Walton Goggins Talks Billy Crash in Django Unchained, in theaters across the country right now!
Django Unchained opened in theaters across the country on Christmas day. One of the most talked about moments finds Walton Goggins as Billy Crash torturing our hero Django, played by Jamie Foxx. After threatening to castrate the former slave, who hangs naked and upside down in a hollowed out barn, Billy turns to leave, giving Django's vulnerable groin a disturbing tickle. It's a small, subtle moment that is pure Quentin Tarantino. It's a tiny, fleeting bit of minutia, but at the same time, it says so much about Billy Crash, a fast firing lackey of Calvin Candie's (Leonardo DiCaprio) who refuses to accept any person of color as a free man.
We caught up with Walton Goggins to chat about his disturbing scene, which rests right up there with the ear decapitation from Reservoir Dogs and the introduction of The Gimp in Pulp Fiction. Walton also gave us an update on the Season 4 premiere of Justified, which kicks off all-new episodes starting January 8th with Hole in the Wall, only on FX.
Is Billy Crash fashioned after Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West? What's the story behind that infamous ball tickle? And will we finally meet Boyd's mother in 2013? Here is our conversation.
In a movie just jam packed with jaw-dropping moments, how did you manage to pull off the one scene that audiences just can't seem to shake out of their head? You get the classic Tarantino shiver scene...
Walton Goggins: (Laughs) I leave that to Quentin Tarantino. To the man whose imagination that came from. He has a way of taking an audience on an emotional journey. A very visual, stimulating experience. When I read it, and knew that I was going to get the opportunity to play it, I just couldn't believe it. How do you approach it? At the end of the day, we talked about doing it with reverence for all the people who have suffered at the hands of slavers like Billy Crash. I tried to be as honest as I possibly could. Yeah. What a wild ride.
This must have been an awesome experience to be a part of....
Walton Goggins: It is! You throw a rock, and you are going to hit an amazing actor in this movie. Even in the background. I wasn't there when Bruce Dern was working. But Bruce Dern is one of my heroes. Just in that thirty seconds, it was like, "Oh, my God! Wow!" When I met Dennis Christopher for the first time, had I known I was going to walk into the trailer and see him, I would have worn my Cutters shirt. (Laughs) You know? The same goes for James Remar. Not to mention all of the actors above the title. There are some real special people in this movie. As Jonah Hill said this morning, if you get a call from Quentin Tarantino, you show up. Because its Quentin Tarantino. It also speaks to the love that Quentin Tarantino has for actors. He knows every person that I just mentioned, and everyone else in that movie...He knows all of their work. He knows everything that they have ever done. And a lot of them are friends of his. He can give you a background on just about any actor that you throw out. He goes, "Oh, yeah, he did this one episode of this TV show! This guy was in that!" He knows if a guy had one part in one movie back in the 1940s. He knows everything. It's really inspiring to work for a man that is as knowledgable and as passionate as Quentin Tarantino.
The infamous ball tickle. Was that choreographed? Or was that something that just came out of that moment?
Walton Goggins: It came out in that moment. Again, it was very difficult to really understand what it was that we were doing, and what it was that we were saying, there. Once I defined that for myself, and Quentin and I talked about it, it was a matter for me to go, "Okay, this is just Billy looking at another person's genitalia, the thing that is responsible for him spreading his seed." It was to kind of luxuriate in that. Taking that away, and what was about to happen. Rendering Django impotent in a way that he would no longer be able to spread his seed.
Were you aware that, when you made that subtle move with your hand, it would be one of the more talked about moments from the whole movie? Its imagery that you can't easily shake out of your head...
Walton Goggins: We thought it would. It felt like that at the time. Quentin has created so many moments in all of his films, that are etched in the minds of his fans. To participate in one of them, in this way, you feel first and foremost that you are servicing one of the great auteurs and one of the great writers of any generation...I felt like, "Yeah!" When you read it on paper...When I read it in the script, I thought, "This one is going to be hard to shake afterward. This is going to be around awhile."
Is there any history behind the name Billy Crash?
Walton Goggins: You know, I asked Quentin that same question. I think he thought it was just a really cool name. And it is a cool name. It's a very cool name. I don't know that there is any history behind it, other than where a writer finds it. The alchemy, sand box, pulling names from a hat that writers have to do, to come up with names. Quentin just comes up with the best names.
They're names that you can easily remember. They stay with you. I knew most of the characters names before even seeing the movie, as if they'd already been etched in history..
Walton Goggins: Yeah, yeah!
Are you guys paying homage to Peter Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West with Billy Crash?
Walton Goggins: No, actually. We didn't speak about Mr. Henry Fonda specifically. There were some scenes that got shot, that didn't ultimately make it into the movie. The scene in the barn. There was a monologue that Billy gives to Django before hand. And there was another scene between Calvin Candie and Billy when Django and Schultz first arrive at Candie Land. I would be so curious to see who Billy reminds you of when you see those scenes. When I first walked into Quentin's trailer, he said, "I want you to be my Warren Oates." Then, when we started doing it, after I had been doing it for a couple of days, and I had been thinking about creating a gunslinger that was worthy, on some level, of intimidating Django...I just thought, "You got to be cool. You have to be very specific with the way you are walking." I wanted it to be graceful. I wanted an elegant walk. To juxtapose the physical actions, and the horrible things coming out of his mouth.
I think it reminded me of Peter Fonda, because you look a little bit like him, and then you are both wearing very similar outfits. The all-black ensemble.
Walton Goggins: Ah, yeah! You know what? We never talked about that.
Listening to some of the other actors talk about the experience of shooting this on location at a real plantation, and the history and language that went with that...It seems that this was a very challenging and difficult shoot to get through at times. Were you a little more comfortable with that, having played Boyd on Justified, and also having just been in Lincoln, which takes place in roughly the same era? Were you a little more comfortable performing in this racially charged world? Or is it always slightly cringe inducing on some level?
Walton Goggins: Well, I want to clarify...Justified is not about slavery. It's not a show about racism.
I guess it's the work on the first episode that I go back to with that question.
Walton Goggins: Yeah, I know...Its one episode. It's the first episode, and Boyd isn't himself...He doesn't believe the things that he is saying. He is saying them in order to get a group of people to follow him. He just needs followers. He was a narcissist. And a Svengali, and an egomaniac. And an adolescent in an arrested state of development, when that show began. The next episode he found god, and he had an African-American in his church. I took nothing from Justified into Django Unchained. Being in Lincoln, and having been in this time period...I have done a few things that have been around this same time in our countries history, so I am relatively comfortable going back into this world. It just changes with what you are doing. Here, at the end of the day, it's just Quentin. Or Steven Spielberg. And you are just there to service their story.
You're also doing a mini-series, too, that goes back to the Civil War, right?
Walton Goggins: Yeah, it's in the works. We'll see.
You have such an iconic Western look. It's no wonder that you are being sought out for these roles...
Walton Goggins: That is such a huge compliment. Thank you very much for saying that. I don't know what it is. Do I look good in a hat, maybe? (Laughs) I'm not sure. I'm still trying to figure it out. I don't know what it is, but I am grateful to be a part of them. They're a lot of fun. And bad guys, more often than not, always have the best lines.
Talking about Boyd in that first episode of Justified...I remember that particular episode so vividly, that speaks to how strong that character is...I only watched that episode one time, and some of those images are seared on my brain...
Walton Goggins: Wow...Wow!
That is such a great show...So glad its coming back soon...
Walton Goggins: Yeah, man! It's a great show. We are on episode seven right now. We'll be back on the air in January.
Are we finally going to meet Boyd's mother this season? I know that's something you wanted to see happen for the character...
Walton Goggins: You know, that idea excites me, but no, we're not going to go that route. It's being really distilled. Graham Yost has made the choice not to have a season long nemesis for Rayland and Boyd, but to rather just spend time with Rayland, and to spend time with Boyd. To visit their worlds, and go back to the roots and the daily lives of these two guys. And to have these amazing guest starts coming through. Whether it's for one episode, or a three to four episode arc. I am really excited about it. I hope that you like it. We're working really hard!
Django Unchained was released December 25th, 2012 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Christoph Waltz, Amber Tamblyn, Zoe Bell. The film is directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Justified episode 4.1, "Hole in the Wall" stars Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica N. Tazel, Walton Goggins, Raymond J. Barry, Jere Burns} and is directed by Michael Dinner}.