Tom Savini Journal from D’Jango Unchained #8

July 24th: Yep, it’s been around 3 months since I left the set in New Orleans, and I am now in Los Angeles to continue shooting Django Unchained. In the interim I went to Austin Texas to shoot Machete Kills, but that’s another journal. I was a little shocked to learn from the other cast members that it’s been three months. In fact, I’ve been seeing the trailer for Django …IN THE THEATRES…. and would casually turn to whoever I was with and said, “We’re still shooting this.”

I told Quentin tonight that people are already quoting the movie, like Leonardo DeCaprio’s line…”Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, now you have my attention.” He said it hasn’t been since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that audiences are anxiously awaiting the release of a Western.

Well I have been here since Tuesday, the 17th, and every day I got a text telling me we were not going to shoot the next day. They brought me out to Los Angles just in case they needed to shoot our scene. When I say “our” I mean the Trackers.  So I’ve been on a little vacation here for a week with Jodii, my girlfriend from Australia, who has also returned to me in the interim. My best friend Rob Lucas has also arrived in L.A. and is renting a house and moved here from Connecticut.  His furniture arrives tomorrow. He has given me a bedroom in his house so I can come to L.A., more often. Especially in audition season.

So, we have spent the last week with him, as he has booked a room near us in Valencia till the moving truck arrives at his new house. He has been driving us all over the place. The Goodwill store in Beverly hills, shopping on Melrose Avenue, dinner at the Rainbow on Sunset, dinner at the Smokehouse in Burbank, dinner at Musso and Frank’s and shopping on Hollywood Boulevard, and a visit with Bob Burns and fabulous collection of Hollywood memorabilia… and ending last night with Rob inviting 17 of our close friends out here to IRIS, the new Cirque De Soleil show at the Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards ceremony. This has been one fantastic visit to L.A., in preparation to finishing up Django.

Tonight we started with us trackers playing cards inside the real Trackers house we use in New Orleans. They tore down and packed up the real Trackers House we used in the swamp in New Orleans, and rebuilt it here inside one of the sound stages at the Santa Clarita Studios. It was me and James Parks, and Mike Bowen playing cards, with Big Jake on our left building a bird house, Dave Steen taking a bath in a big wooden tub, and Ted Neeley sitting in a rocking chair playing a mouth harp.

We are using slave ears as money in the card game. Earlier tonight Quentin had a meeting with us card players and taught us a card game involving diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades and facecards. He told us to go practice the game before shooting and that turned into each of us inventing schtick to do while we were playing, but when it came time to shoot it we started playing it legitimately but soon were just throwing any card we could grab into the game as Quentin wanted us to play it quicker. It’s just a set up to keep all of us doing something before Jamie Fox, Django, comes in and blows us all away.

After a few takes of the card game, with the camera on a circular track to move around the table, we were free for a few hours before we were called back in to be squibbed. That means the explosives inside blood packs were taped inside our clothing and rigged to explode in a very bloody way when Django shoots us. I had two on my chest and when they blow I’m supposed to fly backwards with my chair away from the card table. Jake had two on his chest and his were to go off first, then me, then James, who had one on his chest and one on his back. Mike had one in his hat, and the last was Zoe Bell who had two on her chest.

This was all rigged to happen ….ALL AT ONCE!  In the same camera set up. One right after another, and in between us getting shot, cards and bottles and potatoes on the table, and walls were rigged to explode. I was hearing nightmares from Greg Funk and Big Jake about others who were squibbed having to do it over and over again. One guy seven times. I knew there would be a lot of sticky blood all over the place and the idea of doing it over and over again was not something I relished.

While they were setting this up Quentin announced that the previous shot we  did, the card game, was the 1600th set up for the movie….WITH ONE CAMERA. He was very proud of that and should be as he was in charge of every framing. He framed every single shot in the film. The B camera only was on set up 95.  I was surprised that after he said that he looked at me and said I should do that on Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. He was referring to the remake I am scheduled to direct before the end of the year. He said it’s one of his favorite films, and even offered me Bob Clark’s script that he wrote just before he died.

It was getting close to shoot what would be a magnificent scene of all of us getting shot to death. I was practicing pushing myself backward when my squibs go off, and James was practicing what he would do, and Mike was anticipating how he would fall, and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster, as soon Quentin would call action and all hell will break lose.  It’s one thing to shoot squibs going off on one person, but multiple squibs going off on five people? Plus the cards on the table, and the bottles and the potatoes in a dish, and the walls around us at the same time. My heart was beating faster and faster….what if I can’t fly backwards at the right timing, what if Jake crashes into the table behind him and send it crashing into my face as I lay there, or James falls on me when I am pretending to be dead, or Zoe steps on me as she attempts to attack Django with a knife before he shoots here???  All these thoughts are rushing through my head and before I knew it Quentin called action, and everything in life went into slow motion.

Jamie Fox’s stand-in was at the camera firing very loud full loads at us with his revolver… I saw Big Jake get hit and fly backwards onto the table with the bird house, the potatoes exploded on the table, and I felt my chest explode and my legs immediately propelled me backward and I don’t even remember hitting the floor, and as I laid there I could feel and see many explosions and debris and blood flying all over us. Quentin called “Cut”…and we all laid still so the photographers could take our pictures, and then Quentin said it was so fabulous we don’t need to do it again. We all wanted to hug him, and some of us did, cause we wouldn’t have to go through that again. We all went home high as kites to have just been part of movie history. Violent, Western, Wild Bunch, Quentin Tarantino, 1601 setups with one camera movie history.

It’s December now, and my friend producer Mike Ruggiero invited me to come up to New York for a Producer’s Guild screening of Django with Quentin in attendance. I of course drove the six hours to New York for such an experience.

We got terrific seats in the front row of the bleacher style seating by sneaking into the theatre early and grabbing the ones that were not saved for Miramax.

The movie blew everyone away Mike and I included and when it came time for the Q and A with Quentin I was the first to raise my hand. The moderator was a film critic for the Village Voice and he said “That looks like Tom Savini”…and Quentin said “Yes it IS.”…and told the audience I was one of the Trackers in the film and there was a bit of applause but I motioned it away and told Quentin that “He blowed up real good.”….and then asked if he was also the guy in the bag/hood who says “We don’t have any extra bags”… he said it was him and then did all the lines he said as that character. I told him the Django is a beautiful love story.

He was asked by somebody what he was going to do next, and he said he will probably do a lot of writing and maybe experiment with a different genre… probably an all out horror movie.  I screamed YES!!!!!…and he said…”Ha…Savini likes that idea.”

We saw him outside getting into an SUV and I yelled “QT?”…he turned and we hugged and he asked if we liked the movie and I said I will probably see it ten times.  Seen it five times now.


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