“There were only about nine people there,” Goggins recalls, “and in walked Quentin Tarantino. The man is tall, and he’s such a force when he comes into a room. I’d seen ‘Reservoir Dogs’; a goal of my life was to get to work with this man. He was standing right next to me — for four hours! — and the only thing I could say to him was, ‘Hey, that’s a really nice suit.’ ”
Goggins may have been too starstruck to seize that opportunity, but he took matters into his own hands years later. By the time he found and fell in love with the “Django” script (“Oh my, God, this is going to start a revolution,” he recalls thinking.), Goggins had started acting in films in between his TV gigs and had even produced some. (A short he produced, “The Accountant,” won an Oscar; the feature-length Hal Holbrook vehicle “That Evening Sun” was a hit at festivals.) More important, he’d met longtime Tarantino pal Robert Rodriguez while working on the reboot of the “Predator” series.
Sensing an opportunity he couldn’t let pass, he decided to exploit the friendship. Having discovered the “Django” script shortly after working with Tarantino’s longtime friend Robert Rodriguez on the Rodriguez-produced reboot of the “Predator” series, Goggins decided he had to exploit the friendship.
“I texted him and said: ‘Robert, this is not my thing, I don’t do this, but I’m asking: Please text QT! Please! Just send him one line. Just two words: Walton Goggins.’ He said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it,’ and maybe an hour later, or the next day, he forwarded me Quentin’s response. It said, ‘Walton Goggins has been on my radar for a very long time.’ ”
The 41-year-old actor gasps at the memory. “In some ways, that was enough!” he says, only half joking.
Actually getting hired would be better, of course. A mutual friend held a small barbecue to introduce the two men, and Tarantino invited Goggins to audition. The actor learned nearly 40 pages of script, performing bits of many roles; he says he even read the part of the head house slave, destined for Samuel L. Jackson. His feeling was: “I am going to take this opportunity to say as many of your words as I possibly can before you kick me out. These words, they’re so delicious you just want to say them in front of the man who wrote ’em.”
Tarantino cast him as Billy Crash, a plantation worker who trains slaves to fight each other for the amusement of sadistic owners. As with “Justified,” where his character was supposed to die in the first episode but was made an ongoing co-star after viewers embraced him (that series begins its fourth season Jan. 8), Goggins’s role grew during production. Kevin Costner had originally been cast as slave trainer Ace Woody; when he left the film due to scheduling conflicts (and replacement Kurt Russell fell through as well), the Ace and Billy roles were combined into one.