BY GENE TRIPLETT
When the deadly smoke of script rewrites and cutting room machinery clears away, Oklahoma actor Rex Linn may have all of five minutes left in
Quentin Tarantino’s wild wild Western “Django Unchained,” but he doesn’t feel bloodied a bit.
On the contrary, Tennessee Harry.
“It sure is a good feeling to be part of a film that’s been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards,” Linn said in a genuine drawl that could only be acquired from growing up in Texas and Oklahoma.
Tennessee Harry is the name of Linn’s character in the film — a member of a mounted, marauding mob of hood-wearing, torch-bearing plantation overseers who are out to track down the ex-slave-turned-bounty-hunter of the title, played by Jamie Foxx.
The film opens nationwide Tuesday.
“I do look forward to seeing ‘Django’ in my hometown of Oklahoma City on Christmas Day,” Linn said last week from his Los Angeles home.
One-time video store clerk and lifelong B-movie and spaghetti Western geek-turned-filmmaker Tarantino based his new film very loosely on a 1966 Italian oater called “Django,” directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Franco Nero (Sir Lancelot of Joshua Logan’s “Camelot,” husband of Vanessa Redgrave) in the title role.
The film about a lone gunslinger dragging a Gatling gun around in a coffin became a cult classic, inspiring more than 40 unofficial sequels over the next 45 years, of which “Django Unchained” is the latest.
“I like evoking the ‘Django’ title for what it means to spaghetti Westerns and that mythology,” writer-director Tarantino says in the film’s production notes. “I’m proud to say that we are a new edition to the unrelated ‘Django’ rip-off sequels.”
Tarantino’s version is set in the South two years before the Civil War, starring Oscar-winner Foxx (“Ray”) as Django, a slave who is recruited by German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz) to help track down the murderous Brittle brothers. Schultz promises to free Django when the outlaws are captured — or killed.
But once this is accomplished, the two men remain together as partners, tracking down other outlaws as Django hones his skills with firearms and focuses on finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to slave traders years before.
The trail finally leads Django and Schultz to the ruthless Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), master of the infamous Candieland plantation where Broomhilda is enslaved.
“Quentin’s always wanted to do a Western,” Linn said. “And if you think about it, even in ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ even in ‘Pulp Fiction,’ there’s a Western theme song in all of ‘em. There’s some Western in it. And so for him to be able to do a Western was just like a dream come true.”
Dream come true
And for Linn, 56, it was like a dream come true to be cast in it. The Texas-born actor, who spent his high school and college years in Oklahoma (Heritage Hall and Casady School in Oklahoma City, graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in radio, television and film), has been a working character actor in TV and theatrical film since the late 1980s, appearing in such big-screen hits as “Cliffhanger,” “Wyatt Earp,” “Tin Cup,” “Breakdown,” “Ghosts of Mississippi” and a 10-year run as Detective Frank Tripp on “CSI: Miami,” which was canceled earlier this year.
In 2013 he will be seen in director Atom Egoyan’s “Devil’s Knot,” based on the true story of the “West Memphis Three,” three teenagers falsely accused of murdering three young boys. The film also stars Reese Witherspoon, Kevan Durand and Stephen Moyer.
And if plans pan out, he’ll be on board for the film version of “Ironhorse,” written by his close friend and fellow Oklahoman Robert Knott. The Western is a sequel to “Appaloosa,” a book by Robert B. Parker that was adapted for the screen by Knott and another actor with Oklahoma connections, Ed Harris. Linn had a prominent role in that 2008 film as well.
But for now, Linn, is just as excited about his role in “Django Unchained,” no matter how limited it may be.
“Just to be cast in it first of all, it was a four-meeting process,” Linn said. “I met with Quentin four times. And, you know, there are so many actors in this, but Victoria Thomas, the casting director, said you can’t imagine, once that script kinda started circulating, she said you can’t imagine the actors that were calling up here wanting to be a part in this movie, even if it’s a small role.”
Other stars appearing in limited parts and cameos include Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Bruce Dern, Jonah Hill and Linn’s old friend Don Johnson — whom he calls D.J. — as “Big Daddy.”
Johnson, Hill and Linn share one of the film’s most amusing scenes as a gang of hooded riders who are having trouble seeing where they’re going through the crude eye holes cut into the sacks on their heads.
“One of my lines was, ‘I don’t know about you bastards but I’m sick and tired of holdin’ this (expletive deleted) torch,’” Linn recalled. “And then I had about two or three other lines in it. I had a lot of dialogue when I got cast, and then the rewrites came and … I don’t blame him. I would’ve shared it too.”
Tarantino thought the lines in the scene were so funny that he ended up taking some of them for himself and the other hooded actors in the sequence.
“He knows what he wants, and he is like a little kid on the set,” Linn said of Tarantino. “No wonder his movies are so good. I actually thought this when I was sittin’ with Don Johnson. Don and I are good friends. We met each other on ‘Tin Cup’ and really hit it off. And Don and I were sittin’ there, and we were kind of watchin’ Quentin directing and, no wonder his movies are fun, because he has fun.”