason was due to typical Will Smith factors, such as not wanting to take a pay cut, or relinquish his increasingly demanded input into the screenplay, or rough up his non-threateningly sassy image. However, Smith says it was an even more Will Smithian factor than all that: “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!” Smith tells Entertainment Weekly, but probably doing so in that charmingly egotistical way that Will Smith has where he also laughs at it, like, “Can you believe me? I named the next 1,000 years of human existence ‘The Willennium.’ Ha ha, I’m incorrigible.”
Anyway, Smith says he attempted to get Tarantino to meet him halfway by revising his screenplay to make it more of a Will Smith movie by reducing Christoph Waltz’s role, saying, “I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’”—even though Django does get to kill plenty of bad guys and even enjoy a complete dramatic arc, in the movie named after him. But although Tarantino didn’t see fit to change his idea completely in order to meet Smith’s demands and possibly add a fun dance-rap song over the credits, Smith has no hard feelings, calling the finished film, “brilliant… just not for me” in what is the highest compliment Will Smith can pay something without Will Smith in it.