“ ‘Justified’ is not a story about slavery,” says Goggins, who notes that while using “the N-word, as it were, is the least offensive thing that happens in this movie” (compared with whippings, rape and the like), it’s still something he would say only for a director such as Quentin Tarantino or Spike Lee, whose films he believes make important statements about race. (Goggins played a racist officer in Lee’s
“Miracle at St. Anna.”) “As Sam [Jackson] said about the character he played, you can’t show the oppressed without showing the oppressor.”
Plenty of viewers will feel “Django Unchained” is less high-minded than all that — that slavery is just an excuse for Tarantino, a lover of all flavors of exploitation cinema, to transport the cartoonishly violent revenge fantasies of “Kill Bill” and “Inglourious Basterds” to the Old West. But Goggins felt deadly serious about the role and says other cast members did, too. “It was my ‘Apocalypse Now.’ Really, it was not easy,” he says. At the end of every shooting day, he apologized to his black co-stars for the vile things he said and did on camera. (Lest Goggins feel too guilty, his other big-screen gig this year — Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” — allowed him to participate in the abolition of slavery.)
This being a Quentin Tarantino film, it will hardly ruin any surprise to reveal that Billy Crash eventually suffers a grisly punishment — the specifics of which are appropriate for someone who previously threatened Django with castration. In that payback scene, Goggins lets out a wail so otherworldly it’s hard not to wonder how he created it.
Goggins enthusiastically admits that the cry surprised even him. As the moment of the stunt approached, he recalls, “I was so scared that my voice just went up.” Its pitch kept rising as crew members responded during subsequent takes: “It’s like my little boy. When he makes a joke at the table and you snicker at it, he’s just going to keep going — take it to the next level and the next level.”
“By the end of the day,” he laughs, “Quentin said: ‘You know, you gotta bring that down a little bit. We can go high, but we can’t go that high.’ ”
Getting a role in a Quentin Tarantino film is a rare enough honor. But taking a moment of Grand-Guignol suffering so far that it freaks out even the bloodthirsty Tarantino? Now that’s a real achievement.
165 minutes, opening at area theaters Dec. 25, is rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity.
The fourth season returns to FX at 10 p.m. Jan. 8.