Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Costner has dropped out of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, an exit I’m told is due to a combination of scheduling and personal reasons. Costner had agreed to play the supporting role of Ace Woody in the Sergio Leone-style Spaghetti Western. The problem was it would have tied up about two months of his schedule even though he’s not in that many scenes. Costner is playing Pa Kent in the Superman reboot Man of Steel, and doing the miniseries The Hatfields and McCoys for History (which he’s also producing) and it was a bit much. It’s too bad, because the role would have been a real departure for an actor who has mostly played good guys. Costner was going to play Woody, a humorless and sadistic trainer of the male fighting slaves who entertain the white patrons of Candyland, a hellhole that also used female slaves as prostitutes. Candyland is the club and ranch owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio),   and Ace Woody is the one who pits the “mandingo” fighters against one another, and who has little qualms about mistreating and even killing the slaves who don’t measure up. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson star, with Foxx playing the title character, a slave-turned-bounty hunter who must take on those villains to free his slave wife. Tarantino is still testing actresses for that role, though Kerry Washington’s name has been in the mix. The Weinstein Company will put the picture into production in November, with Sony Pictures aboard for foreign.