Will Smith is frontrunner for Tarantino's next film

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Will Smith has emerged as the frontrunner to star in Quentin Tarantino’s next film, a spaghetti Western about a slave in the Old South who teams with a German bounty hunter to search for his wife.

Actor Will Smith gestures in Los Angeles in this February 8, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Tarantino stalwarts Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz also are circling key parts.

“Django Unchained,” Tarantino’s follow up to his worldwide blockbuster Inglourious Basterds, will be distributed domestically by the Weinstein Co. but Tarantino is in the process of selecting a studio partner to release the film internationally. Sources say he is meeting with Universal executives today, and similar meetings with Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros. and possibly others have been scheduled.

Sources prepped for those meetings say Tarantino would like Smith to star in the film, the script for which has been making the rounds in recent days to wide acclaim. No official offer has been made to Smith, and any deal would of course be subject to working out financials, which might be difficult given Smith’s status as one of Hollywood’s few sure-thing stars.

Indeed, although Smith has been out of multiplexes since 2008’s “Seven Pounds,” he is still considered among the top two or three box office draws worldwide.

Smith is being teed-up for the title role of Django, a freed slave who seeks to reunite with his slave wife, a journey which will see him team up with a German bounty hunter to take down an evil plantation owner.

Tarantino wrote the bounty hunter part with Waltz in mind, according to insiders. The German ends up training Django and helping him seek his wife.

Jackson would play the house slave to the bad guy, Monsieur Calvin Candie. The slave is an expert manipulator and will face off with Django.

Smith and his representatives have received the screenplay, which could be a hot potato due to the themes of racism and the liberal use of the N-word. It’s unclear whether Smith has read the script yet. The actor manages his image very carefully but the part is heroic and could be iconic. And let’s not forget that Denzel Washington won his two Oscars playing characters who used the N-word.

Tarantino is aiming for a fall shoot in the South, possibly in Louisiana, but the exact locale has not been determined.