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Apparently not having learned the lessons of the past, Quentin Tarantino is trying to cast Will Smith in his upcoming homage to spaghetti Westerns, titled Django Unchained. (It's actually more of a "Southern," in Tarantino's words; the story, set in the 19th century, concerns a freed slave battling an evil slaveholder. Slavery! There's something Quentin Tarantino of all people will address tastefully.)
Or maybe he has learned some lessons from the past; after all, he's always had a knack for rehabilitating actors who've lost the respect of the critical establishment. John Travolta's career was a joke (specifically, a joke about a talking baby) until Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction. The studio begged him to cast anyone but Travolta, but Tarantino was adamant, and the film revived Travolta's fortunes.
The situation's a little different here, though, in that a) Will Smith's fortunes are in no need of reviving, and b) while Travolta had done some great naturalistic work and showed a lot of promise as a young actor in the '70s, no one's ever claimed Will Smith was a great actor. It's not like he was the second coming of Marlon Brando on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; he's more just an affable, cross-demographically appealing face.
And, as The AV Club points out, Smith's probably way too protective of his aforementioned fortunes to touch a role that's as politically touchy as this (did we mention the slavery part?), even if the director is an arthouse legend. Still, it's kind of an intriguing idea. Maybe Will Smith has some uncharted depths.