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The Pratfall of 'Django Unchained'

Will Smith is the most marketable movie star in the world. Between Men In Black, Independence Day, and Bad Boys Mr. Smith is the man responsible for most summer blockbusters. He is recognized everywhere and virtually liked by all. That is until the release of Seven Pounds. Seven Pounds was the follow-up collaboration between Will Smith and director Gabriele Muccino after the critical success The Pursuit of Happyness (which earned Smith his second Best Actor nomination). It was a emotionally raw performance and a brave one at that.

Unfortunately, it was also panned across the board. Despite Smith's portrayal Seven Pounds was declared melodrama at its worst. At some portions the film is unrelentingly ghoulish which makes the role of Ben Thomas that much more important to cast correctly. Ben has to be empathetic, he has to be good, but he also has to be superhumanly giving. Even with everything Smith gave to his character it wasn't enough. And for many critics the maudlin ending was too much. The film received no accolades, nor did its star.

Flash forward three years and Will Smith has been virtually invisible. Only recently he has started work on Men In Black 3 and signed deals for a Bad Boys sequel and possibly Quentin Tarantino's next western, Django Unchained. Django presents many opportunities and conflicts for the megastar. On one hand accepting the role would open the creative passage that Mr. Smith has seemingly been avoiding since Seven Pounds, but like all creative opportunities, backlash could await. Tarantino has never been known for subtlety  and Django Unchained is said to contain liberal use of racial slurs, something that could be a thorn for Smith, who manages his profile very carefully.

What it all comes down to is whether the lure of busting outside Mr. Smith's combed image will be too much to resist. The role of Django comes with some questionable material, but the part is a heroic one. Denzel Washington, known for being one of the best actors of his generation, won much acclaim, but never the big prize until Training Day. Washington has never been the man to turn down a potentially darker role and his career has benefited from it. The question will be whether Mr. Smith decides to do the same.

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