Kerry Washington learns choreography for a whipping scene in new image from ‘Django Unchained’

The Scene: A flashback, in which Django (Jamie Foxx) fails to convince the Brittle brothers not to whip his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).

Behind the Scene: “The style is wildly different than the majority of sequences within Django Unchained,” cinematographer Robert Richardson tells  AwardsLine. “When Quentin talked to me of the scene, he asked that we shoot with two cameras, which is quite rare for us. He knew that an emotion and a spiritual space would be found once we began filming, and he wanted to capture that. Spiritual is an understatement. Shooting the scene was an act of enlightenment. Both Jamie and Kerry poured their hearts and their souls into the sequence. To watch the acting on set was extremely difficult for me, as it moved further and further away from acting or as I moved further and further from perceiving it as acting.

When I was photographing Jamie, I noticed clouds race across his eyes then mist raised as he fell to his knees begging, tears sliding down his cheeks. Kerry was tied tightly to a wooden frame, stripped of her clothes, and one of the Brittle brothers pulled back a whip and fiercely let go. Kerry lurched from the lashing. Her screams stopped everyone on the set. I began shooting within a state rarely achieved: A blind desire to capture this particular moment that was so very real that, in hindsight, I know was out of place for a feature film. Deeply provoked and touched by the acting, which appeared to disappear as we settled into the past. It was as if we were transported through time.

The setting, meaning the location, was on Evergreen Plantation, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two-hundred-year-old live oaks covered the property. Beneath these stunning trees sat 20 or so slave quarters. Ironic to have such beauty atop such hideous history. We filmed amidst those slave quarters. Haunting. A vital slap of reality. What was extremely challenging was to maintain a vision for the scene when the events within the frame were as powerful as these were. Documentaries can mirror the moment described above. But I have experienced few in my career that rival”.

According to the LA Times, Washington sought to bring authenticity to her performance in several ways. The actor playing her overseer used a fake whip, but Washington insisted the lashings really hit her back. And to dramatize her punishment inside an underground, coffin-size metal container, she and Tarantino agreed she would spend time barely clothed in the “hot box” before the filming began so the feeling of confinement would be as realistic as possible.

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