"Django" pays homage to both Sergio Corbucci's films of the 1960s and Arthur Penn's satirical, über-violent western "Little Big Man." Tarantino also relied on the German fairy tale of Siegfried rescuing Brunhilde from a mountain, a dragon and a ring of hellfire as a framework for the story, and he throws in a poignant literary reference to Alexandre Dumas and "The Three Musketeers."
Despite the film's lighter moments — Tarantino says he considers the Klan bit in "Django" the funniest he's written since his infamous "color" scene in 1992's "Reservoir Dogs" — the director and his collaborators admit the production was an arduous journey because of the subject matter and the brutality.
Best of 2012: Movies | TV | Pop music | Jazz | Video Games | Art | Theater | Dance | Classical music
"I didn't sleep through the night throughout this whole shoot," Foxx admitted in June. "Quentin was constantly challenging me to get to the slave. How do you leave your persona? You are starting all over again, to be that vulnerable, to not be able to read. For you to be able to let go like that, that's a scary thing."
Tarantino, normally gregarious, said he's found himself in a depressed, melancholy state now that he's finished the movie and is starting to allow himself time to reflect on the world he has re-created.
"I'm actually starting to feel the pain of what I've marinated myself in for the last nine months," Tarantino said. "There are stains [from this movie], and I'm starting to let myself feel them now."
A tight post-production schedule only added to the stress. Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co., feared Tarantino wouldn't be able to make his Christmas release date; the director finished his sound mix in early December, barely a day before its first screening for award voters.
"We really set an unrealistic goal," Weinstein admitted. "Three or four weeks ago I was nervous we wouldn't make the date. Quentin went in there and got it done through the sheer force of his personality."
The studio considered delaying the release of "Django" until March, but Weinstein said market research indicated audiences were excited about the planned Christmas release. "Our marketing department kept begging us, 'Make the date! Make the date!'" he said.
Tarantino said he and Weinstein decided to stick with Dec. 25 out of a belief that "Django" could garner Academy Award nominations.
"We had our talk. Is this an academy movie? Do we think we can go all the way with this?" said Tarantino, who won an Oscar in 1995 for best screenplay for "Pulp Fiction" and has twice been nominated for directing. "We decided it was. We decided to roll the dice."
PHOTOS AND MORE
VIDEO: Highlights from the Envelope Screening Series
The Envelope: Awards Insider
PHOTOS: NC-17 movies: Ratings explained