Quentin Tarantino reveals that he almost cut the iconic “baghead” conversation among KKK members in Django Unchained. Tarantino’s Oscar-winning film, which premiered in 2012, follows a German bounty hunter called Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and a freed slave known as Django (Jamie Foxx) as they attempt to rescue Django’s wife (Kerry Washington) from a notorious plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) in nineteenth-century Mississippi.
During the film, Ku Klux Klan members gather at night to prepare for a violent raid. In the middle of their discussion, the ringleader fiddles with the eye holes in his mask, complaining that he can’t see, and accidentally rips the fabric. Other KKK followers proceed to criticize the design integrity of the bags over their heads, noting that they can’t properly see or breathe. One of them angrily huffs away, insulted by what he perceives as a slight against his wife, who spent all day working on the masks. After conceding that the bags could be better, the ringleader insists that they wear them anyway. As a result, the KKK adherents end up riding their horses aimlessly in circles.
According to Empire Film Podcast (via Collider), Tarantino considered removing the scene because he wasn’t sure that audiences would appreciate the inherent comedy of the situation. Speaking to Wright, Tarantino offered an explanation for his hesitation:
“That was everyone’s favorite scene in the script. Amy Pascal, half the reason she wanted to make the movie at Columbia was because of that scene. But it was one of those scenes that it was such a hit on the page, I started getting intimidated about would it be that good in the movie? Does everyone love it so much on the page [that it’s] gonna lose something in the translation once I get a bunch of actors playing the roles? Because it’s not based on one performance, it’s a whole lot of people. And it happens at a weird part of the movie.”
In fact, when Tarantino showed clips of the “baghead” scene to visiting interviewers and directors, he was underwhelmed by their response. Yet, when he briefly excised the content from the film, Sony producer Amy Pascal immediately questioned why it had been removed. In response, Tarantino re-added the scene, then decided to gauge how to proceed from the reactions of the test screening. There, audiences couldn’t stop laughing at the “baghead” moment, cementing Tarantino’s decision to keep it in the end.
By sharing this fascinating piece of trivia, Tarantino demonstrated the crucial ways in which context matters in storytelling. While the KKK scene perhaps failed to garner laughs on its own, its inclusion within the greater narrative of Django Unchained elevated and strengthened its comedic purpose. Ultimately, it worked as a satiric dressing-down of the KKK, stripping back the group’s false bravado and instead spotlighting its cowardice. Like many of Tarantino’s films, Django Unchained offers up re-imagined historical situations that actively poke fun at those in power.